The Mihir Chronicles

A Little History Of The World by E.H. Gombrich

January 05, 2024

I. Brief Summary

Ernst Gombrich authored a book on history of the world for younger readers. He accounts the full span of human history from the Stone Age to the Atomic Bomb. The book is playful due to the audience it is being addressed to. A great place to start on learning about the history of our world.

II. Big Ideas

It is a bad idea to try to prevent people from knowing their own history. If you want to do anything new you must first make sure you know what people have tried before.

III. Quotes

  • The history of the world is, sadly, not a pretty poem. It offers little variety, and it is nearly always the unpleasant things that are repeated, over and over again.
  • It's bad idea to try to prevent people from knowing their own history. If you want to do anything new you must first make sure you know what people have tried before.
  • If we want to avoid suffering, we must start with ourselves, because all suffering comes from our own desires.
  • But children grow up too, and they too must learn from history how easy it is for human beings to be transformed into inhuman beings through incitement and intolerance.
  • I know a wise Buddhist monk who, in a speech to his fellow countrymen, once said he'd love to know why someone who boasts that he is the cleverest, the strongest, the bravest or the most gifted man on earth is thought ridiculous and embarrassing, whereas if, instead of 'I', he says, 'we are the most intelligent, the strongest, the bravest and the most gifted people on earth', his fellow countrymen applaud enthusiastically and call him a patriot. For there is nothing patriotic about it. One can be attached to one's own country without needing to insist that the rest of the world's inhabitants are worthless. But as more and more people were taken in by this sort of nonsense, the menace to peace grew greater.
  • Never favor those who flatter you most, but hold rather to those who risk your displeasure for your own good. Never neglect business for pleasure, organize your life so that there is time in it for relaxation and entertainment. Give the business of government your full attention. Inform yourself as much as you can before taking any decision. Make every effort to get to know men of distinction, so that you may call on them when you need them. Be courteous to all, speak hurtfully to no man.
  • Love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, it does not behave improperly, it does not seek its own advantage, it is not easily provoked, it bears no grudge, delights not in evil but rejoices only in the truth. It shelters all, trusts all, always hopes, always endures. Love is everlasting.
  • The first man to understand the extraordinary magical power of applying mathematical calculation to things in nature was an Italian called Galileo Galilei.
  • At first there’s nothing to see, but you feel a sort of weariness that tells you something is in the air.
  • He sent messengers ahead to meet Alexander and offered him half his kingdom and his daughter in marriage, if only he would agree not to fight. ‘If I were Alexander, I’d take it,’ said Alexander’s friend, Parmenios. ’And so would I, if I were Parmenios,’ was Alexander’s reply.
  • Their assemblies had taught the Athenians how to discuss all matters openly, with arguments for and against. This was good training in learning how to think.
  • China is, in fact, the only country in the world to be ruled for hundreds of years, not by the nobility, nor by soldiers, nor even by the priesthood, but by scholars.
  • Cyrus became lord of that great realm. His first act was to free all the peoples held in captivity by the Babylonians. Among them were the Jews, who went home to Jerusalem
  • For what [Aristotle] had done was to gather together all the knowledge of his time. He wrote about the natural sciences – the stars, animals and plants; about history and people living together in a state – what we call politics; about the right way to reason – logic; and the right way to behave – ethics.
  • Hitler was therefore determined to trump the enemy in the art of propaganda. He was a brilliant popular orator and drew huge crowds. He knew there was no better way to incite a mob to action than to give them a scapegoat, someone they could blame for their suffering, and he found one in the Jews.
  • If the appetite goes, the pain goes with it.