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I've just spent 20 months absorbing the entire 11 volume series during my commute to work. Every day, I could not wait to listen. When I heard the last sentence of the last series spoken, I felt as though my life had reached a new epoch - crossing some type of threshold summing up my understanding about the nature of man and the history of our civilization.
This work by Durant is not just a record of history tinged with philosophy, but a gift to posterity by a lifetime of research and a craft of language distilled into a masterpiece of art.
There is far too much information to retain in one reading so I've decided to start listening to the series again from the beginning.
Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Durant.
21 of 22 people found this review helpful
This is the final book of the wonderful eleven volume "The Story of Civilization" series. For my comments on the series as a whole see my review of book 1 "Our Oriental Heritage".
This is one of my favorite volumes of the series. This was book was the last written (in the late seventies) and Durant's style improved a bit over the years and the writing is a bit less dated. Durant continues his approach of integrated history, covering business, crafts, art, science, economics, politics, classes, and even rulers and war (along with some dates).
This volume covers roughly 1777-1840 including more of the French revolution and the Napoleonic period and aftermath. Durant attempts to portray Napoleon evenhandedly, pointing out his despotic tendencies as well as his democratic feelings and respect for justice and law, and setting the context of the Terrors.
This series can seem daunting, but it is really quite easy, pleasant, and (yes, hard to believe) short. This is my third time through the series (which took a tad over 3 years to complete this time) but I read & listened to many other books over that period. The material is not like most other histories. I like to say it is 20% about sex. Who is sleeping with whom (or not) and other various relationship details. Another 20% is about historical figures you already know quite a bit about. 20% is background about day to day life of each period, that you haven't heard about, but is easy to understand and makes everything else more interesting. Another 20% is about major events, most of which you already know quite a bit about. The final 20% are details about the most interesting lesser known characters and events related to the people and events you already knew about. Thus, almost everything in the series is very approachable and builds into a completely enjoyable whole. My daughter started the series in high school and did not find it boring or tedious. Just cut out a little TV each day and you will finish the series in just a few years (and perhaps want to start it again!) I enjoyed it more each time through.
Even this last volume is dated and the series has a strong western anglo-saxon bias, nevertheless, it is well worth the investment. I am sure it is not for everyone, but I recommend anyone who likes history give it a try.
The narration throughout the series is excellent.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful
I am a big fan of the Durants approach to synthetic history and have now listened to all of their massive works. Its a great shame they couldn't cover the Victorian age through the world wars and cold war.
No one lives forever but Will and Ariel have a good chance of lasting a few centuries at least in print given the gargantuan scale of their achievement
Some of the works written in the 1920s need revising and updating while the longed for synthetic history of the modern world remains to be written in their style. Hopefully some publisher will commission someone to complete the task?
As far as the audio version goes it would be totally wonderful if audible could somehow link to images of people and artworks and places being discussed as the lectures continue. I pause it and do a web search manually but it would take the form to a whole new level if it was automated.
How about it audible/kindle?
3 of 4 people found this review helpful
I am extremely impressed with the efforts of the authors, to bring together an incredible history of the parallel lives during the Age of Napoleon. full of fabulous mini bio's of hundreds of important people that shared the world stage with Napoleon. Mozart, Beethoven, Coleridge, Byron, Wellington, Nelson, Czars, Kings, Politicians, Revolutionaries. what a stunning and immense work this is. I have read many many books on Napoleon, his battles, his Generals, his political career - but never did I realise how many important parallel lives were swept up into his saga. This book is simply wonderful, and I give it my highest recommendation. SB