Brett Williams's Reviews > The Lessons of History

The Lessons of History by Will Durant
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really liked it

Some interesting morsels

I looked forward to this book for several reasons: The Pulitzer Prize and Presidential Medal of Freedom winning Durants exemplify one of the great love stories from young beginnings at the university to their sad ending, still together after 70 years of worldwide discovery; their massive 11 volume, 10,000 page history series is one of the seven wonders of academic accomplishment; and they tried to tell the truth about history without modern day political agenda. With this in mind their “Lessons of History” was a slight disappointment early on as it belabored caveats and cautionary warnings about the hazards of historical analysis. That behind me, the book began to pick up with the kind of summary surveys one would expect available from such a broad body of knowledge. Some of it reads like prophecy. Like “The concentration of wealth is natural and inevitable, and is periodically alleviated by violent [Rome 133 BC] or peaceable [Greece 594 BC] partial redistribution…concentrating wealth and compulsive recirculation.” And on the state of religion the Durants write, “Christianity lent a hand against itself by developing in Christians a moral sense that could no longer stomach the vengeful God of traditional theology…Christianity destroyed Jehovah…(see Marcel Gauchet’s “Disenchantment of the World”) A thousand signs proclaim that Christianity is undergoing the same decline that fell upon the old Greek religion after the coming of Sophists and the Greek Enlightenment…There is no significant example in history of a society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion.” If this isn’t a dilemma of the modern West, nothing is. The Durant’s also touch on the effects of industrialization, individualism, and moral decline – a topic of great personal interest to this reader as triggered by Dumont’s “Essays On Individualism.” There are 12 topics treated, including biology, character, government, growth and progress. This turned out to be a splendid little book - only 100 pages, or about 30,000 words.
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Reading Progress

October 4, 2014 – Started Reading
October 4, 2014 – Shelved
December 19, 2014 – Finished Reading

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