Item description for The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome by Susan Wise Bauer...
Overview The first volume in a new series that tells the stories of all peoples, connecting historical events from Europe to the Middle East to the far coast of China, while still giving weight to the characteristics of each country. Historian Bauer provides both sweeping scope and attention to the individual lives that give flesh to abstract assertions about human history. Dozens of maps provide a geography of great events, while timelines give the reader an ongoing sense of the passage of years and cultural interconnection. This narrative history employs the methods of "history from beneath"--literature, epic traditions, private letters and accounts--to connect kings and leaders with the lives of those they ruled. The result is a tapestry of human behavior fromwhich we may draw conclusions about the direction of world events and the causes behind them.--From publisher description.An overview of the ancient world offers detailed timelines, an analysis of cultural interconnections, profiles of key figures, and a study of literary, artistic, cultural, political, economic, and social institutions.
Publishers Description A lively and engaging narrative history showing the common threads in the cultures that gave birth to our own. This is the first volume in a bold new series that tells the stories of all peoples, connecting historical events from Europe to the Middle East to the far coast of China, while still giving weight to the characteristics of each country. Susan Wise Bauer provides both sweeping scope and vivid attention to the individual lives that give flesh to abstract assertions about human history. Dozens of maps provide a clear geography of great events, while timelines give the reader an ongoing sense of the passage of years and cultural interconnection. This narrative history employs the methods of "history from beneath"-literature, epic traditions, private letters and accounts-to connect kings and leaders with the lives of those they ruled. The result is an engrossing tapestry of human behavior from which we may draw conclusions about the direction of world events and the causes behind them. 13 illustrations, 80 maps
Citations And Professional Reviews The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome by Susan Wise Bauer has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
Books & Culture - 05/01/2008 page 120
Library Journal Prepub Alert - 10/01/2006 page 50
Publishers Weekly - 11/20/2006 page 48
Booklist - 01/01/2007 page 43
Library Journal - 02/15/2007 page 130
Reference and Research Bk News - 05/01/2007 page 33
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Studio: W. W. Norton & Company
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9.44" Width: 6.42" Height: 1.8" Weight: 2.8 lbs.
Release Date Mar 26, 2007
Publisher W.W. Norton & Co
Grade Level High School
ISBN 039305974X ISBN13 9780393059748
Availability 0 units.
More About Susan Wise Bauer
Susan Wise Bauer is the best-selling author of the Story of the World series, The Well-Trained Mind, The Well-Educated Mind, The History of the Ancient World, and The History of the Medieval World. She lives in Charles City, Virginia.
Susan Wise Bauer currently resides in Charles City, in the state of Virginia. Susan Wise Bauer has an academic affiliation as follows - College of William & Mary in Virginia College of William and Mary Coll.
Reviews - What do customers think about The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome?
strange flaw Sep 4, 2007
So far, I'm finding the same strengths and limitations in this book pointed out by other readers. Overall, I think the book has a lot to offer, but I'm puzzled by the author's approach to the "Great Flood," and I'm wondering if anyone else found it problematic.
In Chapter Two, Bauer calls the Great Flood "the closest thing to a universal story that the human race possesses." She points to various stories of a massive, devastating deluge: three from Mesopotamia, one from China, one from India, and two from the Americas. Although she doesn't come right out and say it or explain it, her underlying assumption is that each of these stories refers to the same event. She uses this belief to discount the otherwise most plausible, current idea for how the Mesopotamian flood happened. (This is Ryan and Pitman's theory that in 7000 BC, the rising glacial-melt waters of the Mediterranean Sea broke through a land barrier into the Black Sea, creating the Bosphorus Strait and causing the Black Sea to flood south into Mesopotamia.) She dismisses this theory because, she suggests, the date is wrong. "How," she asks, "did stories of a universal flood make their way into the oral traditions of so many peoples who, by any reckoning, were far away from Mesopotamia by 7000 BC?" Pointing to the two flood stories found in Central and South America, she states that "the shared disaster must have taken place before 10,000 BC, when hunters migrated across the Bering Strait."
I wasn't expecting such a failure of logic from this author. There are, I believe, other possible explanations for the Asian and American flood stories. One need not assume that they each arose from the same, middle-eastern flood. A tsunami or category five hurricane could easily have wreaked havoc on an early, shore-hugging population, leaving only a handful of survivors to tell the tale. The giving-way of a glacial plug would have had a similar effect on inland people. It seems natural that later generations would explain these "Noahs" in terms of their own cosmologies and parochial horizons.
I appreciated the care Bauer took in her Preface to tell us why she approached this history the way she did. I found refreshing her self-awareness as an historian with choices to make. I wish she had exercised a little more of that care and self-awareness in her discussion of Flood stories.
An excellent, very readable introduction to ancient history. Jul 24, 2007
This may be the finest general introduction to Ancient History for the non-specialist I've yet read. Ms Bauer impresses out of the gate by declaring that she will a) focus on personalities and their roles in ancient cultures and b) disregard any civilization's story from the pre-literate era. These are two EXCELLENT decisions for the writer of a general, introductory history to stick with, regardless of how much they may upset the modern specialists out there.
