HomeGroupsTalkMoreZeitgeist
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

An Intimate History of Humanity by Theodore…
Loading...

An Intimate History of Humanity (original 1994; edition 1995)

by Theodore Zeldin

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
875817,537 (3.96)7
This extraordinarily wide-ranging study looks at the dilemmas of life today and shows how they need not have arisen. Portraits of living people and historical figures are placed alongside each other as Zeldin discusses how men and women have lost and regained hope; how they have learnt to have interesting conversations; how some have acquired an immunity to loneliness; how new forms of love and desire have been invented; how respect has become more valued than power; how the art of escaping from one's troubles has developed; why even the privileged are often gloomy; and why parents and children are changing their minds about what they want from each other.… (more)
Member:ScienceHouse
Title:An Intimate History of Humanity
Authors:Theodore Zeldin
Info:Harpercollins (1995), Edition: 1st U.S. ed, Paperback, 488 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:Basement Boxes

Work details

An Intimate History of Humanity by Theodore Zeldin (1994)

None.

Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 7 mentions

English (7)  Dutch (1)  All languages (8)
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
A very ambitious book that attempts to chronicle the history of human thought, emotions, problems, and (for a lack of a better description) general themes by exploring how humans are connected. For instance, the book's chapters have titles such as "How some people have acquired an immunity to loneliness" and "How respect has become more desirable than power." Each chapter starts with descriptions of modern day persons and how they have interacted with (or more often struggled with) the chapter's theme. After this, Zeldin then comments on the character's struggles and links them back to other cultures across time and geography, illustrating both how these "modern problems" often have historical roots and also how other people with similar problems have attempted to solve them.

Zeldin's intentions behind this book are admirable and it is from reading on his general philosophy/thoughts that led me to this book initially. The Preface captures his ideologies well. He writes, "I want to show how, today, it is possible for individuals to form a fresh view both of their own personal history and of humanity's' whole record of cruelty, misunderstanding, and joy. To have a new vision of the future, it has always been first necessary to have a new vision of the past." For more information on Zeldin, I suggest to watch this 5x15 talk he gives, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdnnZ0Y4HEo, where he says, "I saw what I want from life is to discover life, to know what life is and that means getting to know as many people as possible, each of whom sees life in a different way and has experienced life in a different way and I can only see what I see, my idea of what life is, and each one of you sees something different and therefore I am almost blind and I am searching to see what there is...I have developed curiosity." You can feel this intense curiosity of Zeldin's from the book. The book is epic in scope and you get the sense that Zeldin has thought about, researched about, and knows a bit about...almost everything relating to humans and how we feel.

On the negative side, I did find some of the book slightly repetitive. I think Zeldin is so impassioned about his ideas about how people should seek to have conversations with each other and discover more of each other that similar arguments tend to come through again and again. At the end of each chapter are also wonderful lists of suggested additional reading related to the chapter, but I really wished that each page had footnotes as there were a lot of ideas I wanted to read further on and it would have helped to know specifically where to go.

Overall though, I found it a wonderful book and very easy to get through, for a "history book." One does have to go into it fairly open minded. Zeldin seems to be a bit of an idealist and also sometimes in the writing makes wide, sweeping, generalizing statements that made me to want to feel skeptical. However, for me, the point of the book is not to get a 100% detailed factual account of history - but one that inspires curiosity and makes me think in different ways about familiar topics. And in that respect, the book certainly succeeded. ( )
  JenniferLivingstone | Aug 7, 2017 |
People who wish to escape from the grasp of the institutions of their time, and the opinions of the crowd, and indeed from ordinary life, are not misfits in modern society: their roots go back into furthest antiquity, as far as those of warriors; they were singing songs like these in ancient China.

I arrive all alone, I sit down all alone.
I have no regrets that people today do not know me.
Only the spirit of the old tree, in the south of the city
knows for certain that I am an Immortal passing by.

To ask what the practical results of escape might be is to miss the point of escape, which includes escape from purpose. Those who want a purpose must look beyond escape.


