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The Lessons of History

Written by: Will, Ariel Durant
Narrated by: Grover Gardner
Length: 5 hrs and 35 mins
Categories: History, Ancient History
4.5 out of 5 stars (82 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The authors devoted five decades to the study of world history and philosophy, culminating in the masterful 11-volume Story of Civilization. In this compact summation of their work, Will and Ariel Durant share the vital and profound lessons of our collective past. Their perspective, gained after a lifetime of thinking and writing about the history of humankind, is an invaluable resource for us today. The rare archival recordings of the Durants in conversation, made from 1957-1977, illuminate our present condition and offer insightful guidance for the future.

©2004 John Little, Monica Ariel Mihell, and William James Durant Easton (P)2004 Durant archival recordings 1957-1977 used with permission of John Little, Monica Ariel Mihell, and William James Durant Easton

What listeners say about The Lessons of History

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Dear God Noooo

I’ve listened to some bad audiobooks in audible. This, however, takes the cake. I am certain this book would constitute as actual torture, it probably violates the Geneva convention. Its narrated by a guy who sounds like those 1930s radio broadcasters with the dryness that can only come from reading a history tome. The lessons themselves are imparted by what has to be a clone of Churchill with a more pronounced speech impediment.

1 person found this helpful

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I'm glad I got the audio version VS. The book.

The content was rich. Some could see it as dry. Worth the credit for me.

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Well...

The content is great but I find it so difficult to hear and understand what Mr. Durant is saying in the interviews that it ruined the rythm of my listening.

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Great book!

A book full of hard-earned wisdom. I found it inspiring and humbling at the same time.

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Brilliant

A brilliant mind that delivers the wisdom gathered over decades of historical review and synthesis. Should be required reading/listening for all. I’ve reaped a new appreciation for how much we share with our ancestors - we really haven’t developed very much over the past number of centuries. Don’t believe me have a read/listen.

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  • JJ
  • 2018-02-09

As Relevant Today as in the 1960s

The author examines several of the social, moral and political issues we have today through the lens of history. It went back and forth between the narrator reading the book and personal interviews with Will and his wife Ariel. I found that part to be annoying but the actual book itself is awesome.

Given that it was written in the 1960s, it is incredible how relevant it is to the issues we are facing in the 2010's. I enjoyed it so much I bought it in hard copy and will definitely be listening to his other books. He takes some very complicated material and simplifies it in a manner that is both interesting and easily comprehended.

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Interesting ideas deriving from the broadest point of view any author could take

Looking back as far as human stepped on the earth, the authors share their view about history patterns. This bird's eye view litterally take us away, giving birth to reflexions on the necessary objective conditions for human civilization such as how to restrain the source of almost all problems a civilization can be affliged of: human nature.

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Michael
  • 2004-11-05

I Am Humbly in Awe.

Will Durant started out caught up in the socialist ferver of his time and one will find remnants of that in his writing. Yet the breadth of what he wrote trumps any idealogical subtleties and places him firmly in the company of such timeless writers as Wells and Gibbon. Reading Durant I find myself so appreciative of this supremely educated man's breadth of perspective that he matched with a humble lack of presumption (an amazing feat for someone so learned). I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK. Who wouldn't want to read the conclusions of a man who spent over half a century studying, synthesizing, and writing The Story of Civilization. WONDERFUL!

51 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • BradleyBurr
  • 2007-10-29

This is a must for every Educated Person

I read a lot. But this is one of the most important books I have ever read. I just wish every body would have the opportunity to listen to or read this book. Rarely is there such a distilled understanding of what history has to teach us. Durrant is one of the most intelligent, articulate and deep thinking people of our time (dead now). I now own his 11 volume history of the world. But this book is a gem. A clear thinking, facinating view of the sweep of history from one of the few people who really, really understand the sweep of history. This is a must read for everyone in my humble opinion. You don't even need to be interested in history really. You just have to be interested in humanity, it's state and the great priciples of life. It is almost more of a book of philosphy derived from a study of the history of humanity.

66 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Eric
  • 2004-11-30

6,000 Years In a Nutshell

The book, itself, is a swift collection of fascinating ideas. It reminds me of Jacques Barzun's "From Dawn to Decadence" in its ability to draw ideas from the famous events and characters of history. Since it is so quick, one isn't able to follow the roots of the ideas that surface like one might with Barzun. One must take the author's word for a lot of his conclusions. But, the thoughts stimulated from this survey are quite rewarding nonetheless.

