Book Reviews

History Worth Collecting

By July 12, 2006 No Comments

What true bibliophile or history lover has not coveted the complete set of Will and Ariel Durant’s The Story of  of Civilization? After some years of collecting individual volumes, it was a delight to find the complete matched set in a Halifax used bookstore for a reasonable price.

The series is a titanic piece of scholarship, detailed and complete in every respect – starting with Our Oriental Heritage in 1935 and ending with the 11th volume The Age of Napoleon, published in 1975 when Will turned 90. This is indeed the work of a lifetime and we shall probably never see a historian of this caliber again.

In the forty years it took to complete this project, the perspectives of the historians changed somewhat (Will, for example, appears to have substantially re-evaluated his own views on the worth of religion). Besides their dry observations about human nature, the series delights by their thoroughness. Every aspect of human activity is listed, and one gets an idea of the context of the times they study in a way that few teachers can convey. They are not easy to read because of their length and complexity, but whatever time is invested is amply rewarded. Good hunting!