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A History of the World
Our understanding of world history is changing, as new discoveries are made on all the continents and old prejudices are being challenged. In this truly global journey Andrew Marr revisits some of the traditional epic stories, from classical Greece and Rome to the rise of Napoleon, but surrounds them with less familiar material, from Peru to the Ukraine, China to the Caribbean. He looks at cultures that have failed and vanished, as well as the origins of today’s superpowers, and finds surprising echoes and parallels across vast distances and epochs. A History of the World is a book about the great change-makers of history and their times, people such as Cleopatra, Genghis Khan, Galileo and Mao, but it is also a book about us. For ‘the better we understand how rulers lose touch with reality, or why revolutions produce dictators more often than they produce happiness, or why some parts of the world are richer than others, the easier it is to understand our own times.’ Fresh, exciting and vividly readable, this is popular history at its very best.
Andrew Marr’s ‘A History of the World’ promised me to enhance my knowledge of history acquired in my school days and updated sketchily since, and it indeed did. Given his background and BBC work I readily trusted him to, anyway. Thank you Marr. Now I understand how frequently the political maps of the world, not just in Europe and Asia, have changed; how fundamentally religion has influenced these changes. Coming to 19th century and later I see how dictatorships have gained upper hand over religious leaderships. The Mediterranean coasts, for example have seen massive change of hands between Christianity and Islam.
“If only Lanin had not been sent away to Moscow by Germans, wonder how Russia would have turned out to be”, is one of the many hyperbole Marr has interestingly placed at many parts of the book. Tickled my thinking. Another revelation for me was the rustic life European commoners have lived even as late as 17th century, when he talks of their life style at the beginning of Part Six of the book. He then elaborates how all those change entirely in less than 200 years.
His drawing a parallel of sorts, while talking about Gandhi, with Chaplin and Hitler is refreshingly innovative. I even guffawed ‘Wow’ when I read that :-). You can’t imagine 3 people as disparate as these three and yet Marr shows an interesting parallel.
I do feel Marr has missed the opportunity to focus on certain sea change events, especially of the 20th century. In the book’s Introduction itself he starts with “history … is boredom interrupted by war”, a discouraging thought. He further says ‘writing history … is ridiculous …’, but thankfully says it is ‘more ridiculous’ not to know history. Since history is meant to set the human in the right direction, from his / her past mistakes, any attempt to reconstruct it cannot be boredom or ridiculous. AND MARR’S BOOK IS NOT AT ALL BORING OR RIDICULOUS.
Coming to the sea change events in the 20th C, firstly the advent of Sports has had as fundamental an impact on humans as Renaissance and Industrial Revolution. His book has chapters on ‘the pill’, Jihad, and The Thinking Machine, but none of Olympics, FIFA, and other world integrating sporting activities. Sports has had political colors too, like Jessey Ovens winning Gold medal in front of Hitler, or when 1980 and 84 Olympics were blockaded by the Cold War rivals. Role of WADA surely has a liberating influence on us and the future.
Another ultimate trend setter of 20th C is the advent of Cosmos as a subject. It deserved a chapter too, starting with Write brothers’ first flight, Gagarin orbiting the globe, Armstrong’s giant leap to the moon, right up to humans sending our own Voyagers I and II out of our solar system into intergalactic void. Then too we have Space Stations, Space telescopes. We now know about 4000+ exoplanets. We may discover ‘Alien Life’ any time soooooon :-).
These are going to fundamentally and successfully challenge the current credo of religion and other narrow mindedness, and so change the very history of the world people in 22nd century will read.”Amazon Reader
A History of the World PDF
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