Open in the App Open in the App Open in the App
Get the key ideas from

The Lessons of History

The celebrated collection of essays compiling over 5,000 years of history by two of the greatest thinkers of our time

By Will Durant and Ariel Durant
21-minute read
Audio available
The Lessons of History by Will Durant and Ariel Durant

The Lessons of History (1968) gives an overview of more than 5,000 years of human history. It covers changes in morality, religion and governmental systems like socialism and capitalism, and traces the historical trends of war. Along the way, it offers a variety of lessons on what history means for the present.

  • History and politics enthusiasts
  • Anyone interested in human progress

Will Durant was a writer, historian and philosopher. Ariel Durant was a researcher and writer. The couple is best known for The Story of Civilization, an eleven-volume overview all of Western history. They were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction and the Presidential Medal of Freedom for their work.

Go Premium and get the best of Blinkist

Upgrade to Premium now and get unlimited access to the Blinkist library. Read or listen to key insights from the world’s best nonfiction.

Upgrade to Premium

What is Blinkist?

The Blinkist app gives you the key ideas from a bestselling nonfiction book in just 15 minutes. Available in bitesize text and audio, the app makes it easier than ever to find time to read.

Discover
3,000+ top
nonfiction titles

Get unlimited access to the most important ideas in business, investing, marketing, psychology, politics, and more. Stay ahead of the curve with recommended reading lists curated by experts.

Join Blinkist to get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from
Get the key ideas from

The Lessons of History

By Will Durant and Ariel Durant
  • Read in 21 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 13 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
The Lessons of History by Will Durant and Ariel Durant
Synopsis

The Lessons of History (1968) gives an overview of more than 5,000 years of human history. It covers changes in morality, religion and governmental systems like socialism and capitalism, and traces the historical trends of war. Along the way, it offers a variety of lessons on what history means for the present.

Key idea 1 of 13

Geography has a big influence on a civilization, but its influence declines as technology advances.

Think about your hometown. Is it near a river, the sea or a lake? Does it have good railway connections? Answering such simple questions can teach you a lot about a place.

That’s because a city’s geographical conditions play a big role in its development. This has been true throughout all of human history; settlers have always been attracted to rivers, lakes, oases and oceans, not only because of the water and food they provide but because of transportation and trade, too.

Consider Mesopotamia. Generally accepted as the cradle of human civilization, it was founded on settlements established between two great rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris. The space between these rivers allowed cultures like the Sumerians and Babylonians to flourish and build their empires.

Many other empires have been built beside rivers: ancient Egypt has been called the gift of the Nile and ancient Rome grew because of the Tiber, Arno and Po.

Geographical conditions can change, however. Extreme climates have forced countless civilizations to move and caused others to decline. Civilizations can fall if rain becomes scarce, as happened in parts of Central Asia. When rain becomes too heavy, as it did in parts of Central America, jungles can overgrow and smother entire cities.

But technology has changed our relationship to geography. As a civilization’s technology for transporting goods improves, it becomes less influenced by geographical factors.

Cars, trains and especially planes have made it much easier to transport goods. Trade routes aren’t bound to rivers or seas when planes can move goods directly overhead.

This is why the commercial advantage of countries like England and France began declining as cars, trains and planes were developed. England and France no longer have a great advantage because of their coastlines, while countries like Russia, China and Brazil aren’t impeded by their huge land mass.

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

Key ideas in this title

Upgrade to continue Read or listen now

No time to
read?

Pssst. Sign up to your secret to success: key ideas from top nonfiction in just 15 minutes.
Created with Sketch.