An ambitious but humble undertaking to summarize learnings from 5000 years of history onto 100 pages. Change is accelerating and the authors want to ferret out the facts of history, establish meaningful chaos of the material, and seek perspective and enlightenment. From many lessons, few stand out:

  1. Human history is a brief spot in space, and history is subject to geology. Nonetheless, man, not the earth, makes civilizations. 
  2. Life is competition (sometimes in form of cooperation), selection (freedom and equality are everlasting enemies – if we let one rule completely free it will kill the other. That is because we human beings are physically and psychologically different)  and that life must breed (although high birthrates are accompanied by low cultural civilization and vice versa).
  3. About Race: history is colorblind and can develop civilization in any favorable environment under almost every skin. It is not race that makes the civilization, it is the civilization that makes the people → culture creates a human type. Key against racism is broad education.
  4. About the character: Human nature is defined as the fundamental tendencies and feelings of mankind. The most basic tendencies are instincts. Instincts generate habits, who are accompanied by feelings.
  5. Poor have the same impulses as the rich, only with less opportunity or skill to implement them.
  6. The initiative individual is a formative force in history (e.g. a Churchill, Morse, Ford, Edison, etc…) → imitative majority follows the innovating minority
  7. Three stages in history: hunting, agriculture, and industry → morals changed/adjusted to environmental conditions. (e.g. Family life on Farm to individual work in factories) but sin flourished in every age.
  8. Bias in history: the historian tends to record the exceptional.
  9. Religion (or any other form of mythology) has transformed morals and gave meaning and comfort to millions, but is now replaced step-by-step by education.
  10. Every economic system must sooner or later rely upon some form of the profit motive to stir individuals /groups to productivity. Men are generally judged by the ability to produce.
  11. The concentration of wealth is a natural result of a concentration of ability. But, strength in numbers in the poor can rival the strength of ability in the rich which can cause revolution or reformation to redistribute wealth.
  12. Fear of capitalism has compelled socialism to increase freedom and the fear of socialism has compelled capitalism to increase equality.
  13. Democracy is the most difficult form of government since it requires the widest spread of intelligence, and we forgot to make ourselves intelligent when we made ourselves sovereign. If equality of educational opportunity can be established, democracy will be real and justified.
  14. If the economy of freedom fails to distribute wealth as ably as it creates it, the road to dictatorship is open to every man who can persuasively promise security to all. 
  15. The earth will only be one if there is a common enemy out of space. (or a coronavirus pandemic ;-))
  16. There is no meaning in human existence except that which men put into is → it should be our pride that we may put meaning into our lives, and sometimes a significance that transcends death

While there are some great learnings from the book, I disagree with the author in a couple of points: he says we are not as much restrained by climate than earlier in history, but actually, climate change will hinder us more than anything in the future. The author also draws a dark picture of humankind, whereas I believe in the inherently good in our humanity.

If that sparked your interest, you can buy the book here.


I am reading A LOT of books lately and to remember more of what I read, I summarize them and give my thoughts on it. I thought why not share it with you. If you buy the book through the links at the end of the post, I might get a little bit of commission at no charge to you.

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