The Human Story: Our History, From the Stone Age to Today

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Harper Collins, Jun 29, 2004 - History - 466 pages
3 Reviews

Has there ever been a history of the world as readable as this?

In The Human Story, James C. Davis takes us on a journey to ancient times, telling how peoples of the world settled down and founded cities, conquered neighbors, and established religions, and continues over the course of history, when they fought two nearly global wars and journeyed into space.

Davis's account is swift and clear, never dull or dry. He lightens it with pungent anecdotes and witty quotes. Although this compact volume may not be hard to pick up, it's definitely hard to put down.

For example, on the death of Alexander the Great, who in a decade had never lost a single battle, and who had staked out an empire that spanned the entire Near East and Egypt, Davis writes: "When they heard how ill he was, the king's devoted troops insisted on seeing him. He couldn't speak, but as his soldiers -- every one -- filed by in silence, Alexander's eyes uttered his farewells. He died in June 323 B.C., at the ripe old age of thirty-two."

In similar fashion Davis recounts Russia's triumph in the space race as it happened on an autumn night in 1957: "A bugle sounded, flames erupted, and with a roar like rolling thunder, Russia's rocket lifted off. It bore aloft the earth's first artificial satellite, a shiny sphere the size of a basketball. Its name was Sputnik, meaning 'companion' or 'fellow traveler' (through space). The watchers shouted, 'Off. She's off. Our baby's off!' Some danced; others kissed and waved their arms."

Though we live in an age of many doubts, James C. Davis thinks we humans are advancing. As The Human Story ends, he concludes, "The world's still cruel; that's understood, / But once was worse. So far so good."


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The human story: our history, from the Stone Age to today

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Davis (history, emeritus, Univ. of Pennsylvania) has performed a small miracle by writing a history of humanity in under 500 pages, beginning with Homo erectus and continuing up to the current war in ... Read full review

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In Chapter 10, describing the invasion of Spain and other European countries to Latin America, James C Davis describes in detail the devastating effects of smallpox (brought by the Europeans) on the indigenous population. He states that the smallpox bacterium killed many natives. Smallpox is not a disease caused by a bacterium, but by a virus!!! The difference is huge and it has many historical implications, since viruses can't be eradicated using antibiotics. When you write a book you must be accurate...
Michael Telias


We fill the earth
We gather by the rivers
The wanderers settle down
Two ancient cities follow diverse paths
China excels and endures
Some attempt to rule us all
We found the worldwide faiths
Europe prepares for its big role
We multiply and shrink the earth
We wage a war to end war
A utopia becomes a nightmare
A Leader tries to shape a master race
20 We wage a wider crueler war
The Asian giants try to feed their poor
Some of us do well
We walk along the brink

We find each other
10 The New World falls to the Old one
n We suffer famine war and plague
We discover who we are and where we live
Here and there the people rule
We make more and live better
The richer countries grab the poorer
We do the unbelievable
So Far So Good
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Page 32 - Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. • I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.
Page 354 - Secondly, a revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained, and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.
Page 43 - I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Page 222 - often and often in the course of the session, and the vicissitudes of my hopes and fears as to its issue, looked at that behind the president without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now at length I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting sun.
Page 208 - I do not know what I may appear to the world ; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.
Page 115 - Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's foes will be those of his own household.
Page 210 - You know, all is development. The principle is perpetually going on. First, there was nothing, then there was something; then, I forget the next, I think there were shells, then fishes; then we came, let me see, did we come next? Never mind that; we came at last. And the next change there will be something very superior to us, something with wings. Ah! that's it: we were fishes, and I believe we shall be crows. But you must read it.
Page 262 - That there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them, and, by God's grace, do the very best we could by them, as our fellowmen for whom Christ also died.
Page 44 - He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Page 44 - God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.

About the author (2004)

James C. Davis taught history at the University of Pennsylvania for thirty-four years. He is the author of four other books, dealing with Venice, the early history of European nations, and the lives of peasants and blue-collar workers.

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