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Our Oriental Heritage (The Story of Civilization #1)

4.27  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,128 Ratings  ·  120 Reviews
This is the classic reference on world history, recognized as the most comprehensive general history ever written, the result of four decades of work by Will and Ariel Durant -- a set that The New York Times called "a splendid, broad panorama of hereditary culture in words and images that the layman can fully understand." This series began as an effort to write a history o ...more
Hardcover, 1047 pages
Published July 1st 1997 by Fine Communications (first published 1935)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Marcus
May 30, 2012 Marcus rated it really liked it
There are two main reasons why this book is a pure pleasure to read. First and foremost it is always extremely enjoyable to read a book written by someone with both extraordinary clarity of mind and superior skill of written word. Second, 'Our Oriental Heritage' is very accessible introduction to history of China, India and Japan, topics that were previously unknown to me.

It must however be said, that this is not a history book in traditional meaning of that term. The aim of Will Durant, as he c
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Judy
Feb 11, 2012 Judy rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I read this first volume of The Story of Civilization off and on for over a year. It was my first successful attempt at reading history and taught me how to do so. I have to thank Will Durant for that. Finishing it was a triumph for me as a student of literature, the world, and life.

We all probably remember doing a unit in Social Studies on the cradle of civilization, Babylonia and all that. Boring but some cool pictures. My theory on the study of history during childhood is that we have our who
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Andrew Obrigewitsch
Oct 07, 2014 Andrew Obrigewitsch rated it it was amazing
All I can say is wow, this book is extremely enlightening and eye opening. It covers the formation of civilization of the human race. which started in Africa and Asia.

It was published in 1935, so if you are looking for the latest archaeological find on Egypt you won't find it here. But that's not what this book is about, this book is about exploring the development of the civilizing influenced on humanity, how cultures have risen and fallen and how human civilization has changed.

I highly recom
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Erik Graff
Jul 14, 2013 Erik Graff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Durant fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
This volume of Durant's Story of Civilization is distinctive for being the most cursory, his aim having been to cover all prehistory, ancient civilizations before the Greeks and Asian civilizations--quite a task for just over a thousand pages! Besides being a skimming of the surface, this volume is also the most painfully dated as it only goes up to the mid-thirties. I kept on thinking of the impending world war and of the independence of India thereafter.

It is unfortunate that anyone approachin
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Will
Durant is unmatched in the beauty and clarity of his prose, and in the piercing gaze through the mists of history. Yes, there are elements which are dated thanks to more recent research, and yes, his sections which close the book on China and Japan are probably best forgotten due to the poor availability of translations and understanding of cultures, especially from ancient China. But were I to engage in the silly game of "desert island" books, this single volume would contend for that honor.

No
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Antonio Nunez
May 09, 2014 Antonio Nunez rated it it was amazing
For a long time I wanted to read Durant's History of Civilization. I was thrilled when it came out on audiobook and immediately dived in. This first volumen was a pleasure. It dealt with prehistory and the first great civilizations. I particularly enjoyed he section on India and Buddhism. I wasn't too familiar with the Indian civilization, but after reading this book I feel fairly conversant with it. The descriptions are luminous, characterization, even in an era without many known individuals, ...more
Steve
Sep 22, 2014 Steve rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written history of the Ancient Near East and Far East. Wonderful insight as to how these people lived as opposed to just histories of battles and conquests.

The only issue I have--which is no fault of the Durants--is that the book is a bit dated. At the time of its publication the ancient histories of some of these places were still somewhat unknown in the West. Now we have the benefit of decades of additional research and discovery.

Having said that there is still a great deal of va
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Barbara
Oct 18, 2015 Barbara rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who loves history
All my life, I have heard about the brilliance of the Durant, but all my life, the thick volumes of the Durants books were too much for me, regardless of the brilliance.

BUT suddenly, Audible.com has brought out the 10 volume set of The History of Civilization, each volume of which is about 500 pages. Listening is about 50 hours per volume. As I'm bedbound, 50 hours is far more manageable than 500 pages.

