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The Human Web: A Bird's-Eye View of World History
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The Human Web: A Bird's-Eye View of World History

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  449 ratings  ·  37 reviews
An original vision of world history that reveals the larger patterns of human cooperation and conflict from the earliest times.Why did the first civilizations emerge when and where they did? How did Islam become a unifying force in the world of its birth? What enabled the West to project its goods and power around the world from the fifteenth century on? Why was agricultur ...more
Hardcover, 350 pages
Published February 28th 2003 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2003)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 974)
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Fletcher
Do you need a quick refresher on human history from the rise of homo erectus to the fall of the Soviet Union? This book can get you there in just over 300 pages.
Jim
The best short history I've read. A great book to center your view of history to humanity an a whole. Some history books get lost in classroom academia with facts and a timeline. This one's focus is the story and the telling. It is short and to the point with an emphasis how we got to the present.

The McNeil's tell world history as an interconnected whole with the strands of the web increasing over time and pulling the disconnected parts together. They tell mankind's story in the same way as a
...more
Rein
The idea is good. To describe not the outside of history, but the inside of it, the processes that direct the flow of events. And not from one particular point of view (as f.ex. Marxists do), but taking into account various mutually independent factors, such as the spread of diseases and the speed of communications in addition to economic, political or religious factors.
However, the actual book leaves a lot to be desired. First of all, there were too many factual mistakes in the areas that I kno
...more
Sense of  History
A World History in over 350 pages, some have done it, but not the way father and son McNeill have. They managed to put a new gridding over the complex evolution of mankind, namely that of evermore enlarging en more complicated webs, first locally (agrarian towns), than metropolitan (cities), followed by civilizations and finally the cosmopolitan worldwide web, starting from 1500 AD.
To look at history in this way is especially refreshing for the period between 3.000 BC and 1500 AD because it ill
...more
Mark Freckleton
An ideal companion to Gun, Germs and Steel, this book looks into human history as an evolution from simple sameness to diversity and then toward complex sameness. First people lived in simple, small groups, spoke only a few languages, and pursued a narrow range of survival strategies. As groups spread out across the world, broader cultural variety - more languages, differing toolkits, more social complexity. Through the growth of interactive webs, best practices spread, diversity declined, and c ...more
martha
The history of the entire human race in just over 300 pages. Dense and often slow but pretty interesting. I learned a lot about longstanding ecological connections between humanity and the planet: the domestication of wheat, goats, etc etc. It was good at drawing complex connections: alfalfa bacteria meant certain crops could be cultivated which could support certain types of horses which meant raiders could sweep into China from the steppes. Impressively done, alfalfa bacteria!

..... I know I ha
...more
Scott Pierce
This book was assigned to the AP World History class of my daughter, Annie. I read it after the class was over in order to see what she, and the class, had been up to, and found it interesting, so finished it. Some of the more interesting points (to me) below:

- language was the most important aspect to increased human cooperation, but dance, ritual and art were important as well

- the first useful wool-bearing sheep were mutants, and then of course were bred for that trait

- caloric yield of milk
...more
Richard Reese
Cultural cheerleaders constantly shout about how lucky we are to live in an age of miracles, a utopia of technology and progress. Everything is just great (if you cram most of reality under the bed).

But the folks who rip off their blinders know better. They can perceive huge and growing crises that cannot be well addressed via the pursuit of shopping and entertainment. They can see that it’s time to learn, to think, and to change. Understanding how we got into this bog of predicaments requires l
...more
Andrew
Battle maps? Really, do we need battle maps in a world history book? Traces of cultural essentialism that seem a bit absurd. Such as mold-boarding creating more cohesive social units in parts of Europe, a fact that lingers in the general pleasantness the authors seem to notice while visiting these places....hmm.....

