The World: A Family History (Paperback)Simon Sebag Montefiore (author)
Recounting nothing less than the history of humanity through the overarching theme of family, Montefiore weaves an epic, page-turning story that features everyone from the Leopard-King of Benin to Margaret Thatcher.
Waterstones Non-Fiction Book of the Month for August 2023
The Times History Book of the Year 2022
The World by Simon Sebag Montefiore is a fresh and original history of humanity, unlike any previous world history: it uses family, the one thing all humans have in common, to tell the story. It is genuinely global, spanning all eras and all continents, from the perspective of places as diverse as Haiti, Congo and Cambodia as well as Europe, China and America.
Starting with the first footsteps of a family walking along a beach 950,000 years ago, Montefiore steers us through an interconnected world via palace intrigues, love affairs and family lives, linking grand themes of war, migration, plague, religion, medicine and technology to the people at the heart of the human drama. It features a cast of extraordinary span and diversity: as well as rulers and conquerors there are priests, charlatans, artists, scientists, doctors, tycoons, gangsters, lovers, husbands, wives and children.
From Alexander the Great, Attila, Genghis Khan to Ivan the Terrible and Hitler, from Socrates, Michelangelo, Shakespeare to Mozart, Balzac, Newton and Tim Berners-Lee. There is Hongwu who started as a beggar and founded the Ming dynasty; Ewuare the Leopard-King of Benin; King Henry of Haiti; Kamehameha conqueror of Hawaii; Zenobia, Arab empress who defied Rome, Lady Murasaki first female novelist, Sayyida al-Hurra, Moroccan pirate-queen; Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher and Barack Obama. Here are the Caesars, Medicis and Incas, Ottomans and Mughals, Bonapartes, Habsburgs and Zulus, Rothschilds, Rockefellers and Krupps, Churchills, Kennedys, Castros, Nehrus, Pahlavis and Kenyattas, Saudis, Kims and Assads. All the way up to Putin and Zelensky, all human life is here.
A dazzling achievement as spellbinding as fiction, The World is both a celebration and an indictment that takes the human story, from caves to drones, in a single narrative by a master storyteller.
Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
Number of pages: 1344
Weight: 900 g
Dimensions: 198 x 128 x 66 mm
'A history of the world from the Neanderthals to Trump. It's a rollicking tale, a kaleidoscope of savagery, sex, cruelty and chaos. By focusing on family, Montefiore provides an intimacy usually lacking in global histories. [It] has personality and a soul. It's also outrageously funny... an enormously entertaining book' - Gerard DeGroot, The Times
'A delightful world history, told through influential families. A moreish chronicle. The device of weaving together the past using the most enduring and essential unit of human relations is inspired. It lets readers empathise with people who helped shape historical events and were shaped by them... the method also allows the author to cover every continent and era, and to give women and even children a voice and presence that they tend to be denied in more conventional histories. Despite the book's formidable length, there is never a dull moment. The story moves at pace across terrible battles, court intrigues, personal triumphs and disasters, lurid sexual practices and hideous tortures. Almost every page offers what used to be known in Fleet Street as a "marmalade dropper"... the author tells these stories with verve and palpable relish for the unbridled sex and inventive violence that run through them. His character sketches are pithy and witty... the footnotes, often short essays in themselves, have the acid drollery of Edward Gibbon... overall this book is a triumph and a delight, an epic that entertains, informs and appals in enjoyably equal measure' - The Economist
'A magnificent new book by Montefiore. [A] magisterial tome... determined to...make some sense of the chaos of world history, he has done so magnificently and meticulously by choosing as his framework all the dynasties we know of that ever held power or made a name for themselves. This real-life Game of Thrones... dip into this book anywhere and the minutiae of history leap off the page... dip too into the author's copious footnotes and there are gems to be mined... Montefiore compiled this during Covid lockdown and wove it into a compelling narrative... a massive effort of researching moulding and turning it into storytelling - often sassy, always entertaining - of the first order... to my mind what it gives above all is perspective from which comes understanding and not a little wisdom' - Tony Rennell, Daily Mail
'For any reader with the stomach for bloodshed and megalomaniac ambition, for anyone with a taste for Ptolemaic depravities or who would simply like to spend some quality time with China's imperial eunuchs, Montefiore's 'World'... will deliver it and more in spades. The author's major achievement is to make us see the world through a different lens - to make the unfamiliar familiar and, more important, the familiar unfamiliar... Europe would more than catch up... but it is that other world that this book brings most vividly, almost feverishly, to life. There is hardly a dull paragraph' - David Crane, The Spectator
'To tell a history of the world through its most influential families is a clever way to marshal thousands of years of humanity... an incredible undertaking. Montefiore finds enduring resonances and offers new perspectives... because these are family stories, he adeptly eschews traditionally male histories to find greater texture and diversity. A remarkable achievement' - Observer
'A history of pretty much everything everywhere from the evolution of Homo sapiens to Putin's invasion of Ukraine. Dip into any page and you'll find history rushing by in prose that combines clarity, liveliness and even deadpan humour with intriguing asides a speciality... a staggering achievement' - James Walton, Daily Telegraph
'Succeeds in scintillating fashion... an epic rich in detail... on each page, you'll find an interesting idea, a witty observation or a footnote containing an anecdote emblematic of a wider point. Montefiore pays attention to the lives of women and children and to places slighted by Western historians. This is an extraordinary work of wisdom and vivid storytelling' - Victor Sebestyen, Literary Review
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“A mind-boggling achievement!”
Great big doorstop world histories are two a penny so a fresh approach to the topic is essential. Montefiore's technique is to tell the entire history of humanity through the prism of family and by rights of... More
“Stupendous, riveting and engrossing”
I loved this book and was engrossed in it on many levels.
It truly is a magisterial history of humanity as told through the lens of humans, family and the interconnectedness of people, as opposed to a strictly... More
“An impressive feat but hard going”
Whilst undoubtedly an impressive feat of intellectual endeavour, I didn’t actually find ‘The World’ enjoyable or satisfying to read as a book, and consequently abandoned the journey in the foothills. The issue for me... More
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