The narrator is reliable and appropriate for the tone of the book. The quite enjoyable interviews are more for learning the personality of the Durants rather than amending the ideas in the book, but are still insightful.

18 people found this helpful

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  • Cal
  • 2005-03-22

Genius Mind

This is one of the best books I've read on history. It encompasses the basic actions and motivations of the human race since the start of civilization with philosophical twist. Excellent reading for future leaders and philosophers.

13 people found this helpful

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  • Douglas J. Wolf
  • 2013-08-16

If you only read one book on history, this is it

Americans seem particularly immune to the lessons of history but also openly disdainful of the subject. Well, for those of you who are in that category but realize reading an insightful survey of history might add to your overall education, this is the best choice.

Or, if you enjoy reading history, this recording gives you a great touchstone to the context of whatever you are reading at the time. Herodotus' Greek histories make much more sense when the aspect of the strategic importance to trade the Dardanelles played in the Greeks vs Persians.

I have listened many times over and still glean insights that I had missed or relationships.

The huge bonus of the live interviews of the Durants is worth the cost alone.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Yousuf
  • 2007-06-12

A treat complemeting author's previous works

After listening to engaging works from Will Durant like "Story of Philosophy" and "Heroes Of History," it was a treat to listen to the intellectual bring it all together and share his personal views on history. In particular, it was striking to here Durant's attempt to demonstrate how the cycles of history relate to the changing moral fiber within societies.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Judith
  • 2007-11-13

A Freshman All Over Again

Will & Ariel gently and articulately took me in a head lock and pried my eyes open and made me gaze upon my ignorance a new. I feel like I am a college freshman all over again with a mountain of ignorance to plow through. 200 undergrad hours and 20 countries failed to properly illuminate much of the wonder they bare here. Do not deprive yourself of these delicious perspectives on the patterns of religion, morality, trade, economics and the clash of classes through the ages.

19 people found this helpful

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  • The Bookie
  • 2019-03-27

Astonishing...READ THIS BOOK!

Will and Ariel Durant's books have graced my shelves all my life, admittedly collecting dust most of the time, until I needed some specific reference information. Regardless, I knew I could trust them to present historical information and context better than any website or encyclopedia.

So when I saw this short book, I hesitated perhaps thirty seconds - a land speed record for a girl who tends to vacillate over everything. But I love history. I want to know everything that happened, everything we know. Which, of course, is impossible.

However, if any one (or two) people knew close to everything about human history, it would have been the Durants. But then to find a book about the philosophy of history, the trends spanning thousands of years, the cycles and instincts that dominate an allegedly civilized animal, the directions we always go when certain stimuli is applied...

This book is something of a miracle - the perfect combination of knowledge and wisdom. An exceedingly rare thing indeed.

Then too, the recordings of Will and Ariel in interviews further elucudating their points... Brilliant and so endearing! For that reason I dare say this Audible edition is the best version of this book! And often I believe points can be lost in listening to complex and often abstract ideas. Not here. Not at all.

Accessible, intelligent, humble, and CRITICAL to the enduring success of our modern civilization, this book may be the MOST IMPORTANT BOOK I have EVER READ. And I have read some amazing works.

So read this. Listen. Don't hesitate. Read it again, share it with...everybody. Require it in schools. Base government decisions on its guidance. I am serious. No exaggeration. The future of our world may well depend on grasping and initiating the ideas so generously shared by the Durants. Their contribution to their world can not be overstated.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Dan Collins
  • 2018-03-05

Patterns in History

This book is made for those of us who Ray Dalio would say are looking for "another one of those". It isn't that history repeats itself. It is more that we have not changed all that much in all of recorded history so we keep doing the same things over again. Call it a lack of options or a lack of creativity, the result is patterns that tend to manifest and repeat. This book explores those patterns juxtaposed against various frames of reference (like morality for instance).

4 people found this helpful

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  • Don Boots
  • 2016-08-01

Wealth of history analysis in a small package

What made the experience of listening to The Lessons of History the most enjoyable?

The huge coverage in such a short time.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

Probably the vast knowledge on very broad subject by the authors.

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

The pace of the narration sometimes was too fast for my 76 year old brain to keep up with
considering the brevity of text in covering complex situations.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The last 3 minutes

Any additional comments?

Just the sort of information that I was looking for. Not disappointed.

4 people found this helpful