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The New Penguin History of the World [Englisch] [Taschenbuch]

J M Roberts

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26. April 2012
One of the most extraordinary history bestsellers on the Penguin list, John Roberts's book has now been updated by Odd Arne Westad to make sure it keeps its amazing appeal to a new generation of readers. 'A stupendous achievement ... the unrivalled World History for our day. It extends over all ages and all continents. It covers the forgotten experiences of ordinary people as well as chronicling the acts of those in power. It is unbelievably accurate in its facts and almost incontestable in its judgements' A. J. P. Taylor, Observer

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"A stupendous achievement . . . Unrivalled world history for our day . . . it is unbelievable in its facts and almost incontestable in its judgements."
-A. J. P. Taylor, The Observer (London)


One of the most extraordinary history bestsellers on the "Penguin" list, John Roberts' book has now been updated by Odd Arne Westad to make sure it keeps its amazing appeal to a new generation of readers. 'A stupendous achievement...the unrivalled World History for our day. It extends over all ages and all continents. It covers the forgotten experiences of ordinary people as well as chronicling the acts of those in power. It is unbelievably accurate in its facts and almost incontestable in its judgements' - A. J. P. Taylor, "Observer".

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Amazon.com: 4.2 von 5 Sternen  31 Rezensionen
119 von 124 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen A good read for western-orientated history buffs 5. Juni 2005
Von Jonathan (Kjudos) - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
I feel that two things need to be accepted if this book is going to be appreciated.


Roberts one-way-or-another justifies the emphasis that he places on Europe (and especially Western Europe) and (later) on America in account of the fact that these areas are largely influential in the world today. In this sense, it is more a history of the modern world - and of events that brought this about - rather than of the world as it may have been at any selected time in history. Given this logic, areas like China, for example, tend to receive attention more proportional to Roberts' assumptions on their place in the world at the time of writing, rather than in respect to how powerful and influential they may once have been (or may soon become).

Accordingly, this history starts off more-or-less in the traditional way, with much emphasis being placed on the early Middle Eastern / Mediterranean civilisations (the Sumerians, the Egyptians, the Greeks, etc). It then progresses comfortably to the rise and fall of Rome (and the Greco-Roman Empire) and then to the tumultuous rise of (especially Western) Europe to world supremacy. As we know, this then passes on to America and (for a while) Russia.

All the other main players, such as Japan, China, India, and the Ottoman Empire (to name only a handful) receive their due chapters (often with much emphasis on how they affected or otherwise failed to affect Europe). Then of course such civilisations as those once belonging to the Americas get their coverage partly because we've heard of them, partly because it's important to see how Western civilisations swept them away, and partly (I venture to say) because without the Americas the book would hardly seem geographically balanced.

What I am getting at here is that this book might disappoint some people who want for a more balanced perspective on history, but it shouldn't significantly bother anyone who is happy to read the chain of events as outlined above. As I have already touched upon, some justification can be found in the fact that Roberts is really more interested in giving us a history as far as it has shaped today's world. Another thing to bear in mind is that it is merely a one volume book, and as such much of these limitations are quite unavoidable. This is the first thing that a reader must come to accept if he or she is going to enjoy this book (and readers who are looking for a more balanced and thorough account need to appreciate that they will ultimately have to read a great many related books). After all, there is much history to be understood from this book, even if it cannot hope to fit the whole history of the world so neatly into only one volume.


The other thing to accept or appreciate is more a matter of the book's register. For example, it may help if the reader already has some general historical knowledge; it is very much a book for people who are already fascinated by history. (There are much more entertaining reads for those who are relatively new to the subject. Try something by Giles Milton, or read something more specific - say, about WWII, or any other particular history that interests you.) In other words, I doubt this is a book to inspire in the uninitiated a new found love for historical literature, but if you already have this love then this book will do much to further your interest and consolidate your knowledge.

By way of another example, I am at the moment two-thirds of the way through reading 'The Penguin History of Europe', by J.M. Roberts - I have already read many similar histories (such as 'Europe: A History', by Norman Davies) - and I find Roberts' style to be very similar in both books. It is in no way nearly as balanced or compulsive as other reads (Davies' book is brilliant for this), but it is thorough, educational, and mostly enjoyable, and it keeps me turning the pages. However, it may say something to add that I have read perhaps seven or eight other books since starting on this one if only to keep it light, and so neither reads are easy.

Overall, 'The New Penguin History of the World' is a thoroughly good book. It is mostly interesting, always educational, and it pretty much accomplishes what it sets out to do. If you can accept the near-inevitable Western emphasis on this book, and if you are already something of a history buff, then I am sure that you will fully enjoy this read. I may have found it a challenge - sometimes getting through a chapter could be nearly overwhelming - but this reflects more on the depth of the work than on the style in which it is written. It is much to say for the book that despite the density of the thing it kept me happily turning the pages for weeks on end.
47 von 51 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Roberts' great triumph 31. Januar 2006
Von David N. Reiss - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
This is the last edition of the book there will be. Roberts died soon after he finished this book. The original one volume "History of the World" was the best one volume world history book in existence. The update is well worth the price for it as well. I own several editions of the book.

I would compare the excellence in quality of the book to the 11 volume "Story of Civilization" series by Wil Durant. Of course, Durant's works are in many cases outdated today. Roberts updated his work in order to "fix" things where evidence has leaned one-way or-another over the last several years, as well as to bring it up-to-date with the fall of the Soviet Union and the new global supremacy of the United States.

