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A Little History of the World

(Little History)

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  19,233 ratings  ·  1,853 reviews
In 1935, with a doctorate in art history and no prospect of a job, the 26-year-old Ernst Gombrich was invited by a publishing acquaintance to attempt a history of the world for younger readers. Amazingly, he completed the task in an intense six weeks, and Eine kurze Weltgeschichte für junge Leser was published in Vienna to immediate success, and is now available in sevente ...more
Hardcover, 284 pages
Published October 13th 2005 by Yale University Press (first published 1936)
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Average rating 4.11  · 
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 ·  19,233 ratings  ·  1,853 reviews

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Jan 27, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2009
I can't bring myself to jump on the warm and fuzzy bandwagon of approval of this deeply flawed book. It is what it is - a condensation of all of human history into sequential "stories" suitable for "children". Supposing for the moment that this is not an inherent recipe for disaster, what is baffling is the number of reviewers who claim to see something in this work "for adults".

Other reviewers seem to agree on the book's "lack of condescension", so I guess I'll have to chalk my own perception
Oct 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, z_2010-read
Even if everything else in this book had been badly written (which is not the case), for this comment alone this book deserves very single one of the five stars I gave it:
And when, in 1918, America's President Wilson announced that he wanted a just peace in which each nation would determine its own fate, many of their troops gave up....Then, having understood from President Wilson that there was to be a peace treaty, and that negotiations were to be held in the ancient royal palaces of Versaill
I have always enjoyed reading books along with my son. He enjoyed the adult attention that came with buddy-reading when he was little, but now that we're in the teen years the motives seemed to have reversed. He humors me these days, thus the tradition of the annual summer read-along continues. Thank you, son.

A Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich was on his list for required summer reading this year (2018), so I picked up a copy as well and we went at it. He loves history, and as such,
Jun 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
One of the few non-fictions I didn't want to stop reading, like, ever.
I also desperately wish he was my grandpa.
Lyn Elliott
Jul 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: europe, history, germany
All the histories I read in school were based on an English world view - and yes it was English, because the Scots, Irish and Welsh barely got a look in except as being a nuisance needing to be put down. They certainly didn't give any idea about European history, as the island viewpoint prevailed (still does, it seems, after the Brexit vote).
So reading Ernst Gombrich's Little History has been a delight. Lucky children to have this as an introduction to history. Of course the central viewpoint is
Martin von Haller Groenbaek
Apr 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone that wants to get an intelligent survey world history from a western perspective
Recommended to Martin by: David von Haller Groenbaek
Shelves: history
A fantastic tour de force of the history of the world in less than 300 pages. The book is intended for young readers - between 12 and 16 I would mean but is also enjoyable for the older reader - like myself - as a brief overview of what has happened on our planet from prehistoric times until the fall of the Berlin wall. The history is however - as should be expected - very Europe-centric. If I ever get the chance, it would be so interesting - at least to me - to read this book with one of my kid ...more
Scarlett Readz and Runz....Through Novel Time & Distance
Sir Ernst Hans Josef Gombrich was mainly known by his work "The Story of Art" which happens to be the book of his that fell into my lap first, though "A Little History of The World" was actually an earlier written work of his that was published way later in his life.

What attracted me to this novel was my search in finding something (a few years back) that could present an overview of world history in a fairly short storytelling format for a younger audience with just a little bit of grit that w
Jul 05, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Well worth reading, and, in many ways, plenty entertaining and informative, but ... to my mind ... more interesting to read as a period piece than as a historical work (for a number of reasons).

So many things to treasure: the story of how the book came to be written is fascinating (and kudos to Gombrich for undertaking and completing the work which proved the springboard to a rich and successful career); the voice-tone-and-audience combination is intriguing - this isn't your normal "children's b
Oct 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
This is a very concise and fun to read history of the world. A little Christianity heavy, but not overzealous. The tone of the book is great. There's a real sense of wonder and amazement. Chapters are short too. It's a great book to read for 10 minutes before bed because you can finish a whole chapter in that time easily.

