A short history of the world

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Of the more than one hundred books that H. G. Wells published in his lifetime, this is one of the most ambitious. Spanning the origins of the Earth to the outcome of World War I, A Short History of the World is an engrossing account of the evolution of life and the development of the human race. Wells brings his monumental learning and penetrating historical insight to bear on the Neolithic era, the rise of Judaism, the Golden Age of Athens, the life of Christ, the rise of Islam, the discovery of America, the ...

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A Short History of the World (Barnes & Noble Digital Library)

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Of the more than one hundred books that H. G. Wells published in his lifetime, this is one of the most ambitious. Spanning the origins of the Earth to the outcome of World War I, A Short History of the World is an engrossing account of the evolution of life and the development of the human race. Wells brings his monumental learning and penetrating historical insight to bear on the Neolithic era, the rise of Judaism, the Golden Age of Athens, the life of Christ, the rise of Islam, the discovery of America, the Industrial Revolution, and a host of other subjects. Breathtaking in scope, this thought-provoking masterwork remains one of the most readable and rewarding of its kind.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781178077391
  • Publisher: Nabu Press
  • Publication date: 8/30/2010
  • Pages: 456
  • Product dimensions: 7.44 (w) x 9.69 (h) x 0.92 (d)

Meet the Author

H. G. Wells (1866-1946), one of the founding voices of visionary science fiction, published more than one hundred books, including novels, histories, essays, and programs for world regeneration.
Norman Stone is professor of international relations at Bilkent University, Ankara.
Michael Sherborne is curriculum manager of English and humanities at Luton Sixth Form College.
Jay Winter is a professor of history at Yale.
Patrick Parrinder has written on H.G. Wells, science fiction, James Joyce and the history of the English novel.
Andy Sawyer is a librarian at the University of Sheffield.


Social philosopher, utopian, novelist, and "father" of science fiction and science fantasy, Herbert George Wells was born on September 21, 1866, in Bromley, Kent. His father was a poor businessman, and young Bertie's mother had to work as a lady's maid. Living "below stairs" with his mother at an estate called Uppark, Bertie would sneak into the grand library to read Plato, Swift, and Voltaire, authors who deeply influenced his later works. He shoed literary and artistic talent in his early stories and paintings, but the family had limited means, and when he was fourteen years old, Bertie was sent as an apprentice to a dealer in cloth and dry goods, work he disliked.

He held jobs in other trades before winning a scholarship to study biology at the Normal School of Science in London. The eminent biologist T. H. Huxley, a friend and proponent of Darwin, was his teacher; about him Wells later said, "I believed then he was the greatest man I was ever likely to meet." Under Huxley's influence, Wells learned the science that would inspire many of his creative works and cultivated the skepticism about the likelihood of human progress that would infuse his writing.

Teaching, textbook writing, and journalism occupied Wells until 1895, when he made his literary debut with the now-legendary novel The Time Machine, which was followed before the end of the century by The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Invisible Man, and The War of the Worlds, books that established him as a major writer. Fiercely critical of Victorian mores, he published voluminously, in fiction and nonfiction, on the subject of politics and social philosophy. Biological evolution does not ensure moral progress, as Wells would repeat throughout his life, during which he witnessed two world wars and the debasement of science for military and political ends.

In addition to social commentary presented in the guise of science fiction, Wells authored comic novels like Love and Mrs. Lewisham, Kipps, and The History of Mister Polly that are Dickensian in their scope and feeling, and a feminist novel, Ann Veronica. He wrote specific social commentary in The New Machiavelli, an attack on the socialist Fabian Society, which he had joined and then rejected, and literary parody (of Henry James) in Boon. He wrote textbooks of biology, and his massive The Outline of History was a major international bestseller.

By the time Wells reached middle age, he was admired around the world, and he used his fame to promote his utopian vision, warning that the future promised "Knowledge or extinction." He met with such preeminent political figures as Lenin, Roosevelt, and Stalin, and continued to publish, travel, and educate during his final years. Herbert George Wells died in London on August 13, 1946.

Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of The War of the Worlds.

Good To Know

In 1891, Wells married his cousin Isabel. However, he eventually left her for one of his brightest students, Amy Catherine, whom he married in 1895.

Wells was once interviewed on the radio by an extremely nervous Orson Welles. The two are unrelated, of course.

Many of Wells's novels became film adaptations, including The Island of Dr. Moreau, filmed in 1996 by Richard Stanley and John Frankenheimer, and The Time Machine, filmed in 2002 by Wells's great-grandson, Simon Wells.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Herbert George Wells (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 21, 1866
    2. Place of Birth:
      Bromley, Kent, England
    1. Date of Death:
      August 13, 1946
    2. Place of Death:
      London, England

