A People's History of the World
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A People's History of the World

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  449 ratings  ·  51 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)
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Marci
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
Mark
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
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...more
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...more
Tom
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...more
Katie
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).
Nadavshs12
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
Keegan
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'...more
Aiham Taleb
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 :)
Stan
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.
Sydney
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.
Sean
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.
Zip
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.
Jayme
Jul 22, 2011 Jayme marked it as to-read-non-fiction
From The Independent's Ten Best History Books.
Alex
i remember this being excessively dogmatic in approaching "world" history from a Marxist-Leninist (Trotskyist) perspective. far too Euro-centric
Anthony
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...more
h_d
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
Alex
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...more
H Wesselius
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
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
James A. Crews
Feb 03, 2014 James A. Crews rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Fans of radical leftist history
A People's History of the World is an ambitious account of Marxist history. Harman succeeds in filtering the narrative through the class struggle, I particularly enjoyed his coverage of the 18th century and the subsequent revolutions thereof. This was not an easy book to get through, my chief criticism being in how dry it reads in places. Nevertheless, it's essential for those who desire a different historical perspective.

Frej
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...more
Marcy
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
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.
James
Pretty good and through history of human existance. It's very obvious that the author is a marxist, and later he reveils himself to be a leninist-trotskyst too, but don't let that stop you from reading it. He sets up a great critique and class analysis of history.

I wish he'd spent a little more talking about Africa, Asia, and pre-columbian north american, and a little less time talking about europe, though.
Molly
Oct 06, 2010 Molly is currently reading it
I'm only just entering Civilization, but so far there've been a lot of uncomfortably unjustified assumptions about neolithic society. There's an awfully big difference between, for instance, "there is no evidence for class divisions within neolithic societies" and "there were no class divisions within neolithic societies", and Harman goes with the latter type of description in much of his narrative.
Aubrey
Excellent introduction to world history from a Marxist perspective. Presented similarly to Zinn's "People's History of U.S." focusing of the ordinary people who build our societies and the material conditions which shape it/us. And you know what? I liked the short length of the chapters, because even though I love reading history, I can get bogged down by the immensity of it. Great book!
Edith
Jun 29, 2012 Edith marked it as never-finished  ·  review of another edition
Abandonné. Le titre devrait plutôt être Une histoire marxiste de l'humanité. Ça sonnait presque "tout autre maniere de penser ne vaut rien". En plus c'est long, plus de 700 pages, et je n'avais pas la patience de passer au travers.
Aussi, c'est légèrement passé date considérant que l'édition originale anglaise est de 1999... Je me demande pourquoi la soudaine traduction française.
☯Bettie☯
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107417
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
More about Chris Harman...
كيف تعمل الماركسية؟ Zombie Capitalism: Global Crisis and the Relevance of Marx The Lost Revolution: Germany 1918-1923 Fire Last Time: 1968 and After The Prophet and the Proletariat: Islamic Fundamentalism, Class and Revolution

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“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.”
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