Fernand Braudel was one of the greatest historians of the twentieth century. A leading member of the Annales school, he rejected a narrow focus on Western warfare, diplomacy, and power politics, and opened up economic and social history to influences from anthropology, sociology, geography, psychology, and linguistics. In the late 1950s, when the Annales approach was widely accepted in French universities, a major reform introduced the study of "the main contemporary civilizations" into the final year of secondary schools. Traditionalists attacked the new stress on the social sciences and eventually triumphed, but Braudel was firmly committed to such changes. This marvelous survey of world history, the last of his books to be translated into English, was originally intended for French "sixth-formers." Yet its real value is far more permanent. Even an "educational story," Braudel once suggested in a lecture, can become a "tale of adventure," provided the historian manages to "find the key to a civilization" and is not afraid of simplicity - "not simplicity that distorts the truth, produces a void, and is another name for mediocrity, but simplicity that is clarity, the light of intelligence." Such a light shines throughout A History of Civilizations. After an introductory section examining the nature of cultures and civilizations, their continuities and transformations, Braudel surveys broad historical developments in almost every corner of the globe: the Muslim world - from the rise of Islam to post-colonial revival; Black Africa - from the slave trade to the dilemmas of development; the Far East: China, India, the maritime states and Japan; Europe - from the collapse of the Roman Empire to political union; the European civilizations of the New World: Latin America and the United States; the English-speaking universe: Canada, Southern Africa, Australia, and New Zealand; and the other Europe: Russia, the USSR, and the CIS. For this excellent translation, Richard
The late historian Braudel ( The Perspective of the World, LJ 10/15/84) was a leader of the French ``Annales'' school of historiography, which emphasizes a multidisciplinary approach to history while deemphasizing the study of individual personalities and events. This work was written in 1962 to be used as a text in the French secondary school system. It was ostensibly rejected as being too difficult for students, but the real reason may have been that it lacked a Western bias; non-Western and Western civilizations are given equal emphasis. Though it is not error-free--witness the statement that has Ptolemy ruling Macedonia rather than Egypt--this work is a broad survey that attempts to understand the character and continuity of civilizations on a global scale. It can be seen as a precursor to the multicultural approach to studies that is in vogue today. Highly recommended.-- Robert J. Andrews, Duluth P . L . , Minn.