But the brilliance I had heard about was definitely there. The lovely, easy use of language, h
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TJ
Feb 28, 2010 TJ rated it it was amazing
Great book, written in the 1920s or 30s, before political correctness flavored all we see and hear. This book took an unemotional and fair look at the debt we owe ancient civilizations like Egypt, Sumeria, Assyria, China and so on. Really good.
taarak
Jan 05, 2009 taarak rated it it was amazing
My God . . . it's full of stars!

No really, this is one of the mandatory reads for anyone who wants to display affectations toward a liberal education. Incredible!
Doug
Jan 14, 2008 Doug is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I am taking this book slowly and hope to read most of Durant's books as the years go by.

One interesting insight: Durant says the greatest invention was the common noun. He then talks about many primitive societies that did not have separate words for colors or objects like a tree. So they had to come up with a completely different word for a red ash and a white ash. They didn’t have a word for “red,” “ash” or even “tree”. That got me thinking about how human beings think and that organization an
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Petrea
Jun 22, 2008 Petrea rated it it was amazing
For years I've looked at the many volumes of Will and Ariel Durrent's History of Civilization and thinking--someday I will read them all. A few months ago I decided that I better get started now that I'm getting on in years. I loved this first volume and learned so much about Persian, Indian and Chinese civilizations that I had never learned in regular school. I'm reading in these books between other reading and so it is slow going, but well worth the time I invest.
Nathanael
Sep 27, 2012 Nathanael rated it liked it
The book hypothesized about a lot of what must have happened for humans to have evolved into our present state. However, his theories are often archiac, for example he mentions the "snake" in the "Garden of Eden" as being a phallic symbol. This psychodynamic approach has been debunked for the most part, and it makes me wonder what other parts of the book have not been brought to modernity.
Lou Chiaramonte, Jr.
Masterful work, especially considering it was written in 1935. This is a seminal book, the first installment of eleven total in the seminal series, "The Story of Civilization." Will Durant was obviously at the forefront of scholastic thinking when he began this series: he approaches history from a cross-cultural perspective, accepting cultural relativism, but clearly holding modern ideals of equality, democracy, and social welfare as something special--the sum total end products of human history ...more
Lee Walker
Jan 13, 2013 Lee Walker rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Ultimately I enjoyed this work for what it was. The initial section on history in general contains some nice insights into human nature and while the author often generalises he knows he is doing so. I have heard others complain this book and the remaining ten volumes in the series contain many inaccuracies. Apparently Durant himself admitted as much. Personally I did not find it to be too bad; although written in the 1930s, much of the information is 'still good'. Where history or archaeology h ...more
Jeremy
Dec 01, 2010 Jeremy rated it really liked it
Granted: the title is unfortunate and potentially offensive, but it's important to note that this was written in different times, and I can assure those of you who might be offended that it was certainly not Durant's intent.

