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Old May 20th, 2017, 09:33 AM   #21

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Seeing as this work was first written in the 30s is it not guilty of whig history bias in the same vein as Churchill's English Speaking Peoples? That is to say there's a foregone conclusion which then has evidence to support it rather than evidence to form a conclusion. Putting the cart before the horse etc.
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Old June 10th, 2017, 06:52 AM   #22

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I've read the first five volumes. I intend to read the remaining six sometime in the next few years. Needed a break. But it's a great series in my opinion. I place it second behind Gibbon's Decline and Fall in secondary source history works that influenced my thinking.
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Old June 10th, 2017, 10:11 AM   #23
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So, people who have read this: does the series have a unifying narrative, or do the individual volumes work just as well on their own? Because I really don't need a "Reader's Digest" version of classical or medieval history, but some of the volumes appear to cover a period much more broadly than any books I know...
Have read a few of them, can't see a unifying theme. Calling him dumb or "reader's digest" is far to harsh. He's closer to a more readable Charles Oman. There's enough detail in each of them to be a good memory refresher or introduction for someone serious interested in history, but not studied in the period. He was a general historian writing for the public, so if you have studied any of the areas via a few dozen scholar books and primary sources he'll have little appeal.
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Old June 13th, 2017, 01:12 PM   #24

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I can't imagine a situation where world history is better served by an 11 volume set, than one really good work on themes in history, something like 'Maps of Time'. And after that breaking out individual topics you're interested in into other standalone works.

I'd think something like say.. 'The Story of Civilization' is quite simple, and can be explained in a small number of critical concepts. I'd guess in such a large set you'd get a lot of noise, and low signal but I could see the set being valuable if you just wanted a ton of information.

Anyway, take that with a grain of salt because I haven't actually read it.
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Old August 2nd, 2017, 02:34 PM   #25
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I haven't read the whole thing straight trough, but that isn't what this work is about. It is a secondary History reference source. The books reflect the personal biases and views of its authors, and doesn't pretend otherwise. Notes, bibliographies, and indexes are complete and reliable. This is a set that we often visit first when surveying a subject we might want to know a lot more about. The Story of Civilization is more than adequate for most people and for most historical backgrounds. It is far superior to most survey histories before, or since its publication.

The set was published in very large numbers, so finding an inexpensive set isn't difficult. Often wannabe intellectuals bought them and they only collected dust, so used copies are often in very good condition.
Nice post, as usual. You captured all of my contributions:
  • This is a set that we often visit first when surveying a subject.
  • The Story of Civilization is more than adequate for most people and for most historical backgrounds.
  • It is superior to most Western Civ survey histories before, or since its publication.
  • Finding an inexpensive set isn't difficult because many wannabe intellectuals bought them and they only collected dust; used copies are often in very good condition.

I'll add, as seen in this thread, white-folk intellectuals famously slam any/about all works of survey history published in this era/fashion. It would be worthwhile to read their opinions if they were based on reading the books instead of blindly imitating their History 101 tenured professor's neo-communist PoV.
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Old September 11th, 2017, 07:22 PM   #26

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One thing I don't like is the French perspective of the author (Rousseau and Revolution, the Age of Napoleon). Imagine an American writer's version of the set: Our Oriental Heritage, The Life of Greece, Caesar and Christ, Fires of Faith, the renaissance, the reformation, The Founding of America, The Age of Washington, The Shoot Out at the OK Corral...LOL.


Fyi- Will & Ariel Durant were American authors. Lol.


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Old September 13th, 2017, 12:51 AM   #27

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My lecturers used this book as a classic example of how the term "civilization" is meaningless.
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Old October 15th, 2017, 09:43 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by Voltaires Hat View Post
I can't imagine a situation where world history is better served by an 11 volume set, than one really good work on themes in history, something like 'Maps of Time'. And after that breaking out individual topics you're interested in into other standalone works.

Anyway, take that with a grain of salt because I haven't actually read it.
Likewise, have not read. But my approach to the same challenge was to read a couple of cheap text books written over 1/2 century later. The big set is cheap, so buy it for reference and maybe intel on one topic. But not the ideal executive summary.
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Old November 13th, 2017, 01:27 AM   #29

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My lecturers used this book as a classic example of how the term "civilization" is meaningless.


How so? I would be interested to hear this perspective!


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Old January 19th, 2018, 07:38 PM   #30
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To Gilda on Durant


There is nothing "Reader's Digest" about the Durants' work. It is what he and Ariel set out to and spent the next 40 years doing, creating a body of work that goes beyond the simple mechanics of history and examines all aspects of a period, layer upon layer. What they started out to call "synthetic" history and had to rename "integral" history when the former became tainted by the plastics industry reflects the need to identify an entirely new field of study that only, almost perfunctorily includes History as a subset. They're in a class by themselves, one that they invented and that no one else has even begun to replicate or demonstrate being on a par with them. Having read all 11 volumes between ages 38 and 42, then after retiring at 58 and reading Story of Philosophy, Transition and Mansions of Philosophy, and after earning a B.A. in History at age 49 I have discovered that there is a monolithic, transcendent body of knowledge and insight that the mere study of History, especially academic History misses altogether. I recommend reading Mansions of Philosophy to understand the thought and motivation that Will, Ariel and some of their friends undertook in planning and in deciding to proceed with this stupefying project. I enrolled in and completed the B.A. in History several years after completing SofC11, and was terribly disappointed at the shallowness and insipidness of its syllabus; the most important thing I learned from the University degree was "Why no one knows History." I recommend starting with Caesar and Christ and Age of Reason Begins first, then the rest more or less at random. Do not start with Oriental Heritage - I got so bored on my first try that I didn't pick any of it up for another ten years when I used C&C for a term paper reference and found it full of references much like modern feminism. It was like reading today's news. After that I couldn't put it down. The only thing Durant may have been wrong about was in saying that it's the study of History that makes one a philosopher. He couldn't have been talking about academic historians: they're just a bunch of bookish clerks with Ph.Ds. in hair-splitting minutiae. Yes, by all means read The Story of Civ as early in life as possible - you won't recognize yourself afterward.
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