History S Greatest Tour Guide Is Back And He S Ringing The Changes In A Contest Of Change, Which Century From The Past Millennium Would Come Up Trumps Imagine The Black Death Took On The Female Vote In A Pub Brawl, Or The Industrial Revolution Faced The Internet In A Medieval Joust Whose Side Would You Be On In This Hugely Entertaining Book, Celebrated Historian Ian Mortimer Takes Us On A Whirlwind Tour Of Western History, Pitting One Century Against Another In His Quest To Measure Change We Journey From A Time When There Was A Fair Chance Of Your Village Being Burnt To The Ground By Invaders, And Dried Human Dung Was A Recommended Cure For Cancer, To A World In Which Explorers Sailed Into The Unknown And Civilisations Came Into Conflict With Each Other On An Epic Scale Here Is A Story Of Godly Scientists, Shrewd Farmers, Cold Hearted Entrepreneurs And Strong Minded Women A Story Of Discovery, Invention, Revolution And Cataclysmic Shifts In Perspective Bursting With Ideas And Underscored By A Wry Sense Of Humour, This Is A Journey Into The Past Like No Other Our Understanding Of Change Will Never Be The Same Again And The Lessons We Learn Along The Way Are Profound Ones For Us All dnf at around 50%no harsh feelings about this book in fact when i read the 50% of it that i read i found it interesting and well written BUT it s been a year since i read this and i don t see myself getting into it again in the near future i would actually still recommend it if you re interested in the topic and maybe someday i ll pick it up again In his latest book historian Ian Mortimer examines a much longer period of time than he did in his previous work Mortimer takes a look at the past 1000 years and examines century by century the most important changes in the respective periods His aim is to find out which of the past ten centuries experienced the most changes.Centuries of Change is written in a very readable way There was lots of information in it I already knew but now looked at again from a different perspective I just have some minor critic the further Ian Mortimer progressed in history, the less detailed he was This is understandable, however the early centuries just weren t as fast paced as the later ones There were still major changes but just not so many of them At the end of each chapter the principal agent of change for each century is described In the nineteenth century Karl Marx is named here Having read the chapter I was a bit astonished by that Karl Marx is hardly mentioned before and then he is suddenly the most important person of the century This seemed a bit weird.One of the best parts of the book is Ian Mortimer s way of figuring out which century really experienced the most changes To do that he uses Maslow s hierarchy of needs and constructs his own pyramid from that He then applies different statistical methods constructed by others to rank the centuries for each item Ian Mortimer finally comes to the conclusion that the twentieth century was the one with the most changes To him and also to me this was a bit surprising we both would have opted for the nineteenth century.All in all this book was an enjoyable read, though not quite as entertaining as I d hoped I learned a lot from it and also could identify two centuries I definetely wouldn t have wanted to live in the 13th because of the Black Death and the 17th because of the wars, e.g the 30 year war in central Europe I received a free digital copy via Netgalley the publisher Thanks for the opportunity Check out my full review here is the Point of History It s a big question, certainly, and one that people interested in the subject and especially those funding it have to justify day in and day out For me, history is about seeing the consistencies and quirks of humanity as they experience gradual change, and what this change says about us as a species Essentially why do things change and how does it affect us It s no surprise then that I picked up this book Centuries of Change by Ian Mortimer, the talented historian behind the Time Traveller s Guide series The book aims to answer the huge question of which century saw the most change So often we assume it s the 20th or 21st centuries, what with their being rocketed off the back of the industrial revolution and into the space race and silicone revolution, but is Change as a capitalised force of nature limited only to technological advancement Mortimer takes the inspired approach to take each century at a time and examine what caused changes that affected the majority of society, from the lowly farmer to the grandest lord in how they lived their lives in the day to day, sweeping aside developments that while full of bells and whistles really affected the lifestyles of very few people dramatically In doing so he calls into question the true significance of many of our historical heroes how much influence did Leonardo Da Vinci have on history really while also supporting many of them in their status of vital innovators.In the concluding chapters Mortimer tracks technological change, religious change and ideological change for each century and then finally ranks and weighs them against humanity s scale of psychological needs and freedoms These are Physiological needs Security Law and order Health Ideology Community support Personal enrichment Community enrichmentBy