Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “An Intimate History of Humanity” as Want to Read:
An Intimate History of Humanity
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

An Intimate History of Humanity

4.13  ·  Rating Details  ·  873 Ratings  ·  85 Reviews
A provocative work that explores the evolution of emotions and personal relationships through diverse cultures and time. "An intellectually dazzling view of our past and future."--Time magazine
Paperback, 496 pages
Published December 1st 1995 by Harper Perennial (first published 1994)
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 An Intimate History of Humanity, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Kerri You could see if its on Wattpad or your library. I think Amazon might offer a free book if you upgrade to amazon prime, if your a teacher you could…moreYou could see if its on Wattpad or your library. I think Amazon might offer a free book if you upgrade to amazon prime, if your a teacher you could apply to have it sent to your classroom. If you need a affordable one you could check with your local used book stores.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Dec 13, 2015 Wayne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all human beings
Recommended to Wayne by: the titles of the chapters!!!
14 YEARS LATER:ie December 14th 2015
I thought I may have read this book about 6 or 7 years ago...that is how much THIS BOOK is STILL with me.
..and it is August 2001 that I finished reading it..can't believe it is that long ago!!!
This is a book of which I so often think:"I MUST read that book again."

I am still searching out copies to give to friends.
I often glance in its direction where it sits with many other books in my bedroom.
MUST be time to read it AGAIN!!

Oct 24, 2012 Lisa rated it it was ok
I could not figure out why reading this book made me feel enraged. I wondered if it had something to do with the way it says everything about nothing and nothing about Everything. Zeldin shares 1st person narratives from people who were weirdly philosophical about themselves and their lives. Is it because many of them are French. C'est l 'absurd. This book got rave reviews and the truth is that I was too annoyed to finish it. It was like eating food made of air.
Nov 21, 2008 Catherine rated it really liked it
Shelves: natania, fp, 2008
Zeldin's work, despite the name, isn't really historical scholarship. Instead it's far closer to philosophy, and his use of history is kin to Foucault's - by picking and choosing key moments in the global past, what do we learn that might help us navigate our present?

It's a fascinating text, if so broad and expansive that sometimes it feels too much to take in. Zeldin tries to pinpoint the things that make us human, tries to find our commonalities instead of focusing on differences, and asks wha
Nick Davies
Feb 10, 2016 Nick Davies rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bought cheaply from a clearance table in an Oxfam bookshop three or so years ago, on the strength of an unusual cover and a title which piqued my interest, this turned out to be very interesting indeed.

Zeldin writes of human nature - the book is part sociology, part philosophy, part cultural history in discussing a number of statements which are explored in the context of interviews with French women, and are then challenged with reference to cultural norms throughout the ancient and modern worl
Dec 04, 2015 Berk rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
İstediğin zaman herhangi bir yerinden açıp okumak için uygun bir başucu kitabı. Multidisipliner bakış açısı kazanmayı öğütlüyor. Bence de önemli bir konu.

"Düşüncenin doğrultusunu sezgiler belirlemiştir. Sezgi bazen hipotezler biçiminde, bazen de nedenlerini seçmemize fırsat bırakmayacak kadar hızlı ulaşılmış yargılar olarak ortaya çıkar. Kadınlara atfedilmiş olan sezgi ne sihir keramet işidir, ne de deha işareti, küçücük ayrıntılara dikkat etmenin ve söze dökülmemiş duygulara ilgi duymanın bir s
Ferda Nihat Koksoy
Feb 10, 2016 Ferda Nihat Koksoy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy, favorites
-SEFALETİN DORUĞU, BAŞKALARININ MÜLKÜ gibi olduğunun fark edilmesidir.

-KARMAŞA arttıkça, içinden geçilebilecek ÇATLAKLAR da artar.



-İnsanların EŞİT olmaya başlaması, KARŞILIKLI KONUŞMA ve DİNLEMEYİ öğrenebilmeleri ile olabilir.

-Çağdaş insan, Çinli gibi doğayı anlayan, Moğol gibi gezen ve İranlı gibi romantik olma özlemindedir.

Jul 10, 2012 Lachlan rated it really liked it
It's taken me some time (Goodreads informs me 3 months), but I have finally finished reading Theodore Zeldin's ambitious book, 'An Intimate History of Humanity.'

Zeldin's stated objective is to provide us with a history of humanity that surpasses stale cataloging of kingdoms epochs, and ages. Instead, he turns his attention to some of the most important and defining dynamics of human society. He takes our fixed assumptions about the nature of humanity, and, through an exposition of engaging histo
Jan 12, 2008 Kevin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lost hungry souls (everyone!)
This is not a typical history book. It's perfect for someone hungry for knowledge but put off by history written as a succession of dates and wars by a detached, passionless author. Sometimes it almost reads like a self-help book-- but don't worry, cynics! It offers no quick solutions, only useful questions. Fluffy and condescending? Nay! Encouraging and inspiring? Yay!

