The Story of Mankind
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The Story of Mankind

3.2 of 5 stars 3.20  ·  rating details  ·  949 ratings  ·  194 reviews
First published in 1921, The Story of Mankind has charmed generations of readers of all ages with its warmth, simplicity, and wisdom. Beginning with the origins of human life and sweeping forward to illuminate all of history, Hendrik van Loon's incomparable prose enlivens the characters and events of every age. His unique ability to convey history as a fascinating tale of...more
Paperback, 704 pages
Published December 17th 1999 by Liveright (first published 1921)
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Benji Martin
My journey through the Newbery winners begins here with the Story of Mankind. I’ve never been a great book review writer. It’s hard for me to talk about a book without giving too much away, so for these Newbery winners, I think I will stick to a format. I will answer the following questions. What did I like about the book? What did I dislike about the book? Did this book deserve to win the Newbery? Why or why not?

What I liked about the book:
Imagine that your grandfather was a retired history pr...more
James Swenson
We found this in my grandma's basement after she died. I picked it up again at my folks' house, when I was looking for bedtime reading, and I went through it in bits and pieces, over the course of several visits.

I went in with an open mind: I always try to love the book I'm reading, but then I always questioned Grandma's taste. This time, I was pleasantly surprised.

I skimmed the other reviews on Goodreads: the most misguided of these claimed that "anyone could have written this book." That's the...more
Velvetink
This is a book that belonged to my grandfather, it's the 1947 edition. I fell in love with the illustrations and is probably one of the reasons I love history. I've added 3 photographs of pages with illustrations that took my fancy. The first - of the universe with the sign (Here we Live) at first worried me a little - the vastness OUT THERE but I was very very young at the time. Now it reminds me of something that might come from a Douglas Adams book...perhaps he read Van Loon too. ;)
Antof9
I have finished The Book. Mr. van Loon's Narcoleptic Affect (thanks for that, Jen) notwithstanding, I enjoyed it. Seriously, I have never in my life fallen asleep reading a book as many times as I did this one. I lost count, but am pretty sure it was upwards of 10.

That said, I marked a TON of things I wanted to refer back to. We'll see how many make it into this review. Of course, my first thought, about 30 pages into this book was, "exactly who was this book written for?" A bunch of scholars wh...more
Rob
It's amazing how bad this book is. It's anti-semitic, condescending to previous generations, hardly filled with fact, but contains lots of opinions and some outright falsities. Loon likes to go on and on about his opinions of people/groups/etc and then skips over major historical events. For example, he opined about the horrible state of people in the middle ages and how it must have been due to their religious beliefs for about 15 pages and then devoted only one sentence to Joan of Arc. During...more
Jack Kirby and the X-man
Feb 23, 2009 Jack Kirby and the X-man rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jack Kirby and the X-man by: Children's Books Group
I only got up to page 75 of this 500+ page book... Why, well basically there are a lot better books out there to spend my time reading.

I feel that if I were an 8-12 year old in 1921 I would have really loved this book. With a school librarian as a mother I'm sure I would have been introduced to it, and I would have lapped it up. I liked how accessable the writing style was (but it is now difficult to determine what the author included as jokes, and what was really believed). The short chapters w...more
Jackie
It's amazing that this rambling version, with little significance to some major events of history, was awarded the Newbery Medal. Thankfully, we have some wonderful children's literature today that is worthy of the medal. Hendrick Van Loon attempts to capture The Story of Mankind for his grandchildren and future generations. Too bad the writing is horrible and the words are boring.

I struggled with giving this book two stars. I looked back at the books I gave one star to, and those books were REA...more
Janis
Having recently read this year's Newbery Medal book, I thought it would be interesting to read the winner of the first Newbery (awarded in 1922). I was a bit taken aback to find that it was a 662-page volume of history (what manner of children were these 1920s munchkins?) but I was pleasantly surprised by Van Loon's approach and style, which is clear and straightforward, witty and expressive. Delightful, detailed line drawings accompany the text. Occasionally the author steps away from the chron...more
Christian Clarke
I've read this book a number of times while preparing to teach world history. Van Loon was a professor of history who decided to make the scope of world history palpable for his grandkids. The book's voice and tone is avuncular and affable. but it is not impartial. Van Loon, an immigrant who made good, love America and her European forefathers.
Michael Scotto
Brutal read, but interesting as an artifact of the prevailing wisdom of its time.
Anna Smithberger
This book is exceptionally Eurocentric, which makes sense for the period in which it was written, but does not excuse the racism and the belief that little of "historic importance" ever came out of the non-western world. I also found the tone extremely patronizing and the many strange asides, quips, and at times laborious rants van Loon would include made me want to throw the book across the room.