taking this approach he builds up a set of data that can be used to properly quantify just how important and wide spanning the changes are in each century It s an interesting approach that is certainly interesting to read.Once he makes his final verdict he then moves on to consider what all of this means for the future of our own society, using the same rules and lessons learned to speculate that we could eventually find ourselves in a situation of reversal as resource depletion pushes society back into either a hierarchical nature or a disaster event comparable to the Black Death It s grim stuff, but is certainly an interesting perspective supported by convincing evidence In the end, he gives us a glimmer of optimism, assuring us that whatever our fate humans will always keep being humans, finding joy and creativity in our imperfect lives.However interesting the conclusions and speculations, it is in the journey of this book where the interest lies for me Because Mortimer walks us through each century in turn Centuries of Change is a great reference book for getting an overview on the important events of each century, boiling them down to the bare bones while still keeping a level of considered detail that really allows them to breathe If you ever want a book you can keep referring back to when you need a little overall context for a time period, this is certainly handy to have around. This is really original and fascinating concept, looking at the last thousand years of Western history, which century has seen the most change Ian Mortimer is an excellent historian, his works on the Middle Ages are both entertaining and academic here he has widened his remit to look at the key factors causing change over time and the proportionate effects Taking each century in turn Mortimer explores the changes that took place economically, societally and scientifically and looks at their impact on life He also considers which individuals had the biggest influence through their work.What makes this book that just a personal view of history is the attempt to quantify some of the information and actually produce a scientific conclusion than mere opinion Using Maslow s Hierarchy of Needs and a range of statistical sources Mortimer actually comes up with an answer. This is a curious intellectual exercise spanning 10 centuries, by a historian most known for his highly enjoyable Time Traveller s Guide series of introductions to life in much narrowly defined times and places I also happily recommend his other books, such as The Greatest Traitor.As a rule, I avoid books with a scope as wide as a millennium, in part because in any sweeping overview oversights and inaccuracies are inevitable, as nobody can be knowledgeable enough This book does suffer a bit from that phenomenon, and for example Mortimer s review of the scientific revolution in the 17th century is a part that I read with increasingly skeptical detachment The author himself considered it wiser to limit himself to the history of European civilisation, which is a serious constraint But even with these limitations, his review of historical change from 1001 to today is engaging If I interpret it well, part of Mortimer s case is that in past centuries the nature of change was different and we should acknowledge that when assessing their importance With a risk of caricaturing it, his argument is that for example we should stop thinking of the Middle Ages as a static period, just because Medieval people didn t have fast paced technological changes as we do They too had major change, but it primarily affected the structure of society and people s perception of the world and themselves in it These ten chapters, despite some visible flaws, are interesting The next step of the intellectual exercise is an elaborate effort to rank centuries by the importance of the changes that happened in them Unfortunately I don t care for it Roughly, I feel about it like tallying up Olympics medals by country It does no good at all and has too much potential to do harm In the case of the Olympics, state organised doping in the case of the ten centuries, a complex struggle to translate our biases into a conclusion that has plausible justifiability As the original title reflects much better than the bad pun that disgraces the paperback edition that assessment was the original goal of writing this book He wanted to challenge the widespread assumption that the 20th and 19th century were the centuries that saw the most important change, and in the end he concedes that they were But this leads him towards a dystopian conclusion, which deserves to be read, even if that is not very pleasant work To give my own oversimplified summary of it, Ian Mortimer argues that many of these changes of the 19th and the 20th centuries are not sustainable, because of their excessive consumption of the resources of the planet and in particular fossil fuels, and that our societies will therefore revert either in orderly way or in a chaotic way to a future that looks much like the 18th century He predicts a hierarchical and unequal society, in which most people will have less freedom or wealth, even if some achievements such as literacy are going to stay It is not exactly Mad Max, but it is not a cheerful vision of the future either I hope that it is a bit too mechanistic Certainly