Our Oriental Heritage: The Story of Civilization, Volume I: 001

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I thought why not make one about great history series. Many scholars have released multi-volume works on various topics.

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If you're anything like me, you like long books. And the only thing better than a long history book is, you guess it, a series of long history books! Also available as unabridged. In six volumes, approx 3, pages, to my mind this is the greatest piece of history ever written in English. If you are new to history, this should be the first thing you read. Unless you really hate Rome for some reason.

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Gibbon is opinionated, and his views on the Byzantine period are considered out of date today, but this hardly tarnishes the work. A work of epic scope and penetrating intellect. If you read all six volumes, guaranteed nobody will mess with you ever again in any debate even tangentially related to the Roman Empire. Mommsen never attained the epic literary style of Gibbon, which is the only reason I'm putting this second instead of first. You may wish to read this before Gibbon if you are concerned to get the 'full story' of Rome in chronological order. Be aware there is also now a 'sixth' volume called A History of Rome under the Emperors , which was not actually written by Mommsen but is based on his lecture notes.

The majority of this sixth book deals with the first batch of Roman Emperors who ruled before Gibbon takes up the story. So it still complements Gibbon quite well.

Despite their age, I believe these are still under copyright for a while, as Durant renewed the copyright in the '70s. Nonetheless you can easily find copies cheaply or for free on the Interwebs if you're criminally inclined. Durant's goal was to make history accessible to the 'everyman'. He certainly succeeded. Sometimes he even attains to a very pleasing writing style. On the other hand the sheer scope of his enterprise means he often must gloss over important situations, events, or people with only the barest descriptions.

Still, despite only having read the first four volumes so far, I can heartily recommend this series. The story of the first crusade, particularly, is a page-turner. Runciman has a very easy-to-read style. People tend to either love or hate Gibbon's style of writing. Runciman is a modern author with a much more workmanlike style. Therefore he takes such issues of personal taste out of the equation: his style does not get in the way of the story.

The story is the main attraction here and Runciman tells it well. Narrative is bogged down at times when Runciman engages with the Arabic sources: he is to be applauded for this wide-ranging scholarship, but at times the succession of unfamiliar foreign names can be a little overwhelming. Thankfully the vast majority of the work is a real page-turner, as I've already mentioned.

Or you could pick up the abbreviated work, A Short History of Byzantium but where's the fun in that?

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Norwich has also written various other great books about the Normans, the Papacy, and various other topics. But none of them are series, so we have no time for them here! Toynbee: Amazon. Toynbee, D. Somervell: Amazon.

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As you can see from the above, the lay-out of this series is somewhat of a confused mess. Much like many would say of his 'models' for classifying civilizations. Toynbee has copped a lot of flak from historians and the academy over the years.

The Story of Civilization, Vol. 1: Our Oriental Heritage

But he is also one of the best-selling historians of the 20th Century, a cross-over 'superstar' academic whose books became best-sellers and adorned many a polite gent's coffee table. This series has also been abridged many times.

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You can pick up the One Volume, Illustrated Edition NOTE: The two-volume abridgment may be your best bet, as complete copies of the twelve volume set seem almost impossible to find outside of academic libraries these days. Also available in a single-volume abridgment.

01 - Our Oriental Heritage - Durant, Will

Spengler is another one of those 'systematizing' historians, like Toynbee, who tried to categorize civilizations and set out parameters for how they develop, thrive, survive, then die. Spengler thought of the civilization as if it were a biological entity, which had an identifiable lifespan. Similar to Toynbee, he copped a lot of flak for this view. Nonetheless he has a lot to say, much of it interesting if one suspends judgment. They often say a wise man can learn from anyone, even a fool.

Although they were both wrong on their main points, neither Toynbee nor Spengler were fools. One can learn a lot from them. This may take a while to grab you, if it does at all. I feel like the work was not set out very well. To my mind, it lacks a proper introduction to 'hook' the reader. Nonetheless it's a classic for a reason. This guy is basically the father of the idea of feudalism.

If feudalism has a bible this is it, but has come under fire in recent years still standing pretty tall though, from what I hear. Dimensions 26 cm. Our oriental heritage; being a history of civilization in Egypt and the Near East to the death of Alexander, and in India, China and Japan from the beginning of our own day; with an introduction on the nature and foundations of civilization.

The life of Greece; being a history of Greek civilization from the beginnings, and of civilization in the Near East from the death of Alexander, to the Roman conquest; with an introduction on the prehistoric culture of Crete.


The story of civilization. (Record no. 8499)

Caesar and Christ, a history of Roman civilization and of Christianity from their beginnings to A. The Renaissance; a history of civilization in Italy from A. The Reformation. The Age of Reason begins, The age of Louis XIV, The age of Voltaire; a history of civlization in Western Europe from to , with special emphasis on the conflict between religion and philosophy.

Rousseau and revolution; a history of civilization in France, England, and Germany from , and in the remainder of Europe from to