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A little history of the world chapter summary

Gombrich, translated by Caroline Mustill, illustrated by Clifford Harper. Yale University Press, 2005. A history of the world, written for children, by a famous art historian and illustrated with woodcut drawings.

Thoughts on books, reading, and life

Gombrich did, and responded that he could probably write something better himself and was invited to submit a chapter.

He wrote one on chivalry. Here is how the published version begins: And you have probably read books about knights and their squires who set out in search of adventure; stories full of shining armour, plumed helmets and noble steeds, blazoned escutcheons and impregnable fortresses, jousting and tournaments where fair ladies give prizes to the victors, wandering minstrels, forsaken damsels and departures for the Holy Land. The best thing is that all of it really existed.

  1. Only weird and amazing giant stars and smaller heavenly bodies, whirling among the gas clouds in an infinite, infinite universe.
  2. We use it to light up the past. In between are historic accounts of such topics as cave people and their inventions including speech , ancient life along the Nile and in Mesopotamia and Greece, the growth of religion, the Dark Ages, the age of chivalry, the New World, and the Thirty Years' War.
  3. And because of these stone tools we call this time the Stone Age.
  4. I would like for my readers to relax and to follow history without having to take notes of names and dates. In between emerges a colorful picture of wars and conquests, grand works of art, and the spread and limitations of science.
  5. In asserting that Confucius taught that outward appearances are all-important, we are advised, as by a strict but loving parent, "You may not like it, but there is more wisdom in it than first meets the eye.

All the glitter and romance is no invention. Gombrich ended up writing the whole book in six weeks.

  • That metal is tin, and a mixture of tin and copper is called bronze;
  • Someone writing today might have included more material on ancient Central and South American peoples and African tribal life;
  • But an even odder creature;
  • The age in which people made themselves helmets and swords, axes and cauldrons, and bracelets and necklaces out of bronze is, naturally, known as the Bronze Age.

Late in life, after the formation of the European Union in 1990, he agreed to update his work in English translation, and added a chapter on world events in his lifetime, including the horror of the Holocaust, working with translator Caroline Mustill.

As you may sense, Gombrich is a story teller which, as both Barbara Tuchman and David McCullough have noted, is basic to the good writing of history. Gombrich gives us enough of the significant factors and people behind events without becoming laborious. Chapters are short, five to ten pages in length.

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Woodcut illustrations and maps at needed points complement the readable text. Along the way are chapters on literacy, chivalry, and machines. The focus is European history while touching on important developments in the Americas, India, China and Japan. There is almost nothing about Africa.

Review: A Little History of the World

All this reflects a work written for European school children. Someone writing today might have included more material on ancient Central and South American peoples and African tribal life.

Yet as an account helping European students understand the history that shaped Europe, it makes total sense. I think this the perfect book for an adult who finds themselves wanting a basic sense of the flow of human history.

Above all, in Gombrich we have a deeply thoughtful, gentle, and clear voice introducing us to the human story through the ages, which is the story of us all.