I found it more fascinating than I'd ever thought such a comprehensive history text could be. Durant gives a number of historically important ancient civilizations a close study (using the more limited archeological resources available in the first half of the 20th Century),
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Ahmed Assem
May 03, 2013 Ahmed Assem rated it it was amazing
What a journey! When I first begab to read this book I was not prepared by any means to the complexity of such a book. While the series of books deal with the story of western civilization, Will Durant introduces this book in homage to all ancient civilizations that had played a part in creating his own. We begin passing by the dark times, during hunting ages and man's curiosity towards simple things. Then we pass by Sumeria, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Judea and Persia. Will then moves from the mi ...more
Ziona
Dec 25, 2015 Ziona rated it did not like it
This book would've been way better if the author could avoid racism . The author will praise a civilization's wealth and advancement, then call those same people barbarians. He calls an Indian philosopher a pre-Kant plagiarist. What? Europe isn't special or original. The ancient east and African countries were contemplating death and suffering, calculating the circumference of the earth, when Rome was still mud
James Swenson
Jan 19, 2014 James Swenson rated it really liked it
It is hard to imagine how Will Durant dared to begin the Story of Civilization, covering the political, philosophical, military, economical, and artistic history of the world. Completed in 1934, Our Oriental Heritage is not entirely politically correct by present standards (though Durant consistently recognizes the merits of each culture on its own terms), and some chapters are less than compelling. Still, we have to respect Durant's ambition, and his achievement.
Mark
Feb 07, 2015 Mark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ancient-world
Will Durant is an academic of the 1930's and his historical summaries of ancient Egypt, Israel, Babylon, Persia, Phoenicia, and Assyria are very much written in a style that has long passed into disuse. Durant comes off as an pretentious windbag, but I must confess I enjoyed his antiquated reflections on human nature and the evolution of civilization as we know it. When reading Durant one feels like a college freshman at an ivy league school in 1937 taking notes from a contankerous old professor ...more
Barb
Dec 16, 2013 Barb rated it it was amazing
Will Durant did an amazing job of bringing history to life in this volume. A lot of the information I already knew, but there was so much more that I did not know. I am sure I will never remember most of the names of many of the major players in this history, but the facts and events will stay with me forever. The book was well written and Mr. Durant's love for people and their history comes through on every page. I have always loved history, and this book was a pleasure for me. I am looking for ...more
Alex
Nov 14, 2011 Alex rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
The author is very intelligent and objective, and he makes many witty comments, his black humor is not only entertaining but enlightening. However more important is his impressive amount of details and references.

One drawback is the age of this volume, which misses the new findings and research results of the last 3/4 century. His dates of some early Egyptian events, for example, are off by 400-500 years if compared with some newer sources, all data being probably not C14-dated, as usually done
...more
Edgar
Feb 03, 2016 Edgar rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing book. I hope there is a statue of Durant somewhere because the man is a national treasure. I won't dare to recount the rich aggregation of history in this volume because I will just fall short. I will say that despite its lack of political correctness (this volume was published in 1935), it is very sensitive to the common man of each of the various civilizations as it is to their respective grand zeitgeists. The most moving part for me was the last section dealing with Japan a ...more
Ibrahim
Aug 18, 2015 Ibrahim rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
free on: https://archive.org/stream/storyofciv...

Excerpts:
1. The unearthing of this forgotten culture is one of the romances of archeology. To those whom, with a poor sense of the amplitude of time, we call "the ancients" that is, to the Romans, the Greeks and the Jews Sumeria was unknown. Herodotus apparently never heard of it; if he did, he ignored it, as something more ancient to him than he to us. Bcrosus, a Babylonian historian writing about 250 B.C., knew of Sumeria only through the veil o
...more
Gary
Jul 21, 2014 Gary rated it it was amazing
One of the great books on Eastern Civilizations. This book is a perfect listen for those who don't like history with all of its dates since he tells the story functionally not chronologically. The book looks at history by each civilization and by function (philosophy, poetry, prose, people's language, government and so on). The author seems to excel when he's talking about a country's philosophy and uses it to describe the country's culture. The section on Buddhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism ar ...more
John Roskelley
Sep 07, 2014 John Roskelley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It only took me 6 1/2 weeks of spare time reading to complete this. I have to admit I was more interested in an approach that coincides with what Will Durant says is not his approach in the book. I was hoping to see, in this 1st volume of "The Story of Civilization," the author's view of how the earth was populated. He spends little time indicating the sources of early civilizations, and includes some time lines that hint that the human race indeed evolved from primitive species. His focus on ge ...more
Dave Wallace
Oct 09, 2014 Dave Wallace rated it it was amazing
An excellent survey of history from Egypt to Japan. As a bonus, Mr. Durant uses this to take plenty of shots (many of them very funny) at current society, albeit the 1930's, but then little has changed. I think this is the most sarcastic history book I have ever read, I thought it was terrific, well done! I can see why so many current historians have mentioned him.
Marybeth
May 24, 2007 Marybeth rated it it was amazing
I adore this book. I can't stop reading it. It makes me think differently about history. There is no assumptions here (except maybe a few sexist remarks but it WAS 1930's when it was written). I'm not sure if we aren't being taught this stuff or most of it has been forgotten. He writes it in a personable style that makes me wonder and wander. Very inspiring.
John
Dec 01, 2014 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Re-read for nostalgic reasons, as I thought this was just the cat's meow back in preteen days. Now, it's still a good read despite being dated in its information and severely dated in its innate racism (Durant offers lengthy generic analyses of the "characters" of diverse Asian peoples, and you can just imagine how those go). The author also positively DWELLS on sexual practices and mores, perhaps in an effort to broaden his populist readership. I probably loved those passages in particular when ...more
Vinay Keerthi
Jul 09, 2015 Vinay Keerthi rated it it was amazing
What a book. What an adventure it was reading it. I have been putting it off for the last year, mainly because of buying more books than I have the time to read.

