Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A People's History of the World” as Want to Read:
A People's History of the World
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A People's History of the World

3.99  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,051 Ratings  ·  61 Reviews
Chris Harman describes the shape and course of human history as a narrative of ordinary people forming and re-forming complex societies in pursuit of common human goals. Interacting with the forces of technological change as well as the impact of powerful individuals and revolutionary ideas, these societies have engendered events familiar to every schoolchild - from the em ...more
Paperback, 500 pages
Published October 11th 1999 by Bookmarks (first published 1999)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A People's History of the World, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about A People's History of the World

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee BrownThe Ascent of Money by Niall FergusonEmpires Of The Sea by Roger CrowleyA People's History of the World by Chris HarmanThe Bitter Road to Freedom by William I. Hitchcock
The Independent's "The Ten Best History Books"
4th out of 10 books — 22 voters
The Shock Doctrine by Naomi KleinA People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn1984 by George OrwellManufacturing Consent by Noam ChomskyThe Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx
Best Left-Texts
58th out of 328 books — 148 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Feb 25, 2009 Marci rated it it was ok
We didn't manage to get very far in my so-called World History class in ninth grade, like somehow we didn't get to Asia, or out of the medieval period. Like Howard Zinn's "People's History," I suspect that this tome is meant for people like me, who disenchanted by the long list of battles and kings they were forced to memorize by name in school, never developed a strong interest in what is called history. At least, that's why I picked up this book. Unlike Zinn's "People's History" though, this o ...more
Aug 17, 2014 Mark rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics, history
It is almost impossible to review a book with such an unrivalled scope as this. Chris Harman present a history of the world, a social history documenting the struggles of people the world over from 3000BC right through to the new millennium. It is a beautiful and admirable volume, packed with interesting facts about the inherent fairness of humanity and our desire to work together to create a better society. It is genuinely a world history too, rather than focusing narrowly on Europe or our west ...more
James Tracy
May 17, 2008 James Tracy rated it really liked it
Great introduction to the history of the world. Tries to fit most events into a Marxist context, explaining how the development of the "means of production" changed the course of the world at almost every juncture. A pretty good book to turn to if you are trying to place anchor some of these big ideas in actual history.

One of the strengths of the book is that while it is heavy on "dialectical materialism" the author readily points out when other, non-economic forces were also in play. He also is
William West
I was inspired to read this book by the revelation of just how ignorant I was of world history pre-1895 (blame it on the cinematic foundations of my education). I was also intrigued with it following my recent reading of Zinn's history of the American people. And I must say, it proved a priceless source of information. I had, however, a lot of problems with the book, despite its undeniably splendid passages.

For one thing, the very ambition of the project gives way to certain ludicrousies. How i
Aug 16, 2010 Tom rated it liked it
When I was in school I feel I was taught the world history of Western "civilization". It was the history of wars, imperialism and capitalism as perceived through the eyes of European and American history writers. This book does include the history of African, Middle Eastern, Asian, Oriental and island nations. I liked what I learned about other parts of the world that were largely ignored in my education.
If I was given a capitalist/imperialist account of history, this book was a socialist histor
Jan 27, 2011 Katie rated it it was ok
Shelves: minor, history
It's everything that you think it would be -- Zinn + The World. The prehistoric part is pretty naive and more than half of the book is dedicated to the industrial revolution forward. He's projecting Marxism onto a lot of societies where it's a very ill fit. He designed the book to be a textbook, but it's too reactionary to be a textbook -- he's assumed that the reader has this greater body of knowledge that (s)he might not have (especially if he or she is an undergrad).
Aiham Taleb
Aug 07, 2013 Aiham Taleb rated it liked it
The book is very valuable especially for those who want to learn from the history of people. I found that the book is rather a reference not a story of people who have lived on the earth. One can return to it if he/she wants to read about specific period or civilization.
I enjoyed much of the information presented on the book :)
Recommended for history readers :)
Jul 22, 2011 Jayme marked it as to-read-non-fiction
From The Independent's Ten Best History Books.
Mar 18, 2012 Nadavshs12 rated it it was amazing
This book was absolutely amazing. There are no other words to describe this amazing source of literature. The novel starts from the stone age and the development of civilization and then spirals its way up time all the way to the year 2,000 c.e. I found this book not only interesting historically (because I am history obsessed) but also just plain, old smart. The title explains it all, the novel carries one through history not in the old fashioned textbook way, but through the eyes of the people ...more
Feb 03, 2013 Keegan rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
So I glanced at reviews and am already not surprised to find out that he is looking at this from a Marxist perspective (just from reading the introduction "BEFORE CLASS"). Anyway, I know so little about most of history that I figure anything I read will be new and educational, so it's okay that it has obvious bias (though it's nice to know up front). I will probably take some notes here on what I manage to read because I have no memory.

