Intimate History of Humanity, An

Intimate History of Humanity, An

Intimate History of Humanity, An

A provocative work that explores the evolution of emotions and personal relationships through diverse cultures and time. “An intellectually dazzling view of our past and future.”–Time magazine

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  1. Jeffrey S. Bennion "Professional dilettante" said,

    Wrote on March 14, 2012 @ 11:32 pm

    31 of 33 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    A History of How People Have Solved the Problem of Living, January 18, 1999
    By 
    Jeffrey S. Bennion “Professional dilettante” (Arlington, VA United States) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    This review is from: Intimate History of Humanity, An (Paperback)

    Everyone who’s interested in history honors those who have lived in the past, how they have come to unique solutions to solve their problems. We try to guard against what C.S. Lewis calls “chronological snobbery” — the notion that just because we were born later, we necessarily are smarter and wiser than those who have gone before us.

    The older I get, the more I’m convinced that the ancients had it right all along. And this book is a powerful antidote against chronological snobbery. Aside from being truly uplifting, it’s encouraging to see how people have faced, and overcome, dilemmas similar to our own. To see the many ways they have solved those problems is fascinating and liberating.

    My only regret is that this book has received far too little attention. The scope is so wide ranging, the range of fascinating tiny details so vast, that it’s difficult to review, and impossible to summarize, at least with my paltry expository skills. So just read it! And spread the word!

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  2. "benph" said,

    Wrote on March 14, 2012 @ 11:57 pm

    22 of 24 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    A history of everything, November 27, 2001
    By 

    This review is from: Intimate History of Humanity, An (Paperback)

    I find it difficult to praise this book enough. It is definitely not just a book about history–it is more a book about philosophy and the human condition. I could say that this is a book about everything–or rather everything that deals with being human.

    Even though it certainly is not a chronological story of human events, it examines many of the aspects of intrapersonal and interpersonal behavior we take for granted every day. He states himself, “But this book is not a summary of history: it has deliberately limited itself to finding lock that look as though they will not open, and to showing how they can be opened.” The author, Theodore Zeldin, raises the question of what freedom really is, the history of conversation, loneliness, sex, dating, religion, and much more. He has interviewed people from all over the world to find commonalities and differences in the way we lead our lives. I think this is the kind of book that everyone can relate to and must be somewhat interested in as long as one cares about the human condition.

    As the author states himself, “This book has tried to show how great a difference to the conduct of daily life the ability to alter the focus of one’s perceptions can make. To be hospitable to the nuances of life, it is no use treating the mind as an automatic camera; only by composing one’s picture and playing with light and shadow can one hope to see something interesting.” This book is in the end optimistic and Zeldin believes that humanity is merely at the beginnings of worldwide hospitality and sharing and understanding of ideas.

    Personally, this is the kind of reading I particularly enjoy–a compelling work that gets you thinking, a work which raises as many questions as it answers. However, it is also an extremely well researched work (as evidenced by the notes at the end of each chapter) with all kinds of fascinating information on the side. He provides a comparison of different attitudes and philosophies of different cultures. It is like reading a book about behind the scenes of history. Instead of tracing the history of things like kings and battles, he traces the history behind more intangible concepts like the concept of romantic love and contentment. Overall, I cannot begin to describe the entire work here, nor do I feel obliged to. I would highly recommend that you read this book yourself to fully understand everything it is about.

    In case you are interested, here is a listing of the chapters:
    1. How humans have repeatedly lost hope, and how new encounters, and a new pair of spectacles, revive them
    2. How men and women have slowly learned to have interesting conversations
    3. How people searching for their roots are only beginning to look far and deep enough
    4. How some people have acquired an immunity to loneliness
    5. How new forms of love have been invented
    6. Why there has been more progress in cooking than in sex
    7. How the desire that men feel for women, and for other men, has altered through the centuries
    8. How respect has become more desirable than power
    9. How those who want neither to give orders nor to receive them can become intermediaries
    10. How people have freed themselves from fear by finding new fears
    11. How curiosity has become the key to freedom
    12. Why it has become increasingly difficult to destroy one’s enemies
    13. How the art of escaping from one’s troubles has developed, but not the art of knowing where to escape to
    14. Why compassion has flowered even in stony ground
    15. Why toleration has never been enough
    16. Why even the privileged are often somewhat gloomy about life, even when they can have anything the consumer society offers, and even after sexual liberation
    17. How travellers are becoming the largest nation in the world, and how they have learned not to see only what they are looking for
    18. Why friendship between men and women has become so fragile
    19. How even astrologers resist their destiny
    20. Why people have not been able to find the time to lead several lives
    21. Why fathers and their children are changing their minds about what they want from each other
    22. Why the crisis in the family is only one stage in the evolution of generosity
    23. How people choose a way of life, and how it does not wholly satisfy them
    24. How humans become hospitable to each other
    25. What becomes possible when soul-mates meet

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  3. Rochelle said,

    Wrote on March 15, 2012 @ 12:01 am

    18 of 19 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Fantastic, December 24, 1999
    By 

    This review is from: Intimate History of Humanity, An (Paperback)

    This is a unique read… Not a novel, but equally engrossing; not a historical account, but namedrops events from history which most readers will probably be unaware of; my first philosophical read but not intimidatingly so! Chapters are split into themes such as “how respect has become more desirable than power”, “why there has been more progress in cooking than in sex” and so on. It was the index which made me buy this book, oddly enough: “Caesar, Cairo, Cardano, Calcuta, Calvin (John), camerada, cancer…” Any book which includes such a diverse range of topics has to teach you many things. I’m jealous of the author and have bought this book for friends – and would recommend it to anyone.

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