Jenelle Read a Book: A Little History of the World


Louis XIV of France was a leader. He led. He led with dignity, class, extravagance and lots of hard work. But he was more than the fancy gowns and gold platters. In a letter he wrote to his grandson, when his grandson was leaving to become the king of Spain, he said, “Never favour those who flatter you most, but hold rather to those who risk your displeasure for your own good. Never neglect business for pleasure, organise your life so that there is time in it for relaxation and entertainment. Give the business of government your full attention. Inform yourself as much as you can before taking any decision. Make every effort to get to know men of distinction, so that you may call on them when you need them. Be courteous to all, speak hurtfully to no man.” These were King Louis XIV of France’s guiding principles that made him a remarkable part of our world history.

And these are the kinds of stories you will find in A Little History of the World. E.H. Gombrich is an Austrian who fled to the UK when things got rough for Jews in Austria. He was a writer and a storyteller and that is what you get in this book. A story.

This is not a comprehensive, scholastic text book account of world history. It is a story. There is a “once upon a time”. Except the best part of this story is that it is true.

A Little History of the World is told as a story that you might hear from your grandfather as you sit on the front porch with him. There are dates and facts and places and people. But there is also meaning and a moral of the story. There are whys and hows and “what it all mean”s. Each chapter is short and has a point. There is a deeper glimpse into the humanity of history with each “once upon a time”.

The book is Europe-heavy as that is where a lot of history started. But he moves through the advancements of technology and with that the world gets smaller and he tells more stories of the Americas and Asia. The book ends with his own personal account of his life during the Second World War. It is his piece of the history of the world that he lived, witness and was defined by.

It made me think - If I was to write, at the end of my life, about the history of the world that I lived through, what would I say? Would my views be global or personal? Or both.

While there is no surprise ending or plot twists, I definitely recommend A Little History of the World as your next read! It is delightful and entertaining. It is charming enough to be read to young children one chapter at a time and intelligent enough for adults who love a good story - and a true one at that! While the book is about our history, it is more than just a timeline of events. Grombrich tells a story of humanity, tolerance and the human spirit.

You can purchase A Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich on Amazon.