1.) Introduction: "Before Class" -- Summary -- people haven'
Oct 28, 2015 Maysasu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great book, packed with information from historical events and politics all around the world, it starts with the societies before and post-class civilization. You will read mainly about the great powers of the world from Europe to Russia, Britain, the US and their empires and colonies around the globe. It speaks of the middle east in brief, basically summarized in few pages, but gives you the outline. It elaborates about the struggle of communism and capitalism and it's ripple effect throughou ...more
This was a fantastic book. I think it would be unwise to ignore this book purely on the basis of not sharing its Marxist leanings, because it does provide quite a thorough look at the way the world has been shaped throughout history (mainly by greed), and history is what it is, even if you look at it through a Marxist lense. It doesn't explain away all the ills of humanity as created by capitalism, but it does effectively illustrate how the accumulation of wealth and power could be quite the mot ...more
Feb 27, 2011 Stan rated it really liked it
A Marxist analysis of the entire history of the world, Get's a little polemical around the late 1800s then turns into an apology piece in the 20th Century. Like the Marxist view of history, interesting and highly valuable but somewhat lacking in imagination and cross-application. No room for great actors or happenstance just class, class, class.
Amy Wolf
Nov 05, 2015 Amy Wolf rated it it was amazing
The title "History of the World" is no Mel Brooks gag: the author takes us from the earliest days of hunter-gatherers toward the world-burning events of the late 20th century. Eschewing a "great man" view of events, Harman instead analyzes human history from a class perspective, and the results are fascinating.
Granted, covering all of this material in a single volume can sometimes be overwhelming, and one insurgency/revolt/ascension is in danger of running into another. However, the seminal even
May 22, 2012 Sydney rated it did not like it
I had to read parts of this book throughout the year for AP World History.

After I finished it, I BURNED IT. HA!

Don't take AP World History, kids.

Oh, and I put this on my 'Made Me Cry' shelf because it did, but not in a good way. I failed multiple quizzes due to my inability to absorb a single block of word vomit.
Jun 30, 2013 Sean rated it it was amazing
This is a remarkable tome to rival Zinn's, a history of exploitation and class struggle from the ancient kings who ruled by divine right to industrial international capitalism, whose rulers, owners and managers also basically rule by divine right. Thoroughly engrossing and highly recommended.
May 28, 2008 Zip rated it it was amazing
This book is outstanding! Much of what we know about domination, patriarchy, and oppression is simply not found in conventional histories of the world. This book, via an exhaustive overview of the archaeological and written record-sets the record straight-and it is supremly well-written.
Apr 15, 2009 Alex rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, capitalism
i remember this being excessively dogmatic in approaching "world" history from a Marxist-Leninist (Trotskyist) perspective. far too Euro-centric
Hugo Filipe
Jun 13, 2014 Hugo Filipe rated it it was ok
First of all, this has nothing to do with "A people's history of the US". This is not a coherent study, and it is far from compelling.

The first part, about pre-history is totally generic and boring. The same can be said about the period of the industrial revolution. Better time could be spent revising other episodes, and there are incomprehensible gaps, particularly the absense of the importance of the portuguese colonization.

Furthermore, a marxist reading of history should be dynamic, something
Jul 12, 2011 Anthony rated it really liked it
Where to begin with such a broad and all encompassing topic as the history of humanity?

According to Harman “History is the sequence of events that led to the lives we lead today. It is the story of how we came to be ourselves. Understanding it is the key to finding out how we can further change the world in which we live.” The understanding that Harman’s all encompassing work portrays is not the worn academic path cataloging great leaders, thinkers, and innovators but a narrative that depicts th
Aug 07, 2012 Alex rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, politics
A good read, but repetitive in places (I guess because it is trying to show history as a cycle of class struggles) and of course as it covers such a great breadth of human history it sacrifices some depth.

Nonetheless an excellent and very educational read, I would challenge anyone to read it and not learn a lot if purely because of the breadth of the material.