Having acquired this book from a down-sizing relative, I was undecided about whether to read it or pass it on, but I was drawn in by the fascinating chapter headings, such as "How people have repeatedly lost hope, and how new encounters, and a new pair of spectacles, revive them", "How people searching for their roots are only beginning to look far and deep enough", and "How the art of escaping from one's troubles has developed, but not the art of knowing where to escape to", which made it clear that it was an unusual kind of history book.

.It has been said that tor those who 'feel', life is a tragedy and for those who 'think', it is a comedy. There is no need to live only half a life. for those who both think and feel, life is an adventure.

Each chapter begins with a description of how one or more people, mostly French women, think and feel about their lives, followed by a discussion of how human behaviour and attitudes have changed over the centuries, illustrated by examples from various countries and historical eras. I was not keen on the descriptions of the women at the beginning of every chapter. The author delved into their deepest motivations and insecurities in his interviews with the women, but then presented them in an extremely off-putting way, so that they come across as cold and self-centred. I did find them less annoying towards the end of the book, but I may just have got used to the style of the descriptions.

The scope of the book is enormous, covering large swathes of history and the world, but it is also intimate as the title says, with its concentration on topics such as love and loneliness, compassion and curiosity, power and pessimism, and the vexed question of whether men and women can ever really communicate. Some kinds of behaviour have changed gradually over the centuries, but other ideas and attitudes seem to be cyclical. Cultures tend to alternate between optimism and pessimism, and there will often be a growing dissatisfaction with the status quo that results in permissive decades (or even centuries) being followed by more restrictive decades, before swinging back again.

Three centuries of lonely ridicule followed, and astrologers almost vanished. It looked as though old ideas could be consigned once and for all to the dustbin. but no, they do not vanish, and when there is a crisis, and when people lose hope, or when they feel that the world is changing too fast and not giving them what they want, when they do not know where to turn, they discover that the old ways were only packed away in their bottom drawer. they fetch them out, and try them on again.

This wide-ranging and intriguing book is definitely a keeper, but next time I read it I may skip over the descriptions of the women. ( )
  isabelx | Apr 12, 2012 |
I have read numerous history books that take, in some cases, an eagle's eye view of the world, looking down on all that has happened and summing it up in a few hundred pages, such as Gombrich's excellent Children's History of the World; there are others that have taken a single era or epoch or even a single year, and examined it minutely, looking at the famous people who lived in that time and what they did and the impact they had on the world - Dava Sobel's Longitude is a reasonable example.

However, I have never read a book that looked at shared histories, the histories of real, everyday people, and how their thoughts and actions are influenced by the weight of history that there is all around us. Zeldin's book is that book, a book that looks at the way people behave and then examines the historical reasons for these actions, a book that makes one believe that history is not what we'd thought it was. It is a real paradigm-shifter. ( )
  soylentgreen23 | Jul 15, 2008 |
A discourse, drawing on real lives, on how to lead a useful, meaningful existence ( )
  chrisleeclark | Aug 14, 2007 |
I've just begun Zeldin's An Intimate History of Humanity. He writes well enough: simple sentences and simple diction; doesn't hide indecision behind a lot of fluff. I like the meditations. They remind me a bit of Annie Dillard. And the seriousness of the themes (work=slavery; conversation between the sexes; loneliness) brings Thomas Nagel to mind. My only complaints revolve around lack of depth and direction -- the meditations seems to peter out rather than conclude.
1 vote mandojoe | May 2, 2007 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
First words
Our imaginations are inhabited by ghosts.
Quotations
Non so perché tutti sostengono che quella di scrivere sia un'occupazione solitaria.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

This extraordinarily wide-ranging study looks at the dilemmas of life today and shows how they need not have arisen. Portraits of living people and historical figures are placed alongside each other as Zeldin discusses how men and women have lost and regained hope; how they have learnt to have interesting conversations; how some have acquired an immunity to loneliness; how new forms of love and desire have been invented; how respect has become more valued than power; how the art of escaping from one's troubles has developed; why even the privileged are often gloomy; and why parents and children are changing their minds about what they want from each other.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary

Quick Links

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (3.96)
0.5
1 1
1.5 1
2 6
2.5 1
3 15
3.5 4
4 20
4.5 3
5 31

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 150,846,479 books! | Top bar: Always visible