Table of Contents

Chapter I. The World in Space 9
Chapter II. The World in Time 11
Chapter III. The Beginnings of Life 13
Chapter IV. The Age of Fishes 15
Chapter V. The Age of the Coal Swamps 18
Chapter VI. The Age of Reptiles 21
Chapter VII. The First Birds and the First Mammals 24
Chapter VIII. The Age of Mammals 27
Chapter IX. Monkeys, Apes, and Sub-Men 30
Chapter X. The Neanderthaler and the Rhodesian Man 33
Chapter XI. The First True Men 38
Chapter XII. Primitive Thought 41
Chapter XIII. The Beginnings of Cultivation 44
Chapter XIV. Primitive Neolithic Civilisations 48
Chapter XV. Sumeria, Early Egypt and Writing 53
Chapter XVI. Primitive Nomadic Peoples 56
Chapter XVII. The First Sea-Going Peoples 59
Chapter XVIII. Egypt, Babylon and Assyria 63
Chapter XIX. The Primitive Aryans 67
Chapter XX. The Last Babylonian Empire and the Empire of Darius I 71
Chapter XXI. The Early History of the Jews 75
Chapter XXII. Priests and Prophets in Judea 80
Chapter XXIII. The Greeks 83
Chapter XXIV. The Wars of the Greeks and Persians 87
Chapter XXV. The Splendour of Greece 90
Chapter XXVI. The Empire of Alexander the Great 93
Chapter XXVII. The Museum and Library at Alexandria 96
Chapter XXVIII. The Life of Gautama Buddha 100
Chapter XXIX. King Asoka 104
Chapter XXX. Confucius and Lao Tse 105
Chapter XXXI. Rome comes into History 109
Chapter XXXII. Rome and Carthage 113
Chapter XXXIII. The Growth of the Roman Empire 117
Chapter XXXIV. Between Rome and China 126
Chapter XXXV. The Common Man's Life under the Early Roman Empire 129
Chapter XXXVI. Religious Developments under the Roman Empire 134
Chapter XXXVII. The Teaching of Jesus 139
Chapter XXXVIII. The Development of Doctrinal Christianity 144
Chapter XXXIX. The Barbarians break the Empire into East and West 147
Chapter XL. The Huns and the End of the Western Empire 151
Chapter XLI. The Byzantine and Sassanid Empires 155
Chapter XLII. The Dynasties of Suy and Tang in China 159
Chapter XLIII. Muhammad and Islam 161
Chapter XLIV. The Great Days of the Arabs 164
Chapter XLV. The Development of Latin Christendom 168
Chapter XLVI. The Crusades and the Age of Papal Dominion 176
Chapter XLVII. Recalcitrant Princes and the Great Schism 183
Chapter XLVIII. The Mongol Conquests 190
Chapter XLIX. The Intellectual Revival of the Europeans 195
Chapter L. The Reformation of the Latin Church 202
Chapter LI. The Emperor Charles V 205
Chapter LII. The Age of Political Experiments; of Grand Monarchy and Parliaments and Republicanism in Europe 212
Chapter LIII. The New Empires of the Europeans in Asia and Overseas 221
Chapter LIV. The American War of Independence 226
Chapter LV. The French Revolution and the Restoration of Monarchy in France 230
Chapter LVI. The Uneasy Peace in Europe that followed the Fall of Napoleon 237
Chapter LVII. The Development of Material Knowledge 241
Chapter LVIII. The Industrial Revolution 248
Chapter LIX. The Development of Modern Political and Social Ideas 251
Chapter LX. The Expansion of the United States 260
Chapter LXI. The Rise of Germany to Predominance in Europe 267
Chapter LXII. The New Overseas Empires of Steamship and Railway 269
Chapter LXIII. European Aggression in Asia and the Rise of Japan 274
Chapter LXIV. The British Empire in 1914 278
Chapter LXV. The Age of Armament in Europe and the Great War of 1914-18 280
Chapter LXVI. The New Order in Russia 285
Chapter LXVII. The League of Nations 292
Chapter LXVIII. The Failure of the League of Nations 296
Chapter LXIX. The Crisis of Human Adaptation 307
Chronological Table 311
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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2014

    The Greatest Story Ever Told! Along with The Outline of History

    The Greatest Story Ever Told!

    Along with The Outline of History, this Short History of the World is the best and most underrated book by H. G. Wells, the master of science fiction, much better than all his scientific romances combined since it is actually a true story. It tells the epic adventure of the history of the world, life, and mankind according to the sciences of astronomy, biology, geology, anthropology, and world history. This is the modern worldview expounded by Wells in the early twentieth century. The book spans from the origins of the solar system to the outbreak of World War 1, with footnotes covering later history like World War 2 and the Space Race. Before the Big Bang theory, Wells speculates that the universe has existed for billions of years or has existed for an infinite amount of time. After dealing with the origin and evolution of our planet, the story covers the origin of life in the first seas and the evolution of life towards dry land, the sky, and beyond. The geological ages covered include the Ages of Fish, Amphibians, Reptiles, Mammals and Birds, Apes and Submen, and finally Mankind. Despite the subsequent progressive ages, the Paleolithic Age, the Neolithic Age, the Industrial Age, and the various imperial ages of the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Mongols, Arabs, and later Europeans, the many wars detailed in the book and the Darwinian struggle for existence prove that history is more nature red in tooth and claw and more about the march of armies than the march of progress and enlightenment. The book likewise covers the history of religion, including paganism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, giving interesting biographies of the major founders of these great but outworn faiths. Despite the sufferings and tragedies of world history, life moves on and slowly progresses, perpetually dying as the old generation and being reborn as the new generation, and the range of life widens until the modern era when life has left our little planet and started to explore the wider universe. Thus, humanity finds itself on the path either to self-imposed destruction by modern global warfare or to further social and biological evolution in the formation of a world state and the colonization of space. It appears despite the sheer length of this epic story, we are merely at the twilight of the dawn and future history will be far longer and greater than all the history already recorded, if we don’t blow ourselves up first of course. I’d recommend this book as a good swift prelude before one reads the larger and better Outline of History, also by Wells, and the modern version of Mr. Wells’ History, Big History by David Christian. This story is clearly the greatest story ever told!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2013

    Ok book


    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2012


    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2012


    Completely boring. DO NOT READ!!! REPEAT:DO NOT READ!!!! I literally would have given it zero stars. Its too....... just not my type of reading. But seriously, i wouldnt buy this book if it was required for class. Dont even think about reading it. Not once, and dont even go to twice.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted April 7, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2011

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