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The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome    by Susan Wise Bauer order for
History of the Ancient World
by Susan Wise Bauer
Order:  USA  Can
W. W. Norton, 2007 (2007)

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* * *   Reviewed by Alex Telander

The History of the Ancient World is Susan Wise Bauer's first in a four-volume series, in which she attempts to recount a complete history of the world. In this first tome, she covers the beginnings of civilization as we changed our nomadic ways, on through the ancient world, up to Emperor Constantine and the fall of the great Roman Empire. Weighing in at 860 pages, including notes and bibliography, it's the most detailed and complete history of the ancient world I have ever read.

Bauer's approach to bringing this lengthy but important time in history to the reader is to recount a chronological history of the ancient world, focusing a chapter on each state as it rises, prospers, and then falls. This pulling back and looking at the different regions on a wide scale makes the book an indispensable resource to bring out why certain things happen, and why certain people do the things they do - showing that they are related and dependent on all events and happenings in that part of the world, and not just on their local context. Bauer achieves this by telling everyone's story concurrently. It is a magnificent feat - not just from the reader's standpoint in understanding history - but on an editorial scale also. In this way, the readers sees that history isn't just about one group conquering another for personal gain (though this is certainly a part of it), but humanity's overall striving for improvement and evolution.

Bauer uses obvious and clear chapter titles, along with a few sentences on what the chapter is about, as well as a complete table of contents. The book is split up into five parts: The Edge of History, Firsts, Struggle, Empires, and Identity. In this way, Bauer indicates humanity's progression in the ancient world and makes it clear what the reader will take from the book. What's missing is the history of the ancient western world - that is, the Americas (due to lack of historical evidence, I presume) - and Africa is left for a later book. Bauer does cover Asia and India, though not to the same extent as Western Europe and the Middle East. She presents at best a survey of ancient times in these parts of the world. Nevertheless, she does an amazing job of covering each civilization in parallel, so that the reader knows what was happening in China and Babylon during the rise of the Pharaohs in Ancient Egypt. Tables at the end of each chapter cover the events in that chapter, as well as those in the previous chapter, listing them side by side with a timeline.

The History of the Ancient World is a remarkable resource - including a large number of maps and pictures - for any amateur historian with an interest in the ancient civilizations across the globe. Now I am impatiently waiting for the next volume in the series, which will cover the Middle Ages throughout the world.

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