One Volume Histories of the World
- 1. THE HUTCHINSON HISTORY OF THE WORLD - J.M.Roberts (1976)
- 2. WORLD HISTORY: PERSPECTIVES ON THE PAST - Steven L.Jantzen, Larry S.Krieger, Kenneth Neill (1990)
- 3. A SHORT HISTORY OF THE WORLD - Geoffrey Blainey (2000)
- 4. THE HUMAN WEB - A BIRD'S-EYE VIEW OF WORLD HISTORY - J.R.McNeill and William H.McNeill (2003)
1. This is a huge book, but I've read it twice - that's how good it is. The hardcover edition is well illustrated (though not in color) and at the top of every page there is a one-line summary of that page. Roberts has recently published a history of the 20th century (titled TWENTIETH CENTURY) which is one of the books I am currently reading.
2. Yes, this is a text book (for, I think, high school students) but it really appeals to me because it is very clearly and simply written, as well as having hundreds of excellent color illustrations, charts, graphs, and other features.
I'll very probably read this a second time too.
3. I bought this one yesterday. Blainey is an Australian historian; his most famous book is THE TYRANNY OF DISTANCE, about the effect the difficulty of travel in and to Australia had on its history. His history of the world emphasises (according to the introduction) the effects of technology, from chipped-flint axes to computers. Later: I finished this months ago but forgot to amend this comment. It's a fascinatingly different history which often departs from the beaten track of world history. For example, it has a chapter on the history of the Polynesians, the peoples who populated the South Pacific. And this is the only world history I've read that really brought it home to me that humankind has already lived through an age in which the world was radically affected by huge changes in sea level. I fully recommend this one.
4. The McNeills characterize human history as a series of 'webs'. To quote from the Introduction: "A web, as we see it, is a set of connections that link people to one another." The elementary connections are communication, co-operation and competition. (So it isn't surprising that I often felt like I was reading an economic history of the world.) The main webs have been The First Worldwide Web (before the invention of agriculture), followed by the Metropolitan Webs (the first civilizations), which grew into The Old World Web (the ancient empires and the proto-nations that followed), then, starting with the advent of global maritime navigation, the Cosmopolitan Web, which after the hiccups of the two world wars has only got webbier (globalization). This is actually a book worth reading, despite the occasional lapse into silliness, such as the following:
An American bluesman, John Lee Hooker, recorded a song in 1962 that began with the words: "Boom, boom, boom, boom." This serves as a good summary of the second half of the twentieth century.
They are talking here about the post-WW2 economic boom.