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The Shortest History of Europe

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  3,151 ratings  ·  354 reviews
Celebrated historian John Hirst offers a fascinating exploration of the qualities that made Europe a world-changing civilisation.

The Shortest History of Europe begins with a rapid overview of European civilisation, describing its birth from an unlikely mixture of classical learning, Christianity and German warrior culture. Over the centuries, this unstable blend produced h
Paperback, 160 pages
Published September 1st 2009 (first published 2009)
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Dec 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Great book for a very high-level overview of the history of Europe. Mostly focused on the Roman Empire and its aftermath, up until the Industrial Revolution.

Below are my reading notes.

# Chapter 1
Europe is a mix of people:

- the Greeks, who thought the world was simple, logical, and mathematical
- the Christians, who thought the world was evil with only Jesus to save them
- and the Germans, who thought waging war was the greatest

What happened when these groups came together?

At first the Christians w
Joash Loh
Great summary

but i can't help but be annoyed by the flippant Euro-centrism by Hirst. On Feminism: "it was because women had this degree of respect in European culture that feminism was fairly readily accepted. It is a different story in other cultures." What other cultures? By how much? Such casual condescension served no purpose other than to make the reader demand qualification, which this book does not provide.
Aug 03, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
When I marked "read" for this book, I only meant read in so far as it only took me about 20 pages to discover this book is biased and in some cases kind of offensive. I would read "Europe: A History" instead. It may be the longest history of Europe, but it's informative, well-written, and much less biased (and when biased mostly tends to be honest about it).
Quân Khuê
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very helpful introduction into European history
Aug 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who wants to know in a nutshell how it ALL happened.
Recommended to Wayne by: Alfonso
Shelves: history


John Hirst has been called "Australia's most innovative and penetrating historian" and the first thing I have learned from reading this book is that whoever said that is bloody well RIGHT!!!

What a relief to be reading the SHORTEST history of Europe - and at around 140 pages,( plus 10 maps and 22 illustrations ),that is exactly what it is.
What is MORE, he is putting IN what all those BIG HEAVY LENGTHY TOMES on European history LEAVE OUT!!!!
It's the BEST thing on European History I
Yousra Serry

A very good introduction for those who really do not know much about Europe as it gives you a quick overview of the main events that shaped Europe and its people. Their ethnic and cultural backgrounds, their languages, the political changes and the revolutions that made Europe what it is today.
However, its was oversimplified at times and the author let his own opinions, which weren't always clever, get into his stories sometimes.
Also, it mostly just focused on Britain, Germany, France, and
Mar 21, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
True to the title, this book covers a very substantial period of history very quickly. While most history books (especially the door-stoppers dedicated to only a significant event) tend to be richly detailed and illuminate how much you *didn't* actually know or took for granted, this lies on the other end of the spectrum.

In all fairness, it's easy to feel a little guilty about glossing so much over, but the result is also surprisingly refreshing and concise, and offers a lot of insights that cou
May 06, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
we were only taught some fragmented topics ( industrial revolution, french revolution, and world wars) from european history in school. but i have always wanted to read more about it especially about the ancient europe. the size and scope of history books about these eras always intimidated me so this book seemed perfect on that front. and it does deliver on the mandate of being concise. i now have an overview of (mostly western) european history and feel slightly confident about reading more ab ...more
Apr 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Precise, explicit, provocative and a palpable show of brevity. It's a modern retelling of European history from a bird's eye view and acts as a junction, connecting all the dots and bridging all the gaps between the narratives of the past that the masses by and large recognize in bits and pieces. What makes this book prodigiously attractive is the sheer density of knowledge, it holds in such a compact size. Consequently, this artful chronicle could be regarded as an immaculately and meticulously ...more
Al Bità
Oct 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I loved reading this book. Indeed it does supply what could be considered the shortest history of Europe; but then it also supplies a further six short histories of Europe, but each based on a different core subject — and all this in less than 150 pages! Strangely enough, the combined effect of this is to provide a richer, more incisive awareness of the complexities involved in European history.

As beneficiaries (or victims) of European ideas we may find ourselves too close to the subject to be o
Jul 22, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A very biased and the most ridiculous book I've read regarding history. It is shocking me that this kind of books would be even published. This man described the knowledge and science as a European making? Like things like just happened, naming the kingdoms of the east as an extreme totalitarian regimes, and no matter what the European model was democratic and never have been barbaric or extreme as "those" of the east. Ignoring that science is based on different factors, one of them is COMMUNICA ...more
Camelia Rose
Nov 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
This book has only 160 pages but it covers European history from ancient Greek to industry revolution. It is short and dense but very readable, a great introduction for someone who has no time for big, detailed, elaborate history books.