While the edition I read had been updated to include events branching into the 21st century, and the...more
Reynard
Since time immemorial, humans love stories. Stories are what make scattered, seemingly random events look more connected, purposeful and meaningful. And that's the approach taken by Van Loon. Neither a scholarly analysis of the world at large, nor an academic definition of our mortal lives and strives, the book is supposed to be read as "story," as in the fireside, bedside stories, painted by captivating anecdotes, colorful narratives, and intimate feelings, as they continue to embrace children...more
Aimee Conner
I’ll say this for the Newbery committee: They did NOT get off to a rollicking start. I’m glad I had a commitment to read this book because without it, there is no way I would have finished this just for fun. It feels bad to start out this way, but I just did not enjoy this book.

Now know this: I like history. And he really got me going, for the first half of the book. From primordial soup to humans is glossed over pretty quickly but that didn’t bother me too much as this is a history of humans, n...more
Anita
I might be a little crazy, but I would like to try to read all the Newbery Medal winning books. There are over 90. I have already read several, but I decided to start at the first medal book for this journey. This book got the award in 1922. I think it is cool that it is a non-fiction book about history. Seeing it was written in 1921, I knew it would only take me to about WW1. What sold me on this book was that it covers the history of man, but in 300 plus pages.

I teach where we read a couple o...more
Ashley
Originally reviewed on my blog, Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing.

The Story of Mankind by Hendrik van Loon was awarded the very first Newbery Medal in 1922. I decided a few years ago that I wanted to read and own every Newbery Award Winner. Given that this won the first Newbery, I was excited to read it, even though I had heard some less than favorable things about the writing.

Let me first admit that I skimmed a vast majority of this book. I started the book with the full intention of readin...more
Peter
The Story of Mankind heroically attempts to tell the history of the human race from caveman times to 1922, that being "the present". It succeeds in telling the history of white people, sort of, with a strong anti-religion skew.

I had high hopes of this book, because it was acclaimed the first Newbery winner by 163 librarians and has remained in print ever since, being repeatedly updated with chapters on the end - my library's 1980s edition finished with "Looking Toward the Year 2000". And the wri...more
Marts  (Thinker)
For centuries mankind has existed, discovered, explored, conquered, exploited. Man’s beginnings may be termed difficult, but due to a knowledge of no other method, may it just be said that life was drastically different. However, tribulations, disasters, and various dastardly acts were all pivotal in shaping this world as we now know it.
Van Loon’s book is quite an interesting one, beginning with an introduction to our earliest ancestors, he chronicles man’s developmental journey in his own opini...more
Amy
Wow, where to start? This book was originally published in 1921, and covers a very general history of the world up to that time. There were a lot of things that surprised me about it. For one thing, I assumed the author would have different (more "old-fashioned") ideas. I expected some slant, but the direction of the slant was a surprise. The author comes across as what we would probably describe today as fairly liberal. He clearly disagreed with the US's decision to enter WWI; and was not impre...more
D.C.
As an atheist view of basic Western civilization, and the great men of Europe, it really is not that bad at all. But as a story of mankind, as van Loon frequently reminds us that this is, it downright stinks. van Loon only briefly takes a break from talking about the glories and splendors of Europe to talk about Buddha and Confucius in Asia. The women of history, even the ones of Europe, are never mentioned. Of course, van Loon is a Dutch American, and his bias towards the story of white history...more
katsok
Ugh. It's done. There were parts I was interested in - thus two stars instead of one - but more parts I simply skimmed through. It floors me that this was one - the most distinguished children's book of 1921 and two - a book written for children, period. My favorite sentence was from page 228, "Again I wish I could make this book a thousand pages long." Seriously?

