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J.M. Roberts
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The Pelican History of the World

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  756 ratings  ·  85 reviews
From humanity's origins on the African Savannah to the state of the world after September 11, 2001, The New Penguin History of the World offers a magisterial sweep through time and history. Completely updated and revised by preeminent historian J. M. Roberts, this volume features ninety up-to-date maps, new sections, and extremely well-written and accessible articles throu ...more
Paperback, 1040 pages
Published April 1st 1988 by Penguin (first published 1976)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,511)
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Snehal Bhagat
In one of the classic classroom-quiz-themed Calvin and Hobbes strips, our hero reflects on career choices.

J. M. Roberts was a big-picture person. And this is a big-picture book, but even though it is an all-encompassing chronicle that traces every major development of historical significance beginning with our prosimian ancestors through to the early years of the 21st century, it is no meaningless clutter of facts and figures; Roberts brings his erudition to bear on these to identify within th
...more
Jlawrence
Good lord, I finally finished this book! I think there were at least two periods where I put this one down and did not pick it up again for six months or so. So, while Roberts does his best to give shape and clarity to an immense amount of information, it is not the most gripping read (although, with the broad strokes necessary for a work like this, I doubt anyone could concoct scintillating prose).

Content-wise, there are two important weaknesses of the book. First, while it is titled 'History o
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Steve


This title is a staple in the Barnes & Noble history section as well as in the prominent, warmly loved independent bookstores here and there. I happen to know that because I circled the book for at least a couple of years before finally purchasing it. Weighing in with 1,180 pages of text supplemented by 57 pages of Index, it seemed both too long and too short—too long because the project of reading it would take time that might be devoted to two or three other books that I looked forward to
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Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in May 2000.

At the end of the twentieth century, there seems to be a vogue for celebrating the end of the second millennium AD with universal histories of the sort which had been rather out of fashion for some years. This particular work appeared at the time when they were unfashionable, the Pelican version being slightly updated from one printed by Hutchinson a few years earlier with many maps (reduced in number for this edition to keep costs down).

Judging b
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Tim
Roberts is a master of the broad brush, managing to make world history a page-turner and 1200 pages seem like 300 (or so). Because the subject’s so large, it always feels like you’re moving at high speed and observing from high above. There’s little room for detail, but that’s the nature of world history. The beauty of it is that Roberts makes connections and observations of patterns, and we’re able to do the same, which wouldn’t be possible in a history of smaller scope with more detail (of cou ...more
Carol Smith
It. Is. Accomplished.

It took five months, but I have finally finished this behemoth. And I didn’t just read it; I studied it. I took notes. Assiduously. It was a self-imposed college course.

How does one review something one has lived with for half a year?

The main question, I suppose, is whether or not the tome provided what I was seeking. Different readers will have different goals. For myself, I was motivated by a feeling that – despite history being a steady, lifelong component of my reading
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Fortunr
This is a masterpiece, highly recommended to anyone seriously interested in a good quality, thoughtful, insightful overview of human history. This book manages to provide a surprisingly good level of detail while keeping a wide breath of analysis and encompassing the whole of historical development since prehistory up to contemporary times.
It should be kept as a reference, not just read (and probably it should be read at least twice, to fully enjoy it).
It is a real pity that there are a few (mo
...more
Jennifer Ockner
I found this book in the foreign section of a bookstore in Nishinomiya, Japan. I was looking for a long read to get me through my upcoming flight home. I was impressed by the relatively low weight and portability of this 1200-page monstrosity. Then I started to thumb through the sections, and the writing is unbelievably succinct, given the vastness of the subject. I quickly gave up the idea that I would ever read this book cover-to-cover. For me, the magic of this book is that I can turn to any ...more
matt.geek.nz
A single volume of world history isn't going to provide much depth about any one nation or era. But if, like me, you've never studied history formally and you only know bits and pieces, this 1200 page book does a masterful job of tying all the main strands of world history together into a single coherent narrative, which gives you a marvelous sense of historical context when looking at any particular cultural artifact, and some good clues on where to dig deeper.
Bill
Loved it! A 1000 page stroll through world history. Roberts approaches the subject as history of civilisations. He perceives in world history a central progression of the most influential civilisations: the Ancient Near East, classical Greece and Rome, Christian Europe and finally worldwide Europeanised civilisation. He does a good job of telling a single story -- other civilisations are dealt with (Islam, China, India etc) without leaving the central flow for too long, and apart from a few segm ...more
Breccan
I finally finished this after reading it on and off for nearly a year. It's a phenomenal work in its breadth and coverage. Obviously limited by how compressed it needs to be and the acknowledged eurocentrism. The real value from it I gained was really putting all the history I knew about in the context of everything else that was going on at similar times throughout the ages.

