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The Fourth Volume in The Story of Civilization! 30. August 2004
Von Guerrilla Reader - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
In this, the fourth volume in the Story of Civilization, Dr. Will & Ariel Durant have compiled thousands of details to create a smooth flowing story covering one-thousand years of Christian, Islamic, and Jewish civilization.

At nearly 1100 pages in length, the reader will see: The early Christian ascetics and martyrs such as Simeon Stylites, who sat atop a sixty-foot high pillar for thirty years, exposed to rain, sun, and snow, and rejoiced as worms ate his rotting flesh. Saint Augustine. The Great Kings such as Charlemagne, William, and Richard "the Lion-Hearted." The Popes. The Prophet Mohammed. The knights and pirates of the Crusades. The Age of Romance, Chivalry, and courtly love in literature. The Italian poet Dante, and the transition to the Renaissance. Plus more including plates and maps.

Although written to stand alone or in the series, this volume will most likely be read by more serious students of history, however, the Durants have created a prose which is very easy to read and understand. In short, this book is for everyone interested in history, both professional and layperson alike! I rate this book as five stars as the Durant's authoritative historical Magnum Opus!
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Von Steven H Propp - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Will (and later) Ariel Durant were awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1968 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977, primarily for this 11-volume series, "The Story of Civilization," which is probably the last attempt we will ever see---in this age of increasing specialization---of a single historian (or couple) attempting a "universal history."

He wrote in the "To the Reader" section of this 1950 book, "This book aims to give as full and fair an account of medieval civilization from A.D. 325 to 1300, as space and prejudice will permit. Its method is integral history---the presentation of all phases of a culture or an age in one total picture and narrative."

He advises, "Nothing is lost in history; sooner or later every creative idea finds opportunity and development, and adds its color to the flame of life." (Pg. 150) He suggests, "While the poor solaced life with heaven, the rich sought heaven on earth." (Pg. 233) He observes, "Every conquest creates a new frontier, which, being exposed to danger, suggests further conquest." (Pg. 283) He proposes, "Literary prose comes later than poetry in all literatures, as intellect matures long after fancy blooms; men talk prose for centuries 'without knowing it,' before they have leisure or vanity to mold it into art." (Pg. 491)

He notes, "At the beginning of the Middle Ages the greater part of Europe's soil was untilled and unpeopled forest and waste; at their end the Continent had been won for civilization. Perhaps, in proper perspective, this was the greatest campaign, the noblest victory, the most vital achievement, of the Age of Faith." (Pg. 559-560) Later, he adds, "The Middle Ages disciplined men for ten centuries in order that modern men might for four centuries be free." (Pg. 621)

He concludes, "Medieval man thought that truth had been revealed to him, so that he was spared from its wild pursuit; the reckless energy that we give to seeking it was turned in those days to the creation of beauty; and amid poverty, epidemics, famines, and wars men found time and spirit to make beautiful a thousand varieties of objects, from initials to cathedrals... we thank a million forgotten men for redeeming the blood of history with the sacrament of art." (Pg. 894)

Although often forgotten in modern times, the Durants' series was once a staple of "Book-of-the-Month Club" introductory promotions, and widely read. It is still of immense value for someone wanting a comprehensive and unified "view" of history from a single author (or later, two married authors).
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One BIG book! 5. Mai 2009
Von JUmom - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Will Durant makes these 1000 pages of Middle Ages history about as interesting as 1000 pages of Middle Ages history can be. This is part of an 11 volume walk through history so pick a period and start reading!
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A lengthy age, but more than worthwhile 10. Juli 2014
Von B. Lane - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Kindle Edition Verifizierter Kauf
This is one of the finest nonfiction books I've read in some time. A couple bullet points:

1. The writing is superb. The Durants (I credit the two) matured into a staggering competency with succinct, concise prose. Dig: this volume covers 1000 years of complicated, interdependent, poorly resourced history, culture, and aesthetic, and at roughly 1000 pages, they have the breathing room of a page a year. Yet I rarely felt important events or trends were being too quickly glossed over, nor did I feel anything was over-explored.

2. There is a crazy Western bias. I think this is a little more than grain of salt territory, that is, excusing them for the time and era of the book's production. Having studied so intimately the cultures and histories of the world, I would have expected a stand up scholar to reflect much less of his or her own bias, and yet tenets of Islam are unfairly derided while similar beliefs in Christianity are affectionately excused. This was a major fault, but, reader, with blinders on you'll progress happily.

3. The Kindle percentage tracker is obscene. The book basically ends at 65%, with the rest devoted to less than 1% of images, and then the rest index, bibliography, notes, etc. Around 55% you may feel exhaustion with the book, but if you continue the rewards are yours.

4. The history is dazzling. I am new to Middle Ages scholarship and was not expecting to venture into such a richly defined world as the one the Durants reveal. Their guidance is much appreciated, as the discursive, elliptical route we take from the fall of Rome's European stewardship through the rise of the Eastern Empire, and the development of Islam and Judaism, until we circle back to discuss primarily Western European development from about 600 to 1300, was easy to follow and seemed, to me, structurally inescapable. Additionally, any time you come across a section that holds your interest less than others--for me, the development of musical notation was far less captivating than Frederick II's papal wars--you know a new section is right around the corner. The length of the book is certainly difficult to cover, but it is highly doable.

This was my first Story of Civilization volume, and I hope to complete all 11. I leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the book, as the Durants summarize the onset of the so-called "Dark Ages," refusing that appellation and its pejorative connotations:

"The Roman Empire had raised science, prosperity, and power to their ancient peaks. The decay of the Empire in the West, the growth of poverty and the spread of violence, necessitated some new ideal and hope to give men consolation in their suffering and courage in their toil: an age of power gave way to an age of faith. Not till wealth and pride should return in the Renaissance would reason reject faith, and abandon heaven for utopia. But if, thereafter, reason should fail, and science should find no answers, but should multiply knowledge and power without improving conscience or purpose; if all utopias should brutally collapse in the changeless abuse of the weak by the strong: then men would understand why once their ancestors, in the barbarism of those early Christian centuries, turned from science, knowledge , power, and pride, and took refuge for a thousand years in humble faith, hope, and charity."
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Excellent discussion of history 18. Dezember 2012
Von Amazon Customer - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
We forget what good history research and writing is. Will Durant is the expert. Read is "Story of Civilization" and you will learn the details or what, how, and who. He presents the information so thoroughly, giving his insights as the "why," but with room for you to come to your own conclusions.

It would be difficult to believe that any historian has done more research on the topic of civilization than Durant.

If you want to learn why/how various civilizations, peoples & cultures have risen and fallen, this is the only book you'll need. It has a permanent place in my personal library.
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