The human web idea is curious however, emphasis on broad and far-reaching cultural interaction in pre-modern times is an oft-overlooked fact.
Devon
Definitely an interesting look at the development of human society, giving due coverage to development in non-Western areas for the world and positing reasons of why some societies were able to develop faster or more effectively than others. I do wish the book was more self-critical, however; rarely did the authors concede that there was disagreement about how events happened or how these events should be explained, and the book contains few citations. It'd also be nice if the prose was a little ...more
Marc
A World History in over 350 pages, some have done it, but not the way father and son McNeill have. They managed to put a new gridding over the complex evolution of mankind, namely that of evermore enlarging en more complicated webs, first locally (agrarian towns), than metropolitan (cities), followed by civilizations and finally the cosmopolitan worldwide web, starting from 1500 AD.
To look at history in this way is especially refreshing for the period between 3.000 BC and 1500 AD because it ill
...more
Grant
Covering the history of the world in a mere 350 pages (including notes, bibliography, and index) is quite a challenge, but McNeill and McNeill found a useful metaphor to bind it together. Humans have, over time, formed more and more complex and interactive networks - the "world wide web," even before computers. Initially, these webs were local, perhaps a small city and its surrounding countryside. Then, local webs joined, however tenuously. Empires rose as more complex and wide-ranging webs, unt ...more
Sidpow
A very macro approach to history that weaves together a compelling and interesting perspective on the history of humans. Using the web as a focal point I was able to learn, remember and track the events of history as they related to the web. This was all a byproduct of the web though as the web and its consequences are truly the reason that this book was so good.

That being said, my ignorance forced me to take a lot of what was said as facts, and there were a lot of built in assumptions due to t
...more
Lorena Gonzalez
It was very clear and it gave a very detailed summary of what has happened throughout history. It explains why certain events occurred and what those events led to.
Matt
Not nearly as gimmicky as I thought. They did a great job of sticking with a theme and following it - not getting caught up in the details of history. The father wrote one of the most important and best books of all time (Plagues and People) and this book is almost as good. My only critique is that because they don't allow themselves to get caught up with the details, I am not 100% sure this book will translate to people who don't know those details. I know that I felt more comfortable with the ...more
Lia
A history of the world in a short version. I'm glad I read this book. It makes me see the world from different angle.
Matilda
Kesän koukuttava infopakkaus. Jos haluat lukea jonkun hyvän historiankirjan, lue tämä! Suomeksi Verkottunut Ihmiskunta.
Ed Callahan
Jun 07, 2013 Ed Callahan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: HIstory Teachers
Shelves: world-history
This is a great book for those who are either about to teach AP World History or are in the midst of teaching it. William and John McNeill emphasize the connections, the webs, which link groups and regions across time and space, something which is an important component of the AP World History curriculum. The focus on the webs means that certain finer details will be left out. Other works should be used to supplement this volume to provide the details. For those who are already working with more ...more
Emily
Oct 13, 2014 Emily rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in history
Recommended to Emily by: University
Well, technically I didn't finish the whole thing, but I did my last reading for my Global History course today, so I'd say it counts.
This book was a really good overview of the history of humanity, told with an emphasis on globalisation which I liked. There is a lot of information to take in though, and at times it can seem overwhelming. However, if you have an history event you want to get a good overview for, and maybe view it from a different global perspective, this book is likely to have w
...more
Michelle
This book was a jam packed run through of world history. I gave it 3 stars because I had to read it quickly for a class so i think that created a little bias for me. Sometimes I felt like the author was having trouble getting his point across. I also felt as he started one thing, he would divert to another topic which was a little frustrating. Overall though an interesting book that really gets you thinking about how are society networks with other parts of the world and how it all originated.
Elliott
Anyone who wants to know a general history of the whole world should start with this book. In my World History graduate seminar we all agreed this would be the best book to read on world history as an undergraduate. Even if you've graduated college this is good.

The history feels a bit thick at times though. The conclusion is looped, as in you feel like it just ended because they didn't know what further to say. Otherwise it's pretty solid.
Elizabeth
This book is an amazing compilation of world history from the very beginning until present day. The McNeills provide intricate details and a logical chain of events to leave you wondering what will happen next to the human race. Everyone should read this book if only to better understand the reasons behind the challenges we face today.
Pinar
It is well written book from a different perspective but after 1850s it lost its originality. I really enjoyed the connections they made in terms of "web". Good summary of history in 350 pages if you have some background.
Tytti
Koko maailman historia reilussa 500 sivussa isä ja poika -parivaljakolta. Kirja myös todellakin kertoo koko maailmasta, Euroopan sivumääräinen osuus on ehkä harvinaisenkin pieni.
Johanna
A very good general overview on world history. How the different networks have evolved during the century and how we have become this globally connected society.
Juha Haavisto
A bird's-eye view to human history. Goes trough the basics of human history very quickly from the Neolithic Revolution to the present day.
Andrew K.
Really loved it. If you like history and knowing things got to be the way they are, check this book out.
Jeff
Outstanding overview of world history. Pairs well with the AP World History curriculum.
Stephanie Kelley


FINALLY DONE OH GOD. Good book but dear Jesus it can be dry.
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