Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Review of A Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Genre = History
Book Club Event = Book List (06/03/2023)

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“Some planets were believed to bring good luck, others misfortune: Mars meant war and Venus, Love.  To each of the five planets known to them they dedicated a day, and with the sun and moon, that made seven” – E.H. Gombrich, Chapter 4: Sunday, Monday, Page 39

“Knowing how to die like that isn’t easy.  But knowing how to live is perhaps, even harder.  And this is what the Athenians aimed to do.  They weren’t looking for an easy, comfortable life, but one which had meaning.  A Life of which something remained after one’s death.  Something of benefit to those who came after.  You shall see how they succeeded.”  – E.H. Gombrich, Chapter 9: Two Small Cities in One Small Land, Page 62

“It’s a bad idea to try to prevent people from knowing their own history.  If you want to do anything new you must first make sure you know what people have tried before.” – E.H. Gombrich, Chapter 14: An Enemy of History, Page 97



This is a history of humanity.  A diverse and global history of humanity.  Even though the book was directed for an audience of children, this book does not shy away from the complexity of history.  Acknowledging the limits to history, the lack of information, and explaining how information survived.  The controversies and the political power struggles.  The rise, fall, diffusion, and assimilations of various peoples, and empires.  The way states gained and lost their sovereignty.  How individuals gained sovereignty.  The way philosophies and religions shaped power.  How technological changes shaped society. 

Having an understanding of history means knowing alternative ways of being and thinking.  To know what has been tried, and avoid the mishaps.  History provides a direction for future actions.  History is full of peoples who have had an impact on forthcoming generations.  Knowing history gives meaning to choices currently being made, for they have the power to shape how future generations live. 



The audience for this book was children.  To introduce children to history.  For parents to read to their children.  Even though the book does not avoid the complexities of the topics, the way in which the book was written might not be appropriate for mature readers.

The book provides an introduction to various critical topics and junctures in history.  Tempting the reader into searching for more information about the topics.  To understand each topic, would require more research. 

The author acknowledged the potential for making discoveries that provide more information on the details of the topics.  As such, there have been historical discoveries.  Changing how those historical topics are interpreted, and falsifying some details. 

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What topics interested you?
•What is the purpose of history?
•What is the use of books?
•What is prehistory?
•How were political struggles handled?
•How did states gain sovereignty?
•How did people gain sovereignty?
•What peoples, regions, and states are represented in the book?
•How did religion shape history?
•What philosophies were represented?
•How did people use money?

Book Details
Translator:            Caroline Mustill
Publisher:             Yale University Press
Edition ISBN:      9780300132076
Pages to read:       279
Publication:          2008
1st Edition:           1936
Format:                 eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          3
Overall          3