I recommend it to anyone looking for an entertaining overview of the history of the world. You won't find a lot of details and whys in here, but it's a very satisfying and inter
Mar 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-quasi, audio, ya
I first read the book and then — purely because I liked it — listened to the Blackstone Audio app, narrated capably by Ralph Cosham. I like his British accent. He is easy on the ears. Could listen to him for hours. Do, in fact.

Need a gift for an adolescent or young adult, or just want to learn a little more about world history yourself? I suggest this book, if you don't mind a grandfatherly tone addressed to adolescents. Some say the conversational voice is condescending, but I took no insult a
Nyamka Ganni
So much energy and warmth in a single book. Author's strong pacifist nature is the best part of it though.
Recommended for everyone!
Jacob McLaws
Jan 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
The perfect book to start my year. Admittedly a euro-centric version of history, but I was looking for a quick summary refresher before digging into some more meaty history books and this was just what I wanted. Ernst Gombrich is a pleasure to read because he's not trying to sound academic. It's like your really smart grandpa (or maybe CS Lewis in his Narnia voice) recounting the abridged history of the world.
Aaron Wolfson
This is a book that attempts to explain world history in its entirety. It is targeted for kids, it was written in six weeks in the 1930s, and it was only translated into English 70 years later (the author insisted on doing it himself).

It's inevitable that a 280-page history of the world will have issues. And in fact it has several inherent limitations and flaws. Here are the biggest ones:

1. The author is an Austrian expatriate living in England. Therefore, the history is wildly biased toward We
May 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
It's important to keep in mind that his target audience is children/young adults. He writes in a simple style, often engaging the reader directly ("Why do you think this happened?"), and painting a very general picture of world (read: European) history. While this probably won't shake the core of your beliefs about history, Gombrich does do a good job of humanizing all cultures and showing how even events in ancient history are still relevant.

As for it being Eurocentric, well, that's not surpri
Feb 17, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: heard
I can't recommend this much beyond the halfway point. Gombrich does a creditable job right up to the birth of Christ, but in my opinion the wheels fall off this book after the event.

It's totally Eurocentric, Christian-slanted history. Very moving illustration of the old saw that history is written by the victors. There's some lip service done regarding the genocides the Europeans were responsible for- but it's cursory at best. And sure, it's a history book for kids, so one wouldn't wish to dwel
Apr 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Gombrich is an amazing storyteller. This is a great introduction to the history of the (European and Mediterranean) world. The author doesn't give many historical dates, and that was a wise choice because the story flows like an epic poem (yes, at times the style is very poetic):

"The dark clouds on the horizon are the storm clouds of the Migrations, and it was in those forests, beside the rivers, that the first monks converted and educated the Germanic tribes."

After reading this book the strong
M.G. Bianco
May 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book. This is how history should be told. The history of the world, from Creation to World War II, is told a series of stories. The author doesn't shy away from telling history as he understands it. This is especially true when he gets to the history he lived through. Yet, in the final chapter of the book, he goes back and corrects things that he later felt like he misunderstood at the time of living through it.

The book is written for younger children, maybe 9-11, but I read it aloud to m
Feb 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
This goes through the history of the world through the ages and I would like to say upfront that i am not a history person. I like history so i was skeptical going into it but a friend said he was interested in what i would think and I really enjoyed it
I even found myself wanting more information. Since we go through so my eras and so many wars and battles and rulers we only see the spark notes in a sense of speaking. And for certain things I just wanted more (i supposed i could do research mys
Carla Remy
Dec 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
The darkest, most depressing story I have ever read. Because, though there are good pockets of time and place (and so far I have lived in a lucky one... so far), taken as a whole, our past is one of endless war, enslavement and village burning. And that is just the beginning!
Aug 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Let me just put it this way - Here is a book that every one should read before crossing their teens.