This book is sheer awesomeness when it comes to history. I am going to start the next part soon. Totally worth the time. One down, ten more to go.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • The Outline of History, Vols. I and II
  • Egypt, Greece and Rome: Civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranean
  • The Creators: A History of Heroes of the Imagination
  • The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Volume II
  • The Great Democracies (A History of the English Speaking Peoples, #4)
  • The Greek Way
  • Red Land, Black Land: Daily Life in Ancient Egypt
  • A History of the Vikings
  • The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome
  • Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor/Hiroshima/9-11/Iraq
  • The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture
  • High Risk: An Anthology of Forbidden Writings
  • The Collected Essays
  • The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt: The History of a Civilisation from 3000 BC to Cleopatra
  • A History of the Arab Peoples
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William James Durant was a prolific American writer, historian, and philosopher. He is best known for the 11-volume The Story of Civilization, written in collaboration with his wife Ariel and published between 1935 and 1975. He was earlier noted for his book, The Story of Philosophy, written in 1926, which was considered "a groundbreaking work that helped to popularize philosophy."

They were awarde
...more
More about Will Durant...

Other Books in the Series

The Story of Civilization (1 - 10 of 11 books)
  • The Life of Greece (The Story of Civilization, #2)
  • Caesar and Christ (Story of Civilization, #3)
  • The Age of Faith (Story of Civilization, Vol 4)
  • The Renaissance (The Story of Civilization, #5)
  • The Reformation (The Story of Civilization, #6)
  • The Age of Reason Begins (The Story of Civilization, #7)
  • The Age of Louis XIV (The Story of Civilization, #8)
  • The Age of Voltaire (The Story of Civilization, #9)
  • Rousseau and Revolution (The Story of Civilization, #10)
  • The Age of Napoleon (The Story of Civilization, #11)

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“معظم التاريخ ظن و بقيته من إملاء الهوى” 24 likes
“إن معظم التقدم الذي أصاب الحياة الإقتصادية في المجتمع البدائي كان يعزى للمرأة أكثر مما يعزى للرجل، فبينما ظل الرجل قروناً مستمسكاً بأساليبه القديمة من صيد ورعي، كانت هي تطور الزراعة على مقربة من محال السكنى، وتباشر تلك الفنون المنزلية التي أصبحت فيما بعد أهم ما يعرف الإنسان من صناعات.
ومن "شجرة الصوف" - كما كان الإغريق يسمون نبات القطن - جعلت المرأة تغزل الخيط وتنسج الثياب القطنية، وهي التي - على أرجح الظن - تقدمت بفنون الحياكة والنسج وصناعة السلال والخزف وأشغال الخشب والبناء، بل هل التي قامت بالتجارة في حالات كثيرة.
والمرأة هي التي طورت الدار، واستطاعت بالتدريج أن تضيف الرجل إلى قائمة ما استأنسته من حيوان، ودربته على أوضاع المجتمع وضروراته التي هي من المدنية أساسها النفسي وملاطها الذي يمسك أجزاء البناء، لكن لما تقدمت الزراعة وزاد طرحها، أخذ الجنس الأقوى يستولي على زمامها شيئاً فشيئاً.”
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