While more focussed works are often more engaging reads, they also often make the particular area they deal with seem like
...more
Laura
Now, keep in mind, a one-volume history of the world is a sisyphean endeavor -- just as you think you've got it all pared down to the essentials, another eventful decade leaves you with more chapters to write. But in terms of giving the major themes of world history and particularly in comparing major civilizations, Roberts is really to be admired. The writing is really excellent for something like this, and the chapters on pre-history and the ancient world are a wonderful primer for anyone want ...more
Thea
As a survey from prehistory to modernity, density is to be expected. However, the book is much like a commentary in tone, nonlinear in some areas, subjective in most, vague & meandering. What resulted was a mere re-introduction to things about which I will, elsewhere, read more extensively.

[After being drawn back to this book time and time again over the past 2 years since first reading it, I was compelled to alter my review. I had to offer an additional star and the following words: What se
...more
Shawn
I resent the general shoddiness of my public education as far as history goes. This was the best I could come up with as far as a general overview of the history of the world goes. I think I injured my wrists holding this thing up in the Metro commuting from Montgomery County, MD into DC (this beast comes in at over 1200 pages, my friends). My biggest complaint: the author doesn't give much coverage to religion--and when he does, he doesn't seem to take religion very seriously.

Anyway, reading th
...more
D.L. Morrese
I have a copy of this tome on my shelves and decided a couple weeks ago to reread it. (Mine is the 1993 Oxford University Press Edition.) It's comprehensive, covering human prehistory to the 1990s. In summary, much of human events can be seen as one group of people trying to steal stuff from another group of people, killing a lot of them and exploiting the rest. Then, over time and distance, the pattern repeats with conqueror become conquered and so on. (Yeah, you probably already knew that, but ...more
Gareth Rowlands
Sorry to say, this is one of the worst books of history I've ever read.

I failed to finish it, which is a big deal for me as I normally plow on regardless (After Tamerlane comes to mind). However, I gave up in contempt at his oh-so partisan account of the near East in pre-Christian times. Having all but dismissed out-of-hand the importance and relevance of religion in ancient Egypt and the fertile crescent, he then goes on to treat the biblical accounts of Moses, Saul, David and Solomon as, well,
...more
Ryan
Jul 16, 2008 Ryan is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Every few years I read about 10 pages of this book. History has never been my strong suit and I would like to know more. It's just so dense that I may be reading it for the rest of my life.
Dax
I thought this was an interesting, well-written, concise (though thick) history of all the stuff that I felt like I should have known but had never been able to piece together.
Al Bità
My copy of this is the 1983 (reprinted with revisions) edition which came out under the Pelican masthead of Penguins.

As an overall view of History this is quite good. At over 1000 pages it takes some effort to get through, but Roberts has a very likeable style. Obviously, it has a lit of territory to cover, and from this perspective can prove a little dense, but it seems to me that Roberts does a good job of being 'objective'.