Divided into chapters like "How humans have repeatedly lost hope, and how new encounters, and a new pair of spectacles, revive t
i had really high expectations of this book and didn't like it as much as i expected in the end. the problem for me was that the personal stories of french women at the beginning of each section was really nice and enjoyable but in most chapters i found it hard to relate their stories to the historical events and customs author picked. and the lack of connection between them made most of the book seem like a common "fun historical facts" blog. the other problem is that i find history or traditio ...more
Oct 12, 2012 Qi rated it liked it
I was impressed by the first 40 pages, with the author's promise of delving into the psyche and emotional history of humanity. Evidently erudite, this author alluded to references to historic events but promised to interpret them "intimately" and classic theoretic ideas but would use them "relevantly" so we don't get drowned in the details. The idea of starting with a particular person's life story held attraction as well -- till a point (page 40 onward) which becomes a mediocre collection of sn ...more
M.d. Lachlan
Jul 19, 2012 M.d. Lachlan rated it it was amazing
One of my favourite books and a real eye opener. One of the few books I read again periodically. It's the history of love but touches on many other aspects of philosophy. A page turner, which isn't something you often say about a philosophical novel. Like Alain De Botton but without the descents into banality.
Oct 10, 2009 Ed rated it it was amazing
An amazing book that I just came across on my shelves having read it in 1994ish. Each chapter takes a contemporary French woman from many layers of society and uses it to weave the history of humanity. Really interesting different take on history. Intriguing.
Mar 24, 2009 Dan rated it liked it
If you've ever wanted to read the history of some of our most common dreams, desires, and fears this is a good place to start. Well-written, and occasionally poetic.
Mi Camino Blanco
Jan 20, 2015 Mi Camino Blanco rated it liked it
Shelves: reviews
Otro título que me ha llevado al engaño, puesto que se trata de un ensayo más cercano a la Sociología que a la Historia. No obstante, el autor propone una interesante reflexión sobre algunas de las actitudes, comportamientos y emociones humanas más destacadas vinculando su ocurrencia universal en diferentes épocas.

Los capítulos que me han parecido más interesantes son los relativos a la conversación (desconocía que Finlandia es el país menos hablador del mundo), el miedo, la soledad y la ciencia
Feb 07, 2015 sidana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kitabın amaç ve özeti Theodore Zeldin bu sözlerle açıklıyor;“Niyetim, günümüz insanının, kendi kişisel geçmişine olduğu kadar, acımasızlıktan, yanlış anlamalardan ve mutluluktan oluşan topyekün insanlık siciline de yepyeni bir gözle bakabilmesinin mümkün olduğunu göstermek. Yeni bir gelecek görüşü oluşturmanın yolu her zaman, geçmişe bakışımızı yenilemekten geçmiştir”. Değişik bir anlatım açısıyla tarihi anlatmaya çalışmış; savaşlar, kavgalar, antlaşmalar üzerinden değil de kişilerin özel hayatl ...more
Al Bità
Oct 05, 2013 Al Bità rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was first published in 1994, and I must admit I had never heard of it until alerted to it by my good friend Wayne, who gave me a copy, and for which I am extremely grateful. This is a truly wonderful work, and one which should grace the personal library of anyone interested in a history which differs from the usual run of history books. It uses a very readable technique which is immediately charming (the list of chapter titles in the Table of Contents will be enough to intrigue even th ...more
May 13, 2013 Angela rated it it was amazing

An interesting and intellectually challenging read. Arranged in short chapters making it convenient to read randomly from anywhere in the book. Great for busy times or when on the move. Catchy and memorable chapter titles such as " Why compassion has flowered even in stony ground", " Why even the rich and successful are somewhat gloomy about life" " How men and women have learnt to have interesting conversations". However, not always entirely convinced by the prescriptions given (which are proba
Zerrin Akakça
Jan 26, 2016 Zerrin Akakça rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Çok begendim, kitapta birçok yerin altini çizerek okudum. Zaman içinde tekrar gözattigimda, kolaylikla yakalayabilecegim tespitler olacak böylece.
"Hayati nüanslariyla birlikte kucaklamak isteyenler zihinlerini otomatik fotograf makinesi gibi kullanarak bir yere varamazlar...Algilarin zihinde ne sekilde çözümlendigi onlari sarmalayan varsayimlara bagli olmustur ve bunlarin en önemlileri, zihinsel tikanmanin ikinci büyük nedeni olan hafizada sakli tutulanlardir. "
"Mahkum etme, daha iyisini önerem
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]I got this ages ago, as it promised to be an interesting investigation of the history of how humans relate to each other. Unfortunately it isn't; it is a series of conversations with French women, one by one, with an attempt by the author to draw universal conclusions from each one individually. I got through less than a tenth of it before I reached my "Tonstant Weader fwowed up" moment, when one of the interviewees confided that[return][retu ...more
Apr 30, 2011 Tim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book by turns illuminating and frustrating, insightful, banal, and tedious. Zeldin drives at the important details of life and has wonderful insights into human existence through history, but the book's format is tiresome. The details from individual women's lives at the beginning of each chapter wore me down over time and took away from his cleverness and wit. In the end I fear I am not generous enough to this book, which is ambitious and attempts to be so all encompassing, but his dismissal ...more
Jun 22, 2015 Palmyrah rated it it was ok
I finished this book at the third try; on my first two attempts, made some years ago, I didn't even get to page 50. And though I finished it this time, I really, really disliked it.

