A People's History of the World : From the Stone Age to the New Millennium Paperback
by Chris Harman
From earliest human society to the Holy Roman Empire, from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment, from the Industrial Revolution to the end of the millennium, Chris Harman provides a brilliant and comprehensive history of the planet.Eschewing the standard histories of "Great Men," of dates and kings, Harman offers a groundbreaking counter-history, a breathtaking sweep across the centuries in the tradition of "history from below." In a fiery narrative, he shows how ordinary men and women were involved in creating and changing society and how conflict between classes was often at the core of these changes.While many pundits see the victory of capitalism as now safely secured, Harman explains the rise and fall of societies and civilizations throughout the ages and demonstrates that history never ends.
This magisterial study is essential reading for anyone interested in how society has changed and developed and the possibilities for further radical change in the new millennium
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 760 pages
- Publisher: Verso Books
- Publication Date: 24/04/2008
- Category: General & world history
- ISBN: 9781844672387
Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.
Review by MeditationesMartini
The basic argument - technical innovation leads to establishment of a means of production and corresponding relations of production that persist until the avarice of the ruling class absorbs all the available surplus and squeezes the working classes too hard, leading either to revolution and change in means/relations of production, or mutual collapse - is of course partial, but illuminates big-picture human history better than any other partial argument I can think of. And it's always wonderful to take a journey at this level - you're like, "All these things happened. Every sentence in this book contains a world."Energy of course flags a bit at moments in a book this size, and Harman has the orthodox Marxist's bias for focus on Europe at the expense of Asia even in the pre-modern era, but you can't fault him for that when it vivifies the moments of revolutionary change - your French and Russian Revolutions, in particular - so powerfully. Sometimes he falls into the bad kind of partiality (as opposed to the good kind, which is basically rooting for the common people in all circumstances) and overjustifies e.g. the Jacobin terror - God knows it's enough, and appreciated, to remind us of the numbers that were beign killed by monarchist reactionaries at the same time, and the disconnect between that and our popular images of crazy Robespierre and the guillotine.The only substantial criticism I have to make is that Harman keeps moving the goalposts when he discusses the failure of worker's movements at potentially revolutionary moments. Usually that failure comes in the form of "they weren't radical enough, didn't rise to the moment, tried to compromise with the cuddlier sections of the bourgeoisie" and fair enough, that certainly fits the revolution-or-collapse model. sometimes, though, it's all of a sudden "they should have made common cause against the facists with the social democrats" or whatever, and you're all "I thought you just said - " and sure, he can argue that obviously they should have done the thing they didn't do because of how it all didn't work out so good with what they did do, but providing a specific plan of action is a hard thing, let alone retroactively setting out a plausible way they could have come to it at the time. Every disfferent situation requires a new response, and we sure as hell don't know what they are, and Harman sort of implicitly admits as much when he says look at how long it took bourgeois consciousness to mature, and we're expecting a proletarian consciousness strong enough to build a social system on how fast? But you understand. He gets frustrated. We all do.
Review by mykl-s
OK, I sorta want to read this book, but it is long and hard to get into. The past is less interesting than the future. A refreshing point of view.
Review by h_d
This was a fantastic book. I think it would be unwise to ignore this book purely on the basis of not sharing its Marxist leanings, because it does provide quite a thorough look at the way the world has been shaped throughout history (mainly by greed), and history is what it is, even if you look at it through a Marxist lense. It doesn't explain away all the ills of humanity as created by capitalism, but it does effectively illustrate how the accumulation of wealth and power could be quite the motivator when stealing, thieving and bastarding your way across the globe.<br/><br/>It's a rather brutal depressing history of the world, in some cases quite upsetting, but by the end I felt informed and a bit more enlightened about certain historical events. It's also a big book with a lot of information, some of which has probably already flown the brain box, but there were certain chapters that will definitely stick in my mind, (especially the one on slavery and racism - harrowing as it was, it was quite an eye-opener). <br/><br/>Reading this book was time well spent.