In choosing to simply accept that the vast majority of our available records cover the rulers of the ancient era at the expense of almost any documentation on the lives of the common man, Bauer weaves a narrative that covers that which we reasonably know in a lively, fast-moving fashion, pulling off the tricky feat of acknowledging the gaps in the historical record without getting bogged down in them. The primary movers of the ancient era come alive as the author takes us on a trip through the Sumerian List of Kings, the Bible as a historical document, the disappointing dearth of records of ancient Indian civilizations, and the wealth of Greek and Roman sources. The small, manageable chapters each cover a logically broken-up chunk of a given region's history, with helpful charts at the end of each showing the overlap in events between the current chapter's region and the same timeframe for the previous chapter's region.
Ms Bauer's style of writing is also commendable. She has a lively sense of phrasing that keeps the reader moving through the centuries at a fast clip. Some of her footnotes are actually chuckle-worthy, which helps to break up the overall slog of warfare, drought, famine, enslavement, et al.
While not chock-full of new interpretations, the book does precisely what it sets out today: a full overview of the ancient era of human history. As each culture discovers the ability to literately track its own history, it is folded into the wider scope of the book's narrative. By its end, when the Roman Empire goes Christian under Constantine, the reader will have absorbed a good, thorough if high-level overview of how humanity developed once each group began getting its letters.
Of course, this means that the entire Western Hemisphere and large swaths of Africa and Asia (Egypt, China and some of India excluded) simply don't feature in the story. Before the howls of Eurocentrism are let loose, please consider that this lies strongly within the author's own boundaries for the work: once a society became literate in a way we can understand today, it gets folded into the story. Otherwise, we're just guessing at the hows and whys of that society's motives, and that is work better left for specialists in other fields. To cram even a few pages on what we think the Native Americans or proto-Japanese were up to millennia before we actually have any sort of provable record would simply muddy the book up.
As this is just the debut volume of what is shaping up to be an excellent and comprehensive history of the world, everybody will get their due as their time comes, I am sure. For now, I'll simply give this book my highest recommendation for anyone looking to gain a knowledge of the ancient world that they may have never examined before, anyone looking to refresh the musty memories of Egypt, Greece and Rome from their high school history classes, or just anyone who enjoys the human story told well.
Political history of the Ancient World at its best Jun 24, 2007
If political history is the narrative of political (and so often military) events and leaders, this is certainly a political history. It has got the advantage of presenting not only Mesopotamia and Egypt plus Greece and Rome, but also China and India,showing the progress of each part of the Ancient World in paralell. It is concise, interesting and highly readable.
Of course, the author's approach implies choosing a somehow narrow scope: no social or economic history is included, although some religious flavour is, for she masterly uses the myths of each civilization as clues to understand its politics. Taking that into account, I would reccomend also to read (as a complement to this book) "The History of Government. Volume I. Ancient Monarchies and Empires" by S.E. Finer, "Life after Death. A History of the Afterlife in Western Religion" by Alan F. Segal and "Gem in the Lotus.The Seeding of Indian Civilisation" by Abraham Eraly, to mention but a few.
Good Overview, Some Flaws May 23, 2007
In the run-up to the Iraq War, I read several articles discussing the historical treasures at risk if the war went forward. Reading these, I realized that for a reasonably well-educated person I had very little understanding of ancient history. Since then I have, in addition to re-reading the college textbook I obviously had not paid enough attention to, read a number of popular histories about ancient subjects. This is one of them. Bauer's book covers a lot of ground in fair but not overwhelming detail. It does a good job of giving the reader a basic outline of history, with the important dates and touchstones, as well as illuminating the vast amount of information that is simply unknown and lost. For this, it gets an easy three stars - really three and a half. It fails to get four or five stars, however, for two reasons. First, as noted in another reader review, the book totally ignores as outside its scope artistic and social developments such as the flowering of Greek culture or the art of Egypt. Anyone who is interested can certainly get works that fill this gap, of course, but it seems that this is a subject that should have had more treatment. Second, the book suffers from a serious editing problem. In addition to sloppy grammar errors that were missed and the odd misspelling, occaisional factual errors snuck through the editing process. At one point, Bauer states that the king of Assyria was "the undisputed king of Babylon" immediately after stating that Babylon was in rebellion. Obviously she meant Assyria, but just as obviously the reader shouldn't have to figure that out. Subsequent editions of this book will undoubtedly sort most of that out, so if you are looking at buying the second edition or later, this caution may no longer apply. All in all, a valuable book for the casual reader.
A book for those who care "how they know...." May 18, 2007
The most compelling history book I've read in a long time, Bauer's book hits where many other books miss: She doesn't assume anything, just because it's the "accepted" theory of history. Bauer's narrative starts and ends with the primary source materials available to us, and where she makes conjecture, she tells you it's conjecture and she supports her reasoning with logic, intelligence and without obvious bias. Moreover, she clearly identifies all of the source material from which she draws her narratives. Add to that solid foundation a crisp, bright, and engaging narrative style, and this book may just be the finest historical work in decades.