This book may not be an answer to all the historical curiosities a young mind may have but it is definitely a book that will set their minds on a roll and will ignite them to find more about their respective cultural history. It is a story telling mode of history-class which works great in terms of readability. Also this one makes you pick up a pencil and take notes for posterity. I made a lot of
Jan 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It certainly IS a world history - well mainly European history - for young readers, meaning it's an easy read and all facts are very well and basically explained. Actually it rather feels like someone tells you a story rather than yet another boring history lesson.

What I really loved about this way to access our history was how easily he connected the historical events with one another and here lies one of the strengths of this book. It is a story of developping mankind. You can experience how p
Suad Shamma
May 10, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2015
I did not enjoy this book at all. Going into it I had expected to thoroughly enjoy expanding my knowledge on the history of the world in brief little chapters. However, I quickly realized, as soon as I started, that this book just wasn't for me.

It is too simplistic - in a childish manner - and obviously written for a much younger audience. I found that to be a shame, because although you mean this to be a book aimed at children, you had this great opportunity to write a book that could somehow,
Jul 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I'm a little biased since I work for the publisher, but it still is a remarkable book. Gombrich was hired by a friend/publisher to translate a short children's history of the world into German and said he could write something better; it became this book. He set about writing a chapter a week by researching, writing, then reading the chapter to his future wife while on walks. It originally was published before WWII; the Nazis banned it. After the war Gombrich added some chapters. Gombrich later ...more
Oct 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
There is no book ever in the world that could cover the entire history of the world and still be able to please everyone. So I imagine Gombrich’s attempt is no different. It is an useful primer to introduce children to salient events of history. It must be remembered it is quite eurocentric. I wish a few of the other cultures- oriental, Ancient American were better included than as mere obligations. A few of Gombrich’s biases also slip through the chapters- for instance his emphasis on the suffe ...more
Julie Davis
Dec 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
I heard about this from Scott Danielson on Reading Envy. He mentioned the audiobook but I have begun the actual print version which is really charming and perfect bedtime reading.

This was a marvel of a good overview of history while being written for children. The questions or comments the author would inject into the text both amused and lightened the text for this adult reader. I also liked the additional chapters at the end where the author commented upon how difficult it is to see hist
Apr 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
One of my favorite books ever. It was written for children back before WW2 and the language and style reflect that. However I found it to be very interesting and engaging. It is a bit Eurocentric in its focus, but one of the outcomes of that for me is the realization that some of the countries that always seemed to me to be well established "first world" countries aren't really so old after all. Even better, this book gave me a big picture view that then sparked my interest to learn more about s ...more
Ian Tymms
I read this to my kids. They loved it; I loved it. A rare mix of scholarship, artistry, and readability.
Oct 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mostly European history. It is written like a fairy tale!
Lewis Hall
Nov 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If you are looking for a macro 1000 mile high view of history, this book is great! I didn't pay attention to history in school so I really enjoyed the book.
Paula Sarah
Aug 17, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
I’m gonna be frank: I hated this. Absolutely hated it. This is not a good book, and it saddens me to see so many people completely over the moon with it. Please stay and listen to me explain to you why. I’m gonna try to be less condescending than E. H. Gombrich.

Disclaimer, as it will become relevant shortly: I am German. The edition I am reading is English. Okay. Let’s move on.

This book has a serious branding problem, apart from just being bad and dangerous.
It’s clearly written for children — an
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Sir Ernst Hans Josef Gombrich, OM, CBE (30 March 1909 – 3 November 2001) was an Austrian-born art historian, who spent most of his working life in the United Kingdom.

Other books in the series

Little History (9 books)
  • A Little History of Philosophy
  • A Little History of Literature
  • A Little History of Religion
  • A Little History of Science
  • A Little History of the United States
  • A Little History of Economics
  • A Little History of Archaeology
  • A Little Book of Language

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