Around 950,000 years ago, a family of five walked along the beach and left behind the oldest family footprints ever discovered. For historian Simon Sebag Montefiore, these poignant, familiar fossils serve as an inspiration for a new kind of world history, one that is genuinely global, spans all eras and all continents, and focuses on the family ties that connect every one of us.
An encyclopedic, unwieldy and yet mesmerizing survey of humanity as told through millennia of rulers and their blood-drenched empires. It's a towering work of imagination, somehow successful as it teeters beneath the awesome weight of names, dates and interpretations ... The sections are composed of chapters and sub-headed paragraphs that come together, mosaic-like, to illuminate who we are and why we behave as we do ... Anecdotes guide us through the historical jungles as Montefiore approaches familiar figures and events from the past century. The scale of his project is more than ambitious; it frames the story of humanity as a ceaseless struggle between the powerful and powerless. He expands on the theme of the Romantic poet's sonnet, underscoring the tumult inherent as tribes battle for control ... The World may be a daunting doorstop, but it offers invaluable precedents as we navigate our own uncertain present.
Heavier on masters than on plot ... Offers a monumental survey of dynastic rule: how to get it, how to keep it, how to squander it ... The World has the heft and character of a dictionary; it’s divided into twenty-three 'acts,' each labelled by world-population figures and subdivided into sections headed by family names. Montefiore energetically fulfills his promise to write a 'genuine world history, not unbalanced by excessive focus on Britain and Europe.' In zesty sentences and lively vignettes, he captures the widening global circuits of people, commerce, and culture ... It’s largely up to the reader, though, to make meaning out of these portraits, especially when it comes to the conceit at the book’s center.
A rollicking tale, a kaleidoscope of savagery, sex, cruelty and chaos ... Histories of the world usually disappoint; the breadth of the subject makes fascinating detail unaffordable. Devoid of drama, they read like a computer manual. This book, however, has personality and a soul. It’s also outrageously funny ... It’s dizzying but delightful. Montefiore has the confidence to speed past topics that bore him ... By focusing on family, Montefiore provides an intimacy usually lacking in global histories ... This book is more than just a cornucopia of violence. It’s also brimming with sex, much of it incestuous ... It’s impossible to exaggerate the bizarre behaviour that power inspires. That’s what makes history fun, and this is an enormously entertaining book.