I took one star off because there is not a single footnote or backnote in the book, nor a list of references. Only one other historian, Patricia Crone's name was mentioned at the end of the book. Some end-of-chapter conclusions seemed rushed or a little out-of-con
This is an excellent primer on European history with a good overview of major trends in civic life. It won't add much new to a history buff, but provides a succinct and accessible narrative for a more casual reader.
헌용 김
Dec 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I liked the author's succinct, compressive view of the European history. But what I liked most about this book was John's sense of humour. It was an essential element. Good job, John.
Jul 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
A short review of the main highlights of European History. Very helpful for people who, like me, are not very knowledgeable about it and want to have an overview that helps linking and making sense of the many phases Europe has gone through. It will tell you not just what happened, but why and how did major events influence one another.
Dec 03, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5/4 really.

Very enjoyable, succinct and compelling collection of lectures on the evolution of European civilisation and the successive mutations that led to the present. It opens up quite a few threads for readers to follow depending on their own interests, too.
Jul 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A concise review of the European history, a unique angle has been adopted through the writing. The author explains the dreary story with profundity and an easy-to-understand approach.

In The Shortest History of Europe, John Hirst takes us on a fascinating journey through antiquity, the Middle Ages and beyond, bringing European civilisation to life in all its peculiarity and exuberance. Beginning with Greek and Roman learning, Judeo-Christian religion and a Germanic warrior culture, it discusses h
Jan 27, 2020 rated it liked it
An interesting and clever approach to tell the history of Europe through different topics/contexts instead of listing events based on chronological order.

However, the author falls into contradictions in different chapters. Mainly because he provides  a very traditional Euro(ego)centric version of human history:

First, he forced a strong connection between Modern(Western) Europe and the Greco-Roman world(which was more Mediterranean/middle eastern than anything else!) and then by assuming the gr
Nov 06, 2013 rated it liked it
A very nice summary of Europe history, generally I liked it. As it is a summary, the author has chosen to focus on some aspects, topics, countries and jump or quickly go through some others. I liked for example his overview of European languages evolution, of the battle between popes and emperors and its several consequences. I cannot agree to some assumptions or interpretations such as a prevalent only negative view of religion during the Middle Age or some simplistic conclusions. A funny examp ...more
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
It is a good book if one wants to remember some stuff about european history. makes one wanting to read more about stuff. And so I will. The first part very good because a bit easy. The second part, starting with 1700 is quite complicated, because the world of course became more complicated. A lot of infos. as I said, makes one wanting know more.
Millie Yule
This is the second time I’ve read the book; the first time I would have given it 4 stars. On re-reading (and after reading a few other history books in between) I realised that it’s over simplified. However, I would recommend it as an introductory book - a jumping off point - but when reading it I think it’s important not to take it as gospel.
Oct 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: australian
Why bother with a longer history? It's all in here. No, not names and dates and stuff; themes, the reasons why it matters, how it's affected the way that you think and live. Plus, the 'Common People' chapter is funny.
Apr 05, 2020 rated it liked it
This was a nice overview of the major events in central and western Europe (specifically modern Italy, France, Spain, Germany and England).
Describing multiple centuries in such approachable and concise way is a hard task and I think the author coped with it remarkably well!
Even I, a person who always struggled with history, was able to finally understand what the hell happened to the Roman Empire and why it was so important! :)
Illustrations, diagrams and timelines were very helpful, as well as
Aug 21, 2019 rated it liked it
An enjoyable read and one that is full of interesting, and sometimes surprising, information. I thought I knew all about European history but after reading this book it turns out I only knew tiny parts of it.

Well worth a read if you like your history in bitesize chunks.
Jen Lavery
Oct 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Really easy to read and packs loads of interesting information into less than 200 pages
Aug 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Pretty awesome history book! I suck at history but this book is easy to read and helped me connect all the dots.
Jamila Geronimo
Jan 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Very concise and entertaining.
Nathan Baseley
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Is this the first history book I've ever read (finished)? I think so. As a history noob it was sufficiently pacey and light. It's central thesis emerged gradually but once revealed was super clear and left me with a takeaway for life. Not sure if it was a good idea to read in the middle of the Brexit turmoil.
Nofal Ali
Apr 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Overall, the book is well written and to the point. John Hirst has beautifully avoided trivial details that usually make the history books boring. So, The Shortest History of Europe is recommended by me for everyone.
Seth Benzell
Very decent version of what it says on the tin. I would definitely recommend it to someone from Asia who is interested in a short history focused on political, intellectual and social history. It does less well as economic history. Some thoughts:

1) The book subtly does a great job of presenting ideas in threes. I think the framing of Europe's ideological inheritance being Christian + Greco-Roman + Germanic as helpful and illuminating. I also like how the successor movements: i.e. the reformation
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