Of course, Roberts only hits the highlights. But he doesn't ignore anything; even so-called minor issues are discussed. In many ways, he is outlining how the modern world came to be the way it is. All too much of what passes for history now a days is really little more than gossip about minor events in the relatively recent past. The grand sweep of historical events is often lost. Looking at well sells as history books today can make one cringe that somebody would read something, let alone write it.

Because people lack and true appreciation and understanding of history, they seem to be electing leaders who also lack the willingness to learn from past events. Democracy is on - at the very lest - a tenitive rise. Leaders need to know how Rome or Britain affected things in the modern political landscape. Churchill made decisions that are still being played out in the Middle East and Iraq today. Roman and even ancient Greek leaders had to deal with the issues of in the Balkans in southeast Europe over two-millennia ago. You can't fully understand the former Yugoslavia without understanding Roman province carving and its long term affects on world history.

How can leaders hope to make the best decisions if they don't understand the causes of the original problems? And since democratically elected leaders are, at least in the West, the norm now, people need to understand history in order to recognize people who understand it.

Roberts tries to restore the grand scope to the matter of human history. Something people and our political leaders seem to have very much lost sight of now. True History, the whys and wherefores need more attention.
72 von 82 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen An updated version of ISBN: 0140154957 27. Oktober 2004
Von C. Goss - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Not having read his older version I have no idea how it compares or how much has been changed and/or added. My first attempt at a straight through read of a book on the subject, I am confident I made a good choice in picking up this particular book.

Some have said that this book suffers from an over-abundence of euro-centrism. I would disagree. If your conception of a fair portrayl of world history is the collection of "national" (for lack of a better word) histories each given an equal amount of attention (or even an amount of attention proportinate to their achievments within their borders), then this book will certainly not satisfy you. In this book, great civilazations (such as the chinese, japanese, and native americans) that were more isolationist in ideology get compartively little attention because they contributed compartively little to the lives of those living outside their oversight. Therefore, in selecting national histories to focus on, Roberts spends a large portion of the time discussing the history of europeans because they played a large role ("for better or for worse" he acknowledges) in the histories of other people. That europeans, for better or for worse, have succeded more then any other people in spreading their idealogies and influences is less a matter of opinion and more a matter of fact.

So if you are interested in a 1200-page, slightly sophisticated introduction to world history, with a particular focus on war and economics, I would heartily recommend this book.
13 von 13 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen A Tapestry of Recorded History 17. November 2009
Von Dianne Roberts - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
There are two ways to write history, one as a tapestry that follows the threads of social themes continuously through the ages, the other as a mosaic that jumps from major event and personality to major event and personality. The New Penguin History of the World is solidly in the first camp, more a social history tracing such things as economics, politics, and religion than a compendium of the events that resonate most loudly in our past. Each approach has its pros and cons. The mosaic can oversimplify as the author attempts to crystallize long term and continuous trends into discrete events but it also provides clear milestones of major changes and their consequences. The tapestry can weave a more continuous story of important topics one at a time but can veil as much as it reveals. Sadly this book veils and clouds a lot more than I think it has to.

For the positive I cannot give the book anything less than four stars because it is simply a breathtaking achievement, literally a history of the world from "cave-man" times (obviously analysis of anthropological evidence and not "events") to around 2007 (updated by a second author for the more recent years after Mr. Roberts' passing.) It also does an excellent job of filtering out the most important aspects of such a giant topic, and even at 1188 pages of densely packed text can only scratch the surface. In the end you will be put on an excellent footing for further reading on nearly any subject of history and to be able understand it in its comprehensive context by reading this book. It is thus eminently worth it. (Even though, it can literally take months to read.)

However some negatives did detract. Although a "tapestry" as explained above it doesn't really draw any sweeping conclusions of convincing or profound nature (it does make a small few attempts), something of a lost opportunity given its amazing scope. As a matter of fact he is rather open about tending to avoid such conclusions. Any judgement from history would be non-final and arguably biased but I would rather hear the author's best and most insightful stab at it and then think over whether I agree or disagree than be left with nothing to mull over. However this is not to say that he doesn't provide any attempts at explanation, he does sometimes, and it's a sad disappointment that the whole world appears a nail. Mr. Roberts wields the hammer of "overpopulation" and this becomes the reason for every ill almost any society throughout history has encountered. Demography is certainly one of the most powerful forces driving history on a scale such as this, but the author seems to lack any imagination or will to attempt other perhaps more plausible explanations for many world events. Near the more recent part of the book you can see more clearly that the author also brings a progressive bias. Although there were many small cases (far more praise for Democratic US presidents, backhanded compliments for the Republican ones, reform always being described as necessary and change always described as good, etc.) the thing that struck me most egregiously was that in his page or two on Mao Tze-Tung he spent more time on the fact that Mao wrote poetry than he did on the fact that Mao has the blood of more people on his hands than any other person who has lived in history. Mao is ultimately presented as a great modernizer who made some missteps along the way. A small example, but one that for some reason I felt particularly telling.

Nonetheless the drawbacks do not approach undoing the value of reading the book. A great, solid foundation for learning world history, one that I am glad to have read and makes me interested in further detail reading.
17 von 18 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Perfect for autodidacts 8. März 2009
Von Jason Devitt - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
I've been a reading a lot of history in the last few years, each book an in-depth study of a particular period or country or a recurring theme. Quite often I realized that I didn't understand the offstage action, so I went looking for a broad-brush world history to provide some context for my *other* reading. If that's what you are looking for, this book is ideal.

It is Euro-centric. But if you are interested in how events in one part of the world affected another, for long stretches of world history what happened in, say, Japan had no bearing on anyone but the Japanese.
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