Some of the conclusion is eerily prescient where he warns of possible future conflicts and nationalist tensions in the next (apparently in
H Wesselius
Jul 26, 2011 H Wesselius rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book which gives you a fresh respective on world events. Weak on pre-history, the author is at his best discussing the class and labour fraemwork of a civilization and its influence on the rise and fall of said civilization. His explanation for the failure of some revolutions over others relies on analysis of class interests of the groups involved and notes how interests in the established order generally lead to a still born revolution. He takes a serious and honest look at the failur ...more
Omar El shafei
Mar 31, 2013 Omar El shafei rated it it was amazing
This is a unique book. A comprehensive history of humanity from the standpoint of the oppressed and exploited, not as victims but as heroes of revolutionary struggles with emancipatory potential. The book is much more than "history from below" though. It is also a refined application of the Marxist approach to history, setting the unfolding of events in the context of the interaction of humans with nature and among themselves as people make their own histories in conditions inherited from past d ...more
Masen Production
Anybody who attempts to write a review will fail miserably. The best thing that anyone can do is simply ask the reader of this review to purchase the book & get on with it. I say this should be on every reading bucket list. Simple english, easy to follow, nothing dramatic, facts presented as facts. If Livy or Herodotus were alive they would have been jealous of this book.
Go ahead & start reading it...
Jul 15, 2014 Carlos rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Excellent book that delineates the rise and fall of governments from the view of their internal people's struggles. The author is much more concerned in explaining why and how the world has progressed the way it did than merely recounting facts.
Aug 08, 2011 Frej rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cleared out a lot for me. I especially liked the first parts on how and why class societies raised up in the first place, and the history of christianity and islam. I've never read clear materialistic explanations on these things before. Plus, most of all, it was very useful to get a much better sense of the motions of histoy.

The minus is because I expected it to be more focus on the daily lives of ordinary people, and maybe a bit more philosophical. But I guess there are other books for that. T
Jun 30, 2014 Cathy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not the most balanced of arguments, but
Harman has here an interesting book on major historical events and how class struggles and the distribution of capital ultimately caused and impacted those milestones. It will be interesting to see how Thomas Piketty picks up on these same themes in Capital since this book's publication in 1999 - onto the next read!
Mar 02, 2012 Marcy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is phenomenal. I could not put it down. It definitely doesn't follow Howard Zinn's methodology of using ordinary people's views of historical events, but it certainly does give a sense of how ordinary people are affected by historical change. The text is exciting to read and gives one an expansive view of history. While a western perspective definitely dominates the text, ultimately it is a book that illustrates how events in one part of the world affect events in other parts of the wo ...more
Greg Linster
Mar 07, 2012 Greg Linster rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: marxism
I was assigned sections of this historical tome for my graduate level course in European Economic History. At the time, I had a yearning to read an overview of world history and decided to tackle the whole book.

Anyway, the book offers a coherent world history from the Marxist perspective. I am, however, weary of the focus to put human history into some overarching and coherent narrative. I learned quite a bit from this book, despite largely disagreeing with certain parts of it.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Warsaw 1920: Lenin’s Failed Conquest of Europe
  • The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World
  • The Bitter Road to Freedom: A New History of the Liberation of Europe
  • History of the Russian Revolution
  • Human Rights: A Very Short Introduction
  • The Penguin History of Latin America
  • The Origin of Capitalism: A Longer View
  • Ecology and Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis
  • A Companion to Marx's Capital
  • Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions Since World War II
  • Sexuality and Socialism: History, Politics, and Theory of LGBT Liberation
  • A People's History of American Empire
  • There Is Power in a Union: The Epic Story of Labor in America
  • The Age of Capital: 1848-1875
  • The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic
  • Ten Days that Shook the World (Value Edition)
  • Capitalism & Slavery
  • Historical Capitalism with Capitalist Civilization
British journalist and political activist for the Socialist Workers Party.

Harmann was involved with activism against the Viet Nam war but became controversial for denouncing Ho Chi Minh for murdering the leader of the Vietnamese Trotskists.

Harman's work on May 1968 in France and other student and workers uprisings of the late 1960s, The Fire Last Time, was recommended by rock band Rage Against th
More about Chris Harman...

Share This Book

“The reality [of what life was like for the whole of our species for at least 90 percent of its history] was very different to the traditional Western image of such people as uncultured 'savages', living hard and miserable lives in 'a state of nature', with a bitter and bloody struggle to wrest a livelihood matched by a 'war of all against all', which made life 'nasty, brutish and short'.
People lived in loose-knit groups of 30 or 40 which might periodically get together with other groups in bigger gatherings of up to 200. But life in such 'band societies' was certainly no harder than for many millions of people living in more 'civilised' agricultural or industrial societies. One eminent anthropologist has even called them 'the original affluent society'.
...An early Jesuit missionary noted of another hunter-gathering people, the Montagnais of Canada, 'The two tyrants who provide hell and torture for many of our Europeans do not reign in their great forests--I mean ambition and avarice...not one of them has given himself to the devil to acquire wealth'.
...Richard Lee is quite right to insist: "It is the long experience of egalitarian sharing that has moulded our past. Despite our seeming adaptation to life in hierarchical societies, and despite the rather dismal track record of human rights in many parts of the world, there are signs that humankind retains a deep-rooted sense of egalitarianism, a deep-rooted commitment to the norm of reciprocity, a deep-rooted...sense of community.”
More quotes…