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Journey into the Past with the Shortest History Series

Thousands of years of history are condensed into one gripping book apiece.


Have you ever been curious about a particular area of history, only to feel daunted by some of the lengthy books on the topic? The Shortest History series proves that even a sweeping history book can be the best of both worlds: succinct and riveting! Covering individual countries as well as more abstract concepts like warfare and the universe itself, these books pack a lot of fascinating information into one readable account each. Keep scrolling to discover some of the best the series has to offer.

the shortest history series

The Shortest History of India

By John Zubrzycki

India’s rich history didn’t start or end with British colonialism. This compelling book covers 5,000 years of India’s past, from ancient empires to its status as the world’s largest democracy today, and all the fascinating inventions and contributions made along the way. It also explains the Indian identity that connects people of varying ethnicities, languages, and religious beliefs, even across the diaspora. 

the shortest history series

The Shortest History of Israel and Palestine

By Michael Scott-Baumann

This newly updated book offers a comprehensive overview of a violent conflict that has spanned decades—and has recently seen a tragic increase in lives lost during Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel, and Israel’s subsequent bombing campaign against Palestinians in Gaza that human rights experts have denounced as genocidal. From the rise of Zionism and postwar plans for a Jewish state to current Palestinian resistance against occupation, Middle East expert Michael Scott-Baumann explains the context of today’s bloodshed, why peace has proven elusive in the region, and what needs to change.

the shortest history series

The Shortest History of Our Universe

By David Baker

Of the entire series, this may be the most impressive iteration of condensing a massive amount of information into one concise book. That's because David Baker tackles the most expansive history topic of all: our universe! Beginning with the Big Bang and continuing to the present day, the universe’s fascinating 13.8 billion-year existence is chronicled with enthusiasm here. Baker covers the development of galaxies and solar systems, the evolution of life forms, and even the self-imposed climate change that threatens our planet today, in this account that “operates at such a vast scale that it cannot help but brush up against the eternal and the profound” (Sydney Morning Herald).

the shortest history series

The Shortest History of Germany

By James Hawes

Germany has been at the center of many world-shattering events, most notably the Reformation and both World Wars. Now, this “rapid-paced, thought-provoking, easy-to-digest account of German history” seeks to describe the nation’s spirit and its long past, from the Roman age to unification and beyond (Library Journal). Get to know the full and complete context of the country with the world’s fourth-largest economy, and how it shed its authoritarian past to become a liberal democracy in the present day.

the shortest history series

The Shortest History of China

By Linda Jaivin

Beginning in ancient times, there’s a lot of ground covered in this thorough yet concise chronicle of China’s history. Historian Linda Jaivin treats us to wonderfully in-depth explanations of the country’s various epochs, including the imperial era, the rise of communism, and current projections for growth. There are many fascinating conversations to be had about the region’s future as we enter the “Asian Century”, and Jaivin navigates the reader through them to develop a deeper understanding of China’s history and future.

the shortest history series

The Shortest History of Democracy

By John Keane

Greece gets a lot of credit for inventing democracy, but did you know that ancient Syria-Mesopotamia also held early “assembly democracies”? That’s just one of the surprising facts you’ll learn in this timely account of the history of democracy, from its earliest beginnings to modern perils in the age of social media. Called “an odyssey, full of twists and turns, crises, and reinventions" by Foreign Affairs, you won’t want to miss this incredibly important installment in the Shortest History series.

the shortest history series

The Shortest History of Greece

By James Heneage

Speaking of Greece, the nation is fascinating enough in its own right to merit a complete history. Not only did the country build an impressive empire that influenced the ancient world, but its achievements have reverberated through the ages, from the European Renaissance (which sought to revive the ideals of antiquity) to the present day. In the 21st century, Greece is plagued by economic issues, encroaching climate change, and a refugee crisis. For “a complete history from the Homeric Age to the present”, look no further (School Library Journal).

the shortest history series

The Shortest History of England

By James Hawes

How a small island nation became a world power has stumped and fascinated readers for many years. This book goes beyond that question to explore England’s waxing and waning power throughout multiple invasions, two World Wars, class warfare, and, looming above all these tumultuous changes, the unofficial north-south divide that fractures England. Dubbed “a retelling for our times”, James Hawes puts all of these events in their proper context.

the shortest history series

The Shortest History of War

By Gwynne Dyer

This one is for all the military history buffs out there. Warfare has undeniably undergone numerous transformations over the millennia, from the classical age to the invention of the firearm, the concept of total war, up to today’s age of nuclear proliferation. Acclaimed historian Gwynne Dyer is here to shed light on all of these changes and their significance, the influence war has had on human history, and what needs to change in order to resist allowing violence to define our future as a species.

the shortest history series

The Shortest History of Europe

By John Hirst

Celebrated historian John Hirst turns his attention to the wide-ranging history of Europe here in this book with “simple, clever graphics [that] clarify Hirst's theses and make them memorable” (Booklist, starred review). The unifying theme of the book rests on Hirst’s theory that German warrior culture, Greek and Roman learning, and Christianity account for all of the major developments in European history, culture, and progress. You’ll have to pick it up to find out how he elaborates on this compelling argument!

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