History of the World

The first page of A Short History of the World by H.G. Wells, published in 1922:

Over a large part of the civilized world it was believed and taught that the world had been created suddenly in 4004 B.C., though authorities differed as to whether this had occurred in the spring or autumn of that year. This fantastically precise misconception was based upon a too literal interpretation of the Hebrew Bible, and upon rather arbitrary theological assumptions connected therewith. Such ideas have long since been abandoned by religious teachers, and it is universally recognized that the universe in which we live has to all appearances existed for an enormous period of time and possibly for endless time. Of course there may be deception in these appearances, as a room may be made to seem endless by putting mirrors facing each other at either end. But that the universe in which we live has existed only for six or seven thousand years may be regarded as an altogether exploded idea.

In 1922, such a preface to the age of the universe was probably necessary. What I wonder is how many American history books, especially history textbooks would make the radical claim that a “literal interpretation of the Hebrew Bible, and … rather arbitrary theological assumptions connected therewith [have] long since been abandoned by religious teachers”? Is world history even part of the required curriculum today? I took a single (very badly-abbreviated) course in high school, and not a single world history course during college in the process of getting a political science degree. (!!!) Is world history too politicized to be even be taught in public primary and secondary school anymore?
For an updated no-nonsense course on world history, I recommend J.M. Robert’s The New History of the World. I’ve also heard good things about A First History for Adults.

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  1. What picture is that in the banner? I know it’s certainly not a city in the South. And the skyline doesn’t look quite like Chicago or Aspen for that matter…

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