Ten thousand years of world history gets crammed into this compact guidebook intended to inspire Internet research.
Some readers may balk at a world history book that covers everything from ancient Sumerian tablets and the agricultural innovations in the Fertile Crescent circa 8000 B.C. to the present-day Middle East conflict and President Barack Obama’s election in fewer than 200 pages. But armchair historian and former mortgage banker John L. Taylor (Bullheaded Black Remembers Alexander, 2006) hits on every major global event in between these milestones. He summarizes his objective in the book’s prologue: “The text is simply a clear summary of basic information available to everyone….[A]s a reader, you will bring our great human story to life by using Google or other search engines to verify facts, expand details and see the many wonderful images and maps available to you at the touch of your fingertips.” While it’s difficult to criticize a book that admits its dependence on outside sources, especially since none are referenced within, one might wonder why the information wasn’t presented in a Web-based medium in the first place. But as it stands, Taylor’s photoless, nearly dateless book is a thorough, objective introduction to the story of people around the globe, naturally beginning with the dawning of the written word. From there, he introduces the foundations of faith in ancient history, revealing how early religious and mythical beliefs (and those who opposed them) would haunt humanity for centuries to come, leading to history’s most recognizable turning points—the literal and cultural wars through the Dark Ages and the Crusades, through monarchies to scientific revolution, and finally through two world wars to many in the Middle East. As a standalone read, Taylor’s breakneck summaries coalesce into a surprisingly complete overview of global triumphs and failures, slowing only to emphasize key dramatic shifts in power and ways of thinking, such as when “the Greeks introduced a rational, rather than a mythological or theological understanding of the natural world.” The dizzying pace sometimes results in a flat, distant tone, but the prose is nothing if not reader friendly. And while certain moments beg for more historical or physical detail, that is, of course, the reader’s responsibility to resolve.
As much a world history primer for younger or less knowledgeable readers as it is for history buffs who want a concise story of the ties that bind civilizations.