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squilky's avatar

Most efficient way to learn World History?

Asked by squilky (84points) July 7th, 2009

I find learning about different cultures very interesting, so it make me realize that I know a lot about US History, but I don’t know very much about events like the French Revolution, the Crusades or the British Monarchy. Do you know of any books, DVD’s, CD’s etc that give a good overview of European history and the history of the rest of the world?

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16 Answers

PandoraBoxx's avatar

The classic is the The Story of Civilization by Will and Ariel Durant

Bluefreedom's avatar

On DVD – History of the World, Part 1 – an invaluable learning resource.

Sorry, I just couldn’t resist it.

sap82's avatar

Study regularly.

zephyr826's avatar

Take (or audit) an Intro to World History course at a local college. A good teacher can be a valuable resource.

seVen's avatar

Library,... a multi-national library since each country’s depiction of history is more or less biased.

Saturated_Brain's avatar

You’re asking for a lot you realise? History is so subjective, so vast, so deep that to ask for something which gives an overview of history is like asking somebody to summarise all of wikipedia’s articles into one page.

In all honesty, I think that your best bet would be an encyclopedia set, or maybe something similar dedicated to history.

Then again, have you ever tried Try taking a look at its World History page. Should find something to help you. There’s a lot more I also saw, such as culture.

Oh, and have you ever played Civilization IV? If you haven’t, and if you’re looking for a good way to get through some basic world history, this is the game to play. Besides being extremely addictive, there’s an encyclopedia section within the game which gives you historical information on the various civilisations, leaders, buildings and even units featured within the game.

And if all else fails, you could always wiki stuff.

And if you’re still not satisfied, I have a resource which gives a very quick guide to certain empires (and their falls) in history. It’s a fascinating read, though rather shallow in depth. You can contact me if you’d like it.

squilky's avatar

Yes, I realize that it’s a very broad subject, that’s why I mentioned the French revolution, British Monarchy and the Crusades specifically. Even so, I know those subjects are vast as well. Thanks for all the links, I’ll check them out.

MindErrantry's avatar

I would really suggest taking a course, as @zephyr826 has pointed out above—a good teacher will really help with the interpretation (always key in history), and, though it won’t sound like much fun, any writing assignments (should you, as an auditing student, choose to write them) will help you think about the material and get it ingrained.

On to your specific topics—just finished my Crusades seminar at school this past spring. Not actually my favorite topic, but I can give you a bit of help there. Christopher Tyreman is one of the main-stream-ish authors on the Crusades right now; he’s done a variety of books which I have encountered in several classes. On the most basic level, he’s done an overview of the Crusades in the ‘Very Short Introduction’ series, which you can get for under three dollars (last time I checked). He’s also done several other books; I am desperately trying to recall which one we used in basic Medieval History, which did a good job (so far as I recall) of discussing the modern-day implications of the Crusades, as well as some basic information. I’ll get back to you if I can remember it…

The other guy you want to look at is Jonathan Riley-Smith, who’s done all sorts of introductions on the topic of Crusades, and is very well-respected in the field. I’ve used a variety of his articles in my research (on specialist topics), so I don’t have any particular books to recommend, but he does a very good job and can give a wide range of useful perspectives.

Hm. The rest of what we looked at were primary sources, so if you wanted to get into those, you’re straying from the ‘most efficient’ route into the more in-depth and certainly very valuable but time consuming (sometimes) and often confusing route; if you would be interested in reading some of the original documents, I’d be happy to elaborate, but they’re something which are, for the beginner (by which I mean up through college even) best covered in class—they’re often very hard to reconcile with one another and can be very confusing and unhelpful without a guided examination. This is particularly true of the Crusades—I don’t know how many charts we drew up comparing and contrasting the various accounts of this or that event!

What exactly are you looking for when you say the ‘British Monarchy’? Are you just looking for info about particular queens and kings, or more on the evolution of the institution itself? Either way, I’ll have to go back and dig through my books to find anything good; we’re out of my speciality here :) Same goes for French Revolution; I’ve only covered it inicdentally myself, but I think I can find something useful if I review a bit.

Excuse my for straying outside of matieral you might actually want, given your purposes. I blame my seminar for my over-detailed ramblings!

gailcalled's avatar

Slow and steady. You can spend an entire lifetime, given the size and complexity of the world. I am still learning. Just saw a movie called “Sin Nombre” which gave me some insights into the politics of Central America and also “Sugar,” which looks at the poverty of the Dominican Republic and the its young men’s hopes of becoming pro baseball players in the US.

And you can never keep up; every day there is more history to remember.

watermelonsugar's avatar

History channel and a good world history class.

MindErrantry's avatar

I find the history channel a bit dubious—not necessarily in terms of content (though some of the ideas they present are a little hare-brained), but in terms of presentation—you could get a lot more out of reading a good book.

Deepness's avatar

History is written by the victors. History is actually HIS story. Conquer a people. Burn their books. Give them new books, depicting what you want them to believe happened. Eventually newer generations will accept this new story as actual history.

For example, I read somewhere (Times?) about immigrant statistics and I remember the article saying immigrants hold to their home values. Their children lose some but go through a clashing of cultures (between parents values and new society). The 3rd generation assimilates western values and ideologies and have little to no cultural identity.

MindErrantry's avatar

History is not ‘HIS story’ by any means, either etymologically (it comes to English from the French histoire, which goes back through Old French to Latin historia) or figuratively—the field of women’s history is going very strong. It’s a mistake to associate history with politics alone, where yes, for most of Western history men have been major players (though certainly not exclusive players, another mistake often made); history is a broad field encompassing all aspects of past life, where males and females were both present (as always). Let’s stop perpetuating this viewpoint based on incidental similarities between history and this clich├ęd phrase; neither the subject matter of history, nor the modern discipline, can be so neatly boxed.

mzdesigns's avatar

dont listen to anything Foxnews, CNN or any other biased network has to say.

YARNLADY's avatar

Don’t expect to learn it by reading a book about History. The way to learn history of the world is to read many different books by historians from many different countries. Try to find authorized translations of the languages you don’t know.

filmfann's avatar

The best way to learn history is to travel.
Short of that, I love the television show Connections, the History Channel, and the book “Don’t know much about History”.

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