Prof. Zeldin, like many European intellectuals, appears to have been greatly influenced by Karl Marx at some point in his youth. The influence shows, not so much in his political and economic views, as in his prose. Like Marx, he is fond of giant intuitive leaps, dialectical arguments and dogmatic statements couched a
Aug 23, 2014 Cathy rated it really liked it
I was totally enthralled when I started reading. I've never read a history book that was so poetic. Yet it was the poetic style of the writing (and gross liberties with the comma) that really began to irk me half way through. The vignettes of the women Zeldin speaks to served little purpose to me; I much more enjoyed the actual history and evolution of human nature, tendencies, and goals more than their life stories. Another reviewer said they were all "weirdly philosophical" about their own liv ...more
Mark Nelson
Sep 11, 2012 Mark Nelson rated it really liked it
Each chapter in this book is split into two distinct parts. First there's one or more pen portraits of people, all of whom are French women. Second there's an attempt by Zeldin to link parts of the portraits to history. For me the portraits were the most consistent part of each chapter. This is a book that will make you think more deeply about your life and the life of others?
Hock Tjoa
Feb 19, 2011 Hock Tjoa rated it really liked it
Brilliant and fascinating even though one can legitimately wonder what connects all the stories told other than the author's (powerful) imagination. It ranges through much of recent (post 1700) Western history.
Yasmine Carlson
A fascinating read about our attempts as humans to escape from loneliness and the intense pull we feel to connect with one another as lovers and friends. Makes you feel excited to be human and not a stone.
I dig the reported interviews with all of the French women--it's as if Studs Terkel was a super-cosmopolitan expat. But the macro pronouncements on life and history, like "So far, humans have used three strategies to deal with their enemies..." (p.211) or "Humans have so far distilled six lessons from their attempts to find the best way of surviving with the minimum of pain" (p.416), are absurd. Six lessons? Not seven?

But reading this makes me want to read/read about other polymaths, like Humbol
The critical-minded humanities major in me cringed at a lot of the sweeping generalizations and unsupported conclusions in this book. Still, there were some original, inspiring ideas.
Robin Segal
May 15, 2014 Robin Segal rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I have ever read, and definitely the book I have sent most often to others. It simply added a dimension to my world. It gave me license to think of things that I had never imagined were even topics, such as understanding the relationships among fear, curiosity, and freedom. Never had I imagined that one person could conceptualize these things, and so much more. You know that question, who would you want to have dinner with if you could choose one person in history? I would ...more
Nov 18, 2009 Kelly marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Despite the sexysexy nipple-tastic cover, this is supposed to be a legit fascinating book.
Feb 12, 2015 Freya rated it really liked it
Zeldin's intention here was to write a book with a philosophical approach to looking at the history of civilisation whilst simultaneously linking every single person on earth, living or dead through human emotion and experience. Though imperfect, his ambition here is remarkable and work has been made to show just how futile yet important the differences between us are. The historical references included are vast, making it a wonderful introduction to history in its own right.
Women from several
« 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 »
  • Landscape And Memory
  • A Terrible Beauty: The People and Ideas That Shaped the Modern Mind: A History
  • Civilizations: Culture, Ambition, and the Transformation of Nature
  • Cities in Civilization
  • Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century
  • The Wandering Scholars of the Middle Ages
  • Godless Morality: Keeping Religion Out of Ethics
  • Home: A Short History of an Idea
  • Why We Eat What We Eat: How Columbus Changed the Way the World Eats
  • Evening's Empire: A History of the Night in Early Modern Europe
  • The Measure of Reality: Quantification in Western Europe, 1250-1600
  • The Civilization Of Europe In The Renaissance
  • Home Is Where We Start from
  • The Secret Power of Beauty: First Edition
  • The Way of Transition: Embracing Life's Most Difficult Moments
  • From the Fires of Revolution to the Great War (A History of Private Life, #4)
  • The World That Never Was: A True Story of Dreamers, Schemers, Anarchists, and Secret Agents
  • The Crisis of the European Mind
Theodore Zeldin CBE, President of the Oxford Muse Foundation, is an English philosopher, sociologist, historian, writer and public speaker. Zeldin was first known as a historian of France but is today probably most famous internationally as the author of An Intimate History of Humanity (1994), a book which probes the personal preoccupations of people in many different civilisations, both in the pa ...more
More about Theodore Zeldin...

Share This Book

“...literature must always be about gloom of one sort or another, on the principal that there is nothing interesting to be said about happy people.” 9 likes
“Each civilization, each nation, each family, each profession, each sex and each class has its own history. Humans have so far been interested mainly in their own private roots, and have therefore never claimed the whole of the inheritance into which they were born, the legacy of everybody’s past experience. Each generation searches only for what it thinks it lacks, and recognizes only what it knows already.” 9 likes
More quotes…