A Short History of the World

By Alex Woolf

Synopsis: This book is a brief history of the world, including major civilizations as well as more obscure and less important ones. It begins with “prehistory,” and progresses onward from the first known civilizations to the present time. Each civilization or topic is treated in brief chapters of two pages, so that each time the reader turns the page, they are on to a different topic.

Strong Points: This book is good for acquiring an overall sense of the entire history of our world. It does not go into great detail, but catches the essential highlights as you go, which is great for giving the reader an overview of the essentials. It moves fairly quickly and doesn’t get too bogged down in any particular topic (although there are several chapters spent on World War II and related events). This book packs a lot of information in only about 300 pages. It will act as a good resource in a personal library. Also, reading brief accounts of the rise and fall of civilizations in rapid succession offers interesting insight into what plays in to the decline of civilizations. The problems diagnosed for us in the Book of Mormon, which it shows are responsible for deteriorating civilizations, are demonstrated repeatedly in recorded history, including government corruption and over-spending, intrigue, despotism, and hunger for power, etc.

Weak Points: The book was printed up nicely with a lot of interesting pictures, however they were all printed in black and white and many were hard to make out as a result. However, this no doubt helps keep the cost of the book down (it was quite inexpensive for a history book). The first several chapters discuss evolutionary theories and man’s supposed rise from the animal world, which detracts from true history, but is unfortunately an inescapable element in modern history books. I also didn’t love the apparent acceptance of Global Warming/Climate Change doctrine by the author (although it was appropriate that the author cover how that mindset has made changes in the world; as a history book is a report of circumstances as they occur). Of course, as is always the case with secular history, ancient dates must be considered as approximates and estimates only, since they often conflict with correct historical timeline as it is found in the Bible. Also, providing maps showing the regions being discussed in each chapter would have been very helpful, as the book assumes a highly detailed knowledge of world geography which is perhaps inappropriate for the type of audience that this book caters to.

Interesting: 3/5

Must Read: 2/5

Overall: 3.2/5

Selected Quote: "A history of the world is an opportunity to stand back and take a long view. It is a chance to discern the broad patterns and cycles that might be less visible in histories of more limited scope. And when we do stand back, surprising parallels start to become apparent. We see the same universal themes playing themselves out in very different periods and places." (p. 7).


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