Will Durant, Ariel Durant
A delightful read. Surprisingly small in terms of number of pages, for a book that’s titled “The Lessons of History”. A total of 13 chapters, of which 10 are devoted to history’s relationship with other sciences- from biology to economics and philosophies – from politics to morals.
The book covers a lot of ground and vast swathes of history are reduced to a paragraph with learning that is applicable even now. The text is succinct and it would seem like each word has been weighed carefully before being used in a particular context. In uncovering the thesis, antithesis and synthesis in different domains, there are some superb profundities. e.g. “for freedom and equality are sworn and everlasting enemies, and when one prevails, the other dies.” or “Heaven and utopia are buckets in a well: when one goes down, the other goes up.”
It is amazing how many of the things we consider as unique to our times have been manifest across history in different forms. I particularly liked the last chapter – “Is Progress Real?” – where the author wonders if we have merely “enlarged our instrumentalities without improving our purposes”. But he counters this in the final pages by stating that our victory lies in history itself, in our transmission of our civilisations’ heritage across generations, a process that continues unabated.