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A Little History of the World (Little Histories) (Paperback)

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By E. H. Gombrich, Clifford Harper (Illustrator)
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Staff Reviews

In introducing this history of humanity, directed at young readers, Gombrich notes that history is  often a sad tale that “offers little variety, and it is nearly always the unpleasant things that are repeated, over and over again.” Yet the writing manages to be hopeful and celebrates the positive accomplishments of people, while not glossing over “the unpleasant things.”  

Let’s be clear:  this is a history of western Europe for the most part, certainly a product of its time and place.  But don’t discount it for that or for the fact that it’s directed toward younger readers.  It is a wonderful narrative from a truly brilliant, expansive mind. Gombrich, whose best-known work is The Story of Art, was a young art historian looking for work when he wrote this book (in German)  in 1936 in Vienna.  Banned by the Nazis for being “too pacificist,” the book was translated into several languages early on.  Gombrich fled Austria for England during WWII, and later wrote updates to the book. Gombrich wanted to do the English translation himself, and he didn’t get to that until almost the end of his life, in the early 2000s.  


Read this and enjoy a riveting, beautifully written story of all the things people do while on the earth: the good the bad, and everything else.  Better yet, read it with your child.  


— From Laurie


E. H. Gombrich's bestselling history of the world for young readers tells the story of mankind from the Stone Age to the atomic bomb, focusing not on small detail but on the sweep of human experience, the extent of human achievement, and the depth of its frailty. The product of a generous and humane sensibility, this timeless account makes intelligible the full span of human history. In forty concise chapters, Gombrich tells the story of man from the stone age to the atomic bomb. In between emerges a colorful picture of wars and conquests, grand works of art, and the spread and limitations of science. This is a text dominated not by dates and facts, but by the sweep of mankind's experience across the centuries, a guide to humanity's achievements and an acute witness to its frailties.

About the Author

Among E. H. GOMBRICH's many writings are the international bestsellers The Story of Art and Art and Illusion. He was director of the Warburg Institute of the University of London from 1959 to 1976.

Praise For…

"A remarkable book, written in an amiable, conversational style, effortlessly explaining, without condescension, difficult matters like the achievements of Charlemagne, the monetary system of medieval Europe and the ideas of the Enlightenment. . . . This resurrected history deserves reading for all its delights."—Edward Rothstein, New York Times

-Edward Rothstein

"In simple, vivid prose, Gombrich surveys the human past from pre-history to his own time. . . . Lucky children will have this book read to them. Intelligent adults will read it for themselves and regain contact with the spirit of European humanism at its best."—Anthony Grafton, Wall Street Journal

-Anthony Grafton

"A masterpiece of nonfiction writing for children. It is a wry and charming book, perfectly suited to the capacities of a 10-year-old, but also remarkably free of condescension. An adult can read it with pleasure. And, indeed, with instruction."—Scott McLemee, Newsday

-Scott McLemee

"A brilliant piece of narrative, splendidly organised, told with an energy and confidence that are enormously attractive, and suffused with all the humanity and generosity of spirit that Gombrich''s thousands of admirers came to cherish during his long and richly productive life. It''s a wonderful surprise: irresistible, in fact."—Philip Pullman
-Philip Pullman

"[A] lively and involving history. . . . Superbly designed and freshly illustrated, this is a book to be savored and collected. . . . This is a text dominated not by dates and facts, but by the sweep of mankind’s experience across the centuries, a guide to humanity’s achievements and an acute witness to its frailties. The product of a generous and humane sensibility, this timeless account makes intelligible the full span of human history."—Artdaily

"A timeless and engaging narrative of the human race."—Choice

“The true fairy tale of the evolution of mankind.”—Die Zeit

"... the main body of the book retains an irresistible, boyish energy and enthusiasm... Here, in this little book, are answers to many of the questions you never dared to ask."—Margaret Drabble, New Statesman

-Margaret Drabble

“Though written for kids, this is a book the whole family will love.”—Christy Karras, Salt Lake Tribune (Best Books of 2005)

-Christy Karras

"... ostensibly a book for children, designed to present a chronology of world history, but it''s a delight for all ages. The pages sparkle with the learned author''s wit and wisdom - and reading them, one feels as if Gombrich, one of the greatest ever art historians, is guiding one through time with a grandfatherly gleam in his eye."---Ben Schott, The Observer

-Ben Schott

'' enduring joy... We have no shortage of historians eager to tell us what was important in the past and why; but few of them dare speak straight to the imagination of young people, to open their minds and to enrich their vision in the manner that Gombrich achieves so effortlessly here.'' - Peter Furtado, Times Higher Education Supplement

-Peter Furtado

"A charming read that extends from prehistory to nuclear warfare and can be enjoyed also by adults in search of an instructive overview of the human drama."—First Things

"Gombrich accomplishes what many university-level Western Civilization classes cannot—a riveting account of events that shaped the world from the Stone Age to the 1930s, illustrating the relevance of history to current events. Teachers and schools should add this to their reading lists."—Claire Martin, The Denver Post

-Claire Martin

"It is history to read aloud, on a cold evening, preferably by a fire."—Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times

-Susan Salter Reynolds

"A beautifully concise volume [that] will remind readers of any age that the past 5,000 years have been one big slugfest between darkness and enlightenment, unreason and reason."—Mary Ann Gwinn, Seattle Times
-Mary Ann Gwinn

"Magical, transporting. . . . A children''s history that adults will want to sneak off with and read on the sly."—

‘What was the bestselling title this Christmas at Foyles in London? Hilary Mantel’s Man Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall? Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo? Cormac McCarthy’s The Road? Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol? No. It was EH Gombrich’s A Little History of the World.’

-Mark Sanderson

Product Details
ISBN: 9780300143324
ISBN-10: 030014332X
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication Date: September 1st, 2008
Pages: 284
Language: English
Series: Little Histories