A Brief History of Misogyny : the World's Oldest Prejudice, Paperback

A Brief History of Misogyny : the World's Oldest Prejudice Paperback

Part of the Brief Histories series

3 out of 5 (1 rating)


In this compelling, powerful book, highly respected writer and commentator Jack Holland sets out to answer a daunting question: how do you explain the oppression and brutalization of half the world's population by the other half, throughout history?

The result takes the reader on an eye-opening journey through centuries, continents and civilizations as it looks at both historical and contemporary attitudes to women.

Encompassing the Church, witch hunts, sexual theory, Nazism and pro-life campaigners, we arrive at today's developing world, where women are increasingly and disproportionately at risk because of radicalised religious belief, famine, war and disease.

Well-informed and researched, highly readable and thought-provoking, this is no outmoded feminist polemic: it's a refreshingly straightforward investigation into an ancient, pervasive and enduring injustice.

It deals with the fundamentals of human existence -- sex, love, violence -- that have shaped the lives of humans throughout history.

The answer? It's time to recognize that the treatment of women amounts to nothing less than an abuse of human rights on an unthinkable scale. A Brief History of Misogyny is an important and timely book that will make a long-lasting contribution to the efforts to improve those rights throughout the world.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320 pages, black & white illustrations
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Social & cultural history
  • ISBN: 9781845293710



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The author takes a tour through the prejudice that underlies so much of civilization - a distrust, even hatred for, women as a group. He doesn't attempt to read misogyny into ancient cave paintings and carvings (nor does he try to read in matriarchal society); instead, he begins with the ancient Greeks and Romans, and moves gradually through the passing centuries, stopping at key points in history to examine what has - and hasn't - changed. To say this work is depressing would be an understatement. It brings home forcefully how far we've come from the ancient superstitions that consigned women to flames as witches, but reminds us of how very far we still have to go. There are some weaknesses with the book, mostly related to the broad scope of such an all-encompassing work that resulted in a fairly superficial treatment of some crucial junctions in history, particularly in early Christianity. I'm not sure if it's the result of trying to be brief, or if it's simply a lack of in-depth knowledge on his part, but his discussion of the roots of Christianity is remarkably simplistic, especially considering how very crucial that period is to understanding the current sociopolitical scene where women are concerned. He treats early Christianity as a monolithic phenomenon, rising fully sprung out of the fertile soil of the Middle East, ignoring the rich diversity of early Christianity, such as the gnostics. This is a definite weakness, as the early Christian approach to women was much more varied than presented here, and the battles that were fought over what would be orthodox and what would be heterodox could be crucial to understanding how - and why - women have been relegated to the background in the world's largest religion (if you consider Christianity to be one religion). The section on the witch trials was interesting, but again rather superficial in the analysis. Overall, it's good if you just want an appetizer before digging in to the main course of study, but if you only read one book on misogyny and plan to go around regaling your friends with your depth of knowledge about the topic, this probably shouldn't be the book. It's just too superficial.