As I said on Twitter, I would not pass a test on this one. I read to about page 250 really seriously, reading and thinking deeply. Af...more
Skedatt
Picked it up for a dollar and glad that I didn't spend more.

At first I was rather excited to find it because it was mentioned somewhere as a good history for homeschooling. Wrong.

Perhaps it is because I have a background in history that I find comments such as "In a strange way, the Egyptians had come to believe..." p.24 and "But the lazy, ignorant monks..." p.270 as statements better found in an opinion paper, not in documenting history. There are platforms for that, but it isn't in a book li...more
Melissa
Ugh, this was terrible. Who in their right mind chose this as a Newbery Medal book for children?? There is not ONE single child that would read this - I don't even know why I read it.
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
I saved the worst for last. My final Newbery and what a struggle it was to get through it! This is the story of the history of the world through the ages, written for a young audience. It is said to have been amended and updated and added to, but, if that is so, I can only shudder to think of the awful book that this book was originally. It is, in its present form, chock full of cruel opinions and mean asides about various peoples and their actions through the ages. I had considered keeping this...more
Elena
If I wasn't trying to finish the Newbery winners and I hadn't already read so far, I would have quit on this thing. The "updated" version made the original behemoth even longer and was just as annoying. It continued the talking down to kids style and added all the smarmy "the world will be a better place" junk that I would expect of a modern social studies textbook, especially when addressing recent history. Plus it became more a history of the US and less of mankind in the updated version. The...more
Carl Nelson
1922 Newbery Medal recipient.

Think of a world history class told by a crotchety professor in a generally entertaining and flowing manner, and you have "The Story of Mankind." The prose is mostly very readable, with a dry, irascible wit behind it all.

I have four main complaints about this book. First, a working knowledge of world history is required, as it mentions many events, people, and philosophies at best in passing and only by name at worst, and without prior knowledge would be largely unre...more
Heather
I didn't even finish this book. I was put off by the 'origin's of man' part and I thought the language dry. After a few chapters I started skimming through various sections and decided this wasn't the book for me.
Melissa
Yayyy! I finally finished this book! Took me FOREVER to get through this 600+ page behemoth. You have no idea how excited I am to be done with it.

Anyway, this was definitely not my most favorite book that I've ever read. It started out good - I actually loved the foreword, in which he describes ascending up the bell tower. I thought it showed real promise, and made me excited to read the rest of the book.

Something else I appreciated was Van Loon's passion for the writing and completion of this b...more
Megan
It's done! I finished it (insert the halleluiah chorus to Handel's Messiah here!) Seriously, I thought this book would do me in. The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Van Loon, is on my reading list merely because it was the first book awarded with the Newberry medal. I felt that the committee responsible for the book selection must have had a small group of nominees that year.

There was an ominous tone from the beginning of this book when I opened up the cover and found a librarians note,"Newberry Wi...more
Ensiform
This won the first Newbery. And what a hefty fellow this book is! Published in 1921 and updated every decade or so until the mid-80s, this world history for the younger set clocks in at a generous 590 close-typed pages. Van Loon starts at the very beginning, with a mention of how very brief Mankind's time on Earth has been compared to other previous inhabitants' reigns, and then moves right into our early ape-like ancestors, the development of tools and writing, Egypt, the Sumerians, Greece, and...more
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Hendrik Willem van Loon (January 14, 1882 – March 11, 1944) was a Dutch-American historian and journalist.

Born in Rotterdam, he went to the United States in 1903 to study at Cornell University. He was a correspondent during the Russian Revolution of 1905 and in Belgium in 1914 at the start of World War I. He later became a professor of history at Cornell University (1915-17) and in 1919 became an...more
More about Hendrik Willem van Loon...
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“High in the North in a land called Svithjod there is a mountain. It is a hundred miles long and a hundred miles high and once every thousand years a little bird comes to this mountain to sharpen its beak. When the mountain has thus been worn away a single day of eternity will have passed.” 8 likes
“For tolerance (and you must remember this when you grow older), is of very recent origin and even the people of our own so-called "modern world" are apt to be tolerant only upon such matters as do not interest them very much.” 4 likes
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