A Little History of the World
E.H. Gombrich; Translated by Caroline Mustill; Illustrated by Clifford Harper
October 13, 2005
304 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
40 b/w illus.
Visit the Little History website.
Listen to a conversation with Leonie Gombrich, the author's granddaughter, on NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday.
Listen to an interview with the author on the Yale Press Podcast.
Among E. H. GOMBRICH’s many writings are 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.
A selection of Readers' Subscription
"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
"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 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)
"This is the first English translation of a book written in 1935 in German and translated into 18 languages. Thirty years later, a second German edition was published with a new final chapter. In 40 brief chapters, Gombrich relates the history of humankind from the Stone Age through World War II. In between are historic accounts of such topics as cave people and their inventions (including speech), ancient life along the Nile and in Mesopotamia and Greece, the growth of religion, the Dark Ages, the age of chivalry, the New World, and the Thirty Years' War. Much of this history is told through concise sketches of such figures as Confucius, Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Jesus Christ, Charlemagne, Leonardo da Vinci, Napoleon, and Columbus. Gombrich was asked to write a history geared to younger readers, so the book is filled with innumerable dates and facts, yet it is one to be read by adults. With 41 black-and-white woodcut illustrations and nine maps, it is a timeless and engaging narrative of the human race."—Booklist
"A masterpiece of nonfiction writing for children. It is a wry and charming book, perfectly suited to the capacities of a 10-year-old, but also remarkably free of condescension. An adult can read it with pleasure. And, indeed, with instruction."—Scott McLemee, Newsday
"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] lively and involving history. . . . Superbly designed and freshly illustrated, this is a book to be savored and collected. . . . This is a text dominated not by dates and facts, but by the sweep of mankind’s experience across the centuries, a guide to humanity’s achievements and an acute witness to its frailties. The product of a generous and humane sensibility, this timeless account makes intelligible the full span of human history."—Artdaily
"... 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
"Charmingly illustrated with woodcuts and beautifully produced."—Bookseller
"A timeless and engaging narrative of the human race."—Choice
"Any adult reader will find plenty to nourish thought." - John Whale, Church Times
"... 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
"... 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 millenium, and the smallness of the differences between people. A delight."---The Daily Telegraph
Includes insightful looks into the world of art and science readers of virtually any age can enjoy it.
“The true fairy tale of the evolution of mankind.”—Die Zeit
"... 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
"The author's voice is conversational, and Gombrich brings clarity to broad movements in history while focusing on rich real-life characters. You'll be reaching for it to help your children with their history assignments when traditional textbooks leave them confused and overwhelmed."—Fort Worth Star-Telegram
"To round out our word feast for young minds, we've picked a nonfiction work called A Little History of the World, a 300-page tome that has been wildly popular across the globe since it was first published in 1935 but has just been translated into English. . . [An] excellent choice for out-loud family reading."—Catherine Mallette, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
"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
"An intriguingly brisk journey for anyone looking to (re-)enter the world of history, or a realm of events and facts larger than ourselves."—David Podgurski, Greenwich (CT) Times
“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
“Though written for young people, E.H. Gombrich . . . writes with verve and infectious good humor. Yale packages Gombrich’s words attractively with woodcutlike illustrations by Clifford Harper.”—Fritz Lanham, Houston Chronicle
"Imagine Goethe giving up the role of sage long enough to become a children’s author and you will have a reasonably good idea of the book’s content. . . . As for the style . . . well, that is something even more remarkable. The tone is wry, at times, without ever being jokey—a kind of light seriousness that is very respectful of its young audience. . . . Gombrich commanded a really humbling degree of erudition, but always with a certain generosity towards his audience. That combination is very much in evidence throughout."—Scott McLemee, Inside Higher Ed
"Christmas gift of the year is surely . . . A Little History of the World. This is a magical work for children. . . . Perfect for bedrime reading."—John Banville, Irish Times
"It is a joy to read, not merely because of his effortless mastery of global history, but also because he clearly was an enchanting man."---Kevin Myers, Irish Times
"... a joyful book..."---Richard Aldous, Irish Times
"A lovely, lively historical survey that takes in Neanderthals, Hohenzollerns and just about everything in between. . . . Conversational, sometimes playful. . . . A fine conception and summarizing of the world's checkered past for young and old."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"The publishers tell us that Phillip Pullman found it irresistable. So it is... It certainly couldn't be done more agreeably:.. a perfect birthday present for a child with an enquiring mind. I wish it had been available when I was young."---Allan Massie, Literary Review
A delightful book that relates the history of the world [and] the ‘bottomless well’ of history in a conversational way.
"... the main body of the book retains an irresistible, boyish energy and enthusiasm... Here, in this little book are answers to many of the questions you never dared to ask."---Margaret Drabble, New Statesman
Speaks to readers of any age. Gombrich’s sensibility is both a mystery and a language.
"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
"The Little History grips the reader with its vivid accounts of ordinary people and world-shaking events. As in all of his extraordinary works, Gombrich illuminates the present day with his human and fascinating insights into the past"---RA Magazine
Listen to an interview with the author on the Yale Press Podcast.