I believe the first half of the book is the best in providing a genera
...more
Bevan
Anyone fascinated by world history will be delighted with the appearance of a new edition of John Robert's History of the World. His ill health mentioned in the preface made it hard work, and his recent death confirms his prophesy that this will be the final edition of this successful book. Overall Roberts provides a great summation of world history, supplying a sweeping overview with perceptive insights, and avoiding the temptation to become enmeshed in encyclopedic detail. The themes he follow ...more
Joe
Convincing and enjoyable. There is something here for both experts and novices; for the information I already knew, it's amusing to see how the authors fit so much information into a single chapter; for the new information, it's great to get new recommendations about historical figures and events I'd like to know more about (see: The Shahnameh, The Baburnama, and the Japanese shishi ). I enjoyed some chapters more than others: stand-outs were Books 3 and 4 (The Classical Age and The Age of Dive ...more
Dan
A good book to get a high level overview of important phases of history, or the entire history of man, if you so choose. But to read the whole thing would be dizzing. i just read the chapters on the "classical mediterranean," which includes Greece, Alexander the Great, Rome, and the fall of the empire to the barbarians. I also read the beginning chapters on how man evolved from apes to humans who build civilizations and the first civilizations, such as Sumer. I enjoy reading about the passage of ...more
Mark
At the end of this book, JM Roberts writes that the three threads running through history are the acceleration of change, the convergence of human culture and the growing capacity of man to control his environment. If I didn't learn anything else, that's what I'll remember. Was it really worth going through all this just to get to three simple takeaways? I'm not sure, but the scale of the author's accomplishment is definitely worth the highest rating I can give. Each sentence in the 1100 page bo ...more
Jennifer Cox
My most favorite history book that I have read. I loaned my hard copy to someone. I don't remember getting it back, but it was a large paperback so I am glad I have it now on my lighter weight Kindle. I can reference it anytime!
Sean DeLauder
Sep 19, 2014 Sean DeLauder marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: penguin
The publishing company ought not to put their name in the title because it utterly changes my understanding of the book's topic.

Sebastian Partogi
This excellent history book helps me understand what my world is about... From this book, I gain some deep insights about certain issues: the marriage between religion and politics, the evolution of science and secularism, the resurgence of fundamentalism as well as the origin and evolution of power and violence.
Melanie Richards
What I got out of this book:

1) topics in history I'd like to further explore
2) better understanding of international skirmishes that happened when I was a kid

I'm tempted to give it 3 stars, but I've settled on 2 because:

1) sentence structure was so sprawling that I'd often have to read the same sentence twice
2) the author (or ghost author) became quite opinionated once the track hit the 20th century. Unavoidable, because we all have opinions on recent history, but I felt some of the language was
...more
Andy
Nothing if not pithy, the PHotW crams several thousand years of human history into about 1000 pages. It's done with plenty of wit. Roberts tends toward "macro" observations of social, political and/or religious trends or movements. In the process he sometimes misses or jettisons some surprising details (there's no mention, for example, of Marie Antionette), though he does pepper the book with plenty of interesting observations and the occasional offbeat anecdote (such as the fate of the Roman em ...more
Kita
I am not a history reader. I don't even like period pieces on TV. If anyone ever shoves a historical novel in my face, i shall chuck it back and break their nose.

Unfortunately, here you will see that I am harboring a common Generation Y trait, in that I undeniably think history is BORING!

Now, as for Mr Roberts' epic monster; well, I don't actually think it's half bad. As you can see, I'm not actually finished yet (and believe me that will take time) but the point here is that i AM reading it.
...more
Neda Bano
Amazing book full of history information
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Making our Way through HoW 17 15 Dec 23, 2012 09:51AM  
Which edition are you reading? 2 7 Dec 03, 2012 10:40AM  
  • The Penguin History of the USA
  • The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events
  • A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900
  • A History of Civilizations
  • Europe
  • The Foundations of Early Modern Europe: 1460-1559
  • The Modern Mind: An Intellectual History of the 20th Century
  • The End of the European Era: 1890 to the Present (The Norton History of Modern Europe)
  • The Art of Fact: A Historical Anthology of Literary Journalism
  • Egypt, Greece and Rome: Civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranean
  • Millennium: A History of the Last Thousand Years
  • History of the Persian Empire
  • China: A History
  • Merchant, Soldier, Sage: A New History of Power
  • A History of Histories: Epics, Chronicles, Romances and Inquiries from Herodotus and Thucydides to the Twentieth Century
  • Civilization: A New History of the Western World
  • A History of Knowledge: Past, Present, and Future
  • The Crisis of the European Mind
John Morris Roberts, CBE, was a British historian, with significant published works. From 1979-1985 he was Vice Chancellor of the University of Southampton, and from 1985-1994, Warden of Merton College, Oxford. He was also well known as the author and presenter of the BBC TV series The Triumph of the West (1985).
More about J.M. Roberts...
A Short History of the World A History of Europe The Penguin History of the Twentieth Century The Penguin History of Europe History of the World (Updated)

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