The international bestseller: E. H. Gombrich’s sweeping history of the world, for the curious of all ages
“All stories begin with ‘Once upon a time.’ And that’s just what this story is all about: what happened, once upon a time.” So begins A Little History of the World, an engaging and lively book written for readers both young and old. Rather than focusing on dry facts and dates, E. H. Gombrich vividly brings the full span of human experience on Earth to life, from the stone age to the atomic age. He paints a colorful picture of wars and conquests; of grand works of art; of the advances and limitations of science; of remarkable people and remarkable events, from Confucius to Catherine the Great to Winston Churchill, and from the invention of art to the destruction of the Berlin Wall.
For adults seeking a single-volume overview of world history, for students in search of a quick refresher course, or for families to read and learn from together, Gombrich’s Little History enchants and educates.
E. H. Gombrich (1909–2001) was the author of many works, including the international bestsellers The Story of Art and Art and Illusion. He was director of the Warburg Institute of the University of London from 1959 to 1976.
“In simple, vivid prose, Gombrich surveys the human past from pre-history to his own time. . . . Lucky children will have this book read to them. Intelligent adults will read it for themselves and regain contact with the spirit of European humanism at its best.”—Anthony Grafton, Wall Street Journal
“This ‘little history’ has aged amazingly well.”—New York Times Book Review
“A marvellous antidote to history without chronology: the whole experience of human history, from prehistory to the Second World War, compressed into a flowing narrative. . . . [Gombrich] excels in creating a sense of the continuities of history—the ways in which human nature has not budged over the millennium, and the smallness of the differences between people. A delight.”—Daily Telegraph
“Gombrich opens with the most magical definition of history I have ever read. . . . Tolerance, reason and humanity . . . suffuse every page of the Little History.”—Amanda Vickery, Guardian Review
“Gombrich knows precisely how to converse with his audience, intelligent children between nine and thirteen. He uses powerful imagery to convey the sheer length of time that separates us from the dinosaurs.”—Andrew Roberts, FT Magazine
“The book is intellectually valuable, and unusual; rather than breaking history into eras or artificial categories . . . Gombrich contextualizes them all and gives the vast unfolding of the Western world one wise, simple narrative. . . . For adults, it is full of delightful reminders as well as forgotten or never-known tidbits. As for younger readers . . . [the book] is a treasure for them.”—Katie Haegele, Philadelphia Inquirer
“I am going to buy ten copies of this book and give it to my ten favourite children. . . . This is a book which teaches what it is to be civilised by its very tone, which is one of gentleness, curiosity and erudition.”—A. N. Wilson, Times Literary Supplement
“What was the bestselling title this Christmas at Foyles in London? Hilary Mantel’s Man Booker Prize–winning Wolf Hall? Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? Cormac McCarthy’s The Road? Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol? No. It was E. H. Gombrich’s A Little History of the World.”—Mark Sanderson, Sunday Telegraph
“A Little History of the World by E. H. Gombrich is a bedtime treat to share with my two children and proof that brilliance and perspicacity needn’t be stuffy.”—Bettany Hughes, The Times
“A remarkable book, written in an amiable, conversational style, effortlessly explaining, without condescension, difficult matters like the achievements of Charlemagne, the monetary system of medieval Europe and the ideas of the Enlightenment. . . . This resurrected history deserves reading for all its delights.”—Edward Rothstein, New York Times
“So sharp was Gombrich’s intelligence and so lively his pen that it can be appreciated as much as literature as history. . . . There is not one of the 39 short chapters that is not enlivened by a sharp insight or arresting image.”—Tim Blanning, Sunday Telegraph
“A enduring joy. . . . We have no shortage of historians eager to tell us what was important in the past and why; but few of them dare speak straight to the imagination of young people, to open their minds and to enrich their vision in the manner that Gombrich achieves so effortlessly here.”—Peter Furtado, Times Higher Education Supplement
“A sophisticated narrative by the art historian which runs up to the First World War, written in language any child can understand.”—Lorna Bradbury, Daily Telegraph
"A remarkable book, written in an amiable, conversational style, effortlessly explaining, without condescension, difficult matters like the achievements of Charlemagne, the monetary system of medieval Europe and the ideas of the Enlightenment. . . . This resurrected history deserves reading for all its delights."—Edward Rothstein, New York Times
“This is an unusual work for Yale: a children’s history originally published 70 years ago. But it is a work one can quickly come to love. . . . Using vivid imagery, storytelling and sly humor, [Gombrich] brings history to life in a way that adults as well as children can appreciate. The book displays a breadth of knowledge.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“The true fairy tale of the evolution of mankind.”—Die Zeit
“A panoramic overview of history from the Stone Age to the 1990s that . . . manages to be entertaining and informative. . . . Gombrich, in other words, is a born teacher whose humanistic values are implicit in every word he wrote. . . . It has taken almost 70 years to reach English-speaking readers. It has been worth the wait: expertly translated, elegantly produced and charmingly illustrated by Clifford Harper, it will enchant any child.”—Joel Greenberg, The Australian
“An engrossing kaleidoscopic account of global history from the ancient Egyptians to the Treaty of Versailles.”—Tristram Hunt, BBC History Magazine
“This book . . . has been called ‘the true fairytale of the evolution of mankind.’ I would happily go along with that and intend to give a copy as a stocking present to a favourite Godchild of mine.”—Richard Edmonds, Birmingham Post
“Any adult reader will find plenty to nourish thought.”—John Whale, Church Times
“I love the new translation of Gombrich’s classic history for children. Both entertaining and informative, it makes perfect bedtime reading.”—Katy Lazenby, Western Morning News
“The book charms, amuses and informs superbly. . . . In A Little History, Gombrich proves he is as much a story teller as a professor.”—Andrew Roberts, Daily Express
". . . this Little Book . . . is a thing of ripping yarns told at a rattling pace. Seventy years too late, I wish that the first edition had been available to me to read as often and over as many years as The Wind in the Willows, a book that grew in depth as I grew older. . . . Had I a dozen grandchildren (of any age) I'd order two dozen copies, one for the children, the other for their parents. Do not, from its title, underestimate this book."—Brian Sewell, Evening Standard
". . . another charming work of history for children which is shortly to be published by Yale and first appeared in 1935. . . . It's as fresh now as it was then. If I were Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, I'd order a copy for myself. Then I'd make it prescribed reading for every primary school in the country."—Melanie McDonagh, Evening Standard
"Christmas gift of the year is surely . . . A Little History of the World. This is a magical work for children. . . . Perfect for bedtime reading."—John Banville, Irish Times
Featured by the 2006 Association of American University Presses (AAUP) in University Press Books for Public and Secondary School Libraries
A 2006 Book Sense Highlight
E. H. Gombrich was awarded the 1985 International Balzan Foundation Prize
Named a Favorite Book of 2005 by the Los Angeles Times
Selected by the Association of American University Presses as an Outstanding Book for Public and Secondary School Libraries, 2005
“Imagine the full story of human habitation on our planet being told in such flowing prose that you want to read it out loud. If you can’t imagine that, read A Little History of the World and experience it!"—Patricia S. Schroeder, president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers and former U.S. Representative from Colorado
“A brilliant piece of narrative, splendidly organised, told with an energy and confidence that are enormously attractive, and suffused with all the humanity and generosity of spirit that Gombrich’s thousands of admirers came to cherish during his long and richly productive life. It’s a wonderful surprise: irresistible, in fact.”—Philip Pullman
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