we would do well to think of the technology of the fossil fuel driven recent past as a blip, a fleeting phenomenon that will pass with these resources, and in the long run far less important than our continuity with antique and medieval ancestors who also relied primarily on water, wind and sun But to conclude from this that our future will look like our past seems a step too far, ignores too many factors, and is somewhat in conflict with Mortimer s earlier argument that important change is not limited to or dependent on technology alone I would be willing to concede, however, that given what we know today, his prediction might the most accurate one that a historian can make, for what it is worth To put a conclusion to it, I would characterise this book as ambitious and partially successful It is easier to be critic than a writer. It s a bit of a text book but is filled with interesting facts and anecdotes for history nerds like myself Probably better read a chapter at a time or picking out the bits that interest you reading it straight through over ten days like I did does seem to blur the facts somewhat Overall a fascinating read. Ian Mortimer sets out to determine which century of the past millenium saw the most change Being a historian of the middle ages Mortimer is positioned better than most to avoid the temptation to assume that the modern era naturally the answer He is a very talented historian who is able to make life in the often murky and distant middle ages knowable and real Like in his other books he is able to bring colour to this period and make you feel like you can understand what life was like back in the 11th century what was both the same as it is today and what was different This then allows him to illuminate the pace of change and how people back then may have seen things change dramatically in their lifetimes Mortimer assesses each century in turn and then finishes with an attempt to compare them and find some way of ranking them Here things risk becoming a mere game but he tries to apply methodology which makes his findings seem reasonable Naturally enough he concludes that the 20th and 19th centuries saw the most change but makes a good case for the ranking of other centuries I came away feeling that the 20th century is in many ways a continuation of the 19th century ie an industrialised, liberal, capitalist, materialist society which in turn is a continuation of the society that came about in the 16th century organised, lawful, secular.At the end of the book comes a chapter he called Ennui Here he attempts to draw a prediction for the future of humanity based on our past His conclusions make for depressing reading He posits that most of the changes that occurred in the past millenium are a result of improvements in our ability to feed ourselves provide ourselves with resources Here he applies Maslows hierachies of needs Once we were able to feed ourselves we could develop politically and meet other material needs But he says that until now we have only focussed on meeting the demands of human need and now the challenge will be supply Picking up where Malthus left off he sees the future as one in which an every increasing population and declining fossil fuels will result in less to go around He puts forward two scenarios smooth transition and cataclysm Both of which seem horribly bleak I am still reeling from this. Enjoyable and instructive Ian Mortimer certainly can write in an accessible way while at the same time showing a high level of scholarship We were all surprised he and myself when the 20th century turned out on his designed tool to be the century with most change I thought it would be the 19th. As an illiterate history person, I love what this book provides But first thing, I think it is important to state that this book is mainly about European or West history, which of course I do believe they still affect other countries or a whole world, especially in the 20th century, due to technological advancement I bought the hardback version, sealed, and at the back didn t say anything except for praises and comments from authors and yeah I was too lazy to do some research before buying it Nevertheless, I like it I think the author did his best to be objective to decide which events or who contribute in each century I like that he emphasized on what and how they had affected to wider people a.k.a civilians both for the better and for the worse.I know that he also gave his own point of view which some people see it as a downside or even outraging, but I think it is the point that made me hadn t stop until I reached the end of this book.
James Forrester.Dr Ian Mortimer is a historian and novelist, best known for his Time Traveller s Guides series He has BA, MA, PhD and DLitt degrees from the University of Exeter and UCL He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and was awarded the Alexander Prize by the Royal Historical Society in 2004 Home for him and his family is the small Dartmoor town of Moretonhampstead, which he occasioanlly introduces in his books He also writes in other genres his last novel The Outcasts of Time won the 2018 Winston Graham Prize for historical fiction His trilogy of novels set in the 1560s were published under his middle names,
- 403 pages
- Centuries of change
- Ian Mortimer
- 03 March 2017 Ian Mortimer