The story of civilization

I haven’t been doing much reading lately. I’ve started a couple of books but couldn’t get into them. For some reason, this is pretty typical for the beginning of the summer for me. Anyway, I decided yesterday that I would once again attempt Will Durant’s Story of Civilization series of history books. I have a complete set (although they are all used) and have from time-to-time in the past tried to read them. I managed to read half of Our Oriental Heritage many years ago, and back in early 2000, I completed The Life of Greece. But I’m going to give it another shot. I’ve always wanted to read the whole series, cover to cover because what I have read was so well written and so fascinating.


For those of you unfamiliar with the series, it contains 11 books, totaling nearly 10,000 pages or, by my estimates at total of 4,394,000 words. That’s a little less than what I read, on average, each year. Another interesting thing about the books is there scope. The first book was published in 1935, and in the preface, Will Durant says that’s the first of 5 volumes, hopefully published every 5 years thereafter. 40 years later, in the 1970s, the 11th and final volume was published.

I have all of the books, except the last one, and I hope to pick it well before I complete the first ten books. But a quick glance online shows that most of the books are out of print and can only be had through used books stores. For anyone curious, here is a summary of the 11 volumes:

1. Our Oriental Heritage (1935)
Being a history of civilization in Egypt and the Near East to the death of Alexander, and in India, China and Japan from the beginning to our own day; with an introduction on the nature and foundations of civilization.

2. The Life of Greece (1939)
Being a history of Greek civilization from the beginnings, and of civilization in the Near East from the death of Alexander, to the Roman conquest; with an introduction on the prehistoric culture of Crete.

3. Caesar adn Christ (1944)
A history of Roman civilization and of Christianity from their beginnings to A.D. 325

4. The Age of Faith (1950)
A history of Medieval civilization–Christian, Islamic, and Judaic–from Constantine to Dante: A.D. 325-1300

5. The Renaissance (1953)
A history of civilization in Italy from the birth of Petrarch to the death of Titian–1304 to 1576

6. The Reformation (1957)
A history of European civilization from Wyclif to Calvin: 1300-1564

7. The Age of Reason Begins (1961)
A history of European civilization in the period of Shakespeare, Bacon, Montaigne, Rembrandt, Galileo and Descartes: 1558-1648

8. The Age of Louis XIV (1963)
A history of European civilization in the period of Pascal, Moliere, Cromwell, Milton, Peter the Great, Newton and Spinoza: 1648-1715

9. The Age of Voltaire (1965)
A history of civilization in Western Europe from 1715 to 1756 with special emphasis on the conflict between religion and philosophy

10. Rousseau and Revolution (1967)
A history of civilization in France, England, and Germany from 1756, and in the remainder of Europe from 1715-1789

11. The Age of Napoleon (1975)
A history of European civilization from 1718 to 1815

Plus, since I will be in Europe next summer, it can’t hurt to immerse myself in a ton and a half of European history along the way.

Stay tuned for progress updates.