Saturday, September 15, 2007

Review: A Little History of the World

A Little History of the World by E. H. Gombrich
2006, Blackstone Audiobooks.
ISBN: 078617286X

Reviewed by Ana Braga-Henebry, M.A.

This is the kind of book that is written for children and yet any adult will enjoy it immensely. We listened to it during a summer trip, and all of our children, from 6 to 20 years old, were enthralled. Reader Ralph Coshan won an audio award for the reading of the book and we have truly grown to love the sound of his voice.

Gombrich's A Little History of the World is right up there with Hillyer's A Child's History of the World, but even better--which I never thought I would say, as A Child's History of the World has been a favorite of mine for years. Gombrich himself revised and translated his own 1930's text into English before his death in 2002. This is why we have a recent publication in English of a European bestselling history text for children from the 1930s! The text is geared to children a bit older than the Calvert School classic, which is good for a homeschooling family.

I love the way the author dealt with a huge Catholic theme: the Reformation! And I love the fact that there is a whole chapter on the Counter-Reformation, which is largely ignored by the American public when studying European history. His account of Saint Ignatius Loyola's story and the founding of the Company of Jesus (Jesuits) makes this volume very Catholic-friendly indeed, which is something to be said for a history book from any major secular publisher. The way the author refers to God, and to the person of Jesus Christ, and to His teachings, is very respectful and wonderfully done. In my research about Gombrich's faith life, I learned that he converted to Christianity from Judaism early in his life.

I am currently leading a History 3rd/4th grade small class using Hillyer's text and comparing/complementing it with Van Loon's Story of Mankind. I believe these three volumes together can make up a superb World History curriculum for elementary school! Hedgeschool's First Timeline, done in first and second grades, would be a great place to start.

Highly recommended. This will be a great addition to your homeschool audio library.

Available from Blackstone Audio.


Suzanne Temple said...

I'm so glad to learn about this audiobook. We just LOVE "A Child's Story of the World" and the Susan Wise Bauer books as well. We will certainly add this to our collection. Thanks so much, Ana!

Suzanne Temple said...

I just downloaded this from Thanks again! I am so excited.

Ana Braga-Henebry said...

You are most welcome. Few things are as good as an excellent new homeschool resource! The listening of this audio book is terning into our history curriculum too! Let me know how you like it. Actually I'd love to do a more in-depth comparison between this and and Hillyer's A Child's History.

aimee said...

I would love to read a review comparing these two books. I have not read "A Little History of the world but have looked through "A Child's History of the World" stoppping to read the intro and controversial events such as the Inquisition and the crusades and the Protestant Reformation. I was so looking forward to diving in after reading the intro and first chapter enjoying the style and attitude of writing. Then I read on further and was really dissapointed to find a anti-Catholic attitude in the above mentioned areas. I returned it promptly to the library and am trying to find out if it was a Catholic source that referred me to that book. I would love to find a Catholic book with a similar writing style. God Bless, Aimee

Ana Braga-Henebry said...

I am sorry to hear that-- it is not a Catholic book and yet it is our family's favorite history book for kids! I usually explain a little more about things after reading the chapters you mentioned. You may be happy with Gombrich's-- still an impartial point of view, but a bit better developed, and a whole chapter on Saint Ignatius and the Counter-Reformation!