Talk:The Story of Civilization

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2013-10-25 the sections are out of sequence (not to mention replies, of course); at least sec 1 Word Count and sec 7 Criticism again, inserted 2009 and 2010. -P64

Word Count[edit]

I think this book must be longer than two million words; it is probably closer to five million. With ten thousand pages, two million words is only 200 words per page; but I think it should be easy to verify that most pages contain at least 450 words. --ESA
— Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 20:13, 25 December 2009 (UTC)

I did a fairly thorough estimate of the word count and came out with just about four million. Using the given word counts on Amazon (which were only there for three volumes), I deduced the ratio of text pages to non-text pages (bibliographies, footnotes, etc.) to be almost exactly 90% for each volume. I multiplied the total word counts by this ratio, and arrived at very close to 400 words per page, verifying this by doing a full-text word count of a .txt edition of The Age of Faith, the longest volume in the series (counting, of course, only the text proper). After playing with the data for a while, I feel very confident that my estimates are quite accurate, given their nature--that is, roughly 4 million words for the series as a whole, and 3.6 million for the text proper. I will be changing the figure given in the article, rounding up, I suppose, to four million. (The page count in the article, incidentally, is quite accurate. All eleven volumes in the standard plates come up very close to ten thousand pages, nine thousand of those being chapter text.) --Erik Maloney —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:21, 17 April 2010 (UTC) (continued 06:24)
The count for a version online in India, which excludes only the indexes of each volume, is 4,398,051 words - AG, UK.
— Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 14:23, 14 August 2010 (UTC)

Circular References[edit]

this full article was taken from —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 21:02, 14 August 2006

Actually, took it from Wikipedia. --Gmaxwell 22:48, 14 August 2006 (UTC)

Links for each volume.[edit]

In October 2006, I did a lot of work to link the critical ideas from each volume title to the appropriate general history articles.

In November 2006, an editor swept through this page using WP:AWB . This program automatically enforces a wikipedia policy against links in headings, so killed my work.

Since the world is not perfect, and since I want to avoid a repeat, I have now added a short sentence to each volume immediately after the heading. These sentences have the proper links, and should be safe from overzealous automated tools. -Arch dude 03:33, 19 January 2007 (UTC)

Looks good :) and I fixed your link to AWB above. --Quiddity 04:27, 19 January 2007 (UTC)
Thanks! I try hard, but I am not a detail person. I should really sweep the article and add many more links. -Arch dude 01:14, 21 January 2007 (UTC)


I added some defense of the volumes and Mr. Durants undertaking to the criticisms. As Mr. Durant himself admits that errors are inevitable in his work, I've used the opening of his first volume, the better to let him defend his own works. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk)

The criticism section seems a bit partisan to me; generally a criticism section should contain a summary of criticisms, not a one-line summary followed by a rebuttal. If Durant's own position on the accuracy of the Story is in question, it should get its own section.Carl Wivagg (talk) 12:08, 28 May 2010 (UTC)


I'd like to see some quotes to give some flavor of the Durants' lively writing style. What do you think? Plazak 14:03, 14 April 2007 (UTC)

That'd be great. One of the best parts of reading his books is not just the history, but his wit and philosophical bent on the things he talks about.—The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk)
Sounds good. The ones you had added seemed fine, except the couple that weren't indented enough, and that the book number scheme was broken (which I assume is why you reverted yourself). That could probably be fixed with a <br>. --Quiddity 17:38, 22 April 2007 (UTC)
Nice choice of quotes, if you've got more, by all means add them in. 19:52, 2 May 2007 (UTC)


The defense of the Durants ought to be attributed. I agree with much of it (although also with many of the criticisms, which are undoubtedly true), but it needs to identify someone who actually says that, rather than just attributing it vaguely to "some". I also wonder if "frequent errors of fact" might be added to the criticism - for there are very frequent errors of fact. On the whole, it might be nice to find a balanced, sensible assessment of the work to quote - one that acknowledges both its strengths and its weaknesses, both of which are undoubtedly there. john k 08:21, 14 November 2007 (UTC)

Would be nice to have a few examples of significant errors, if found - AG, UK.
— Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 14:23, 14 August 2010 (UTC)

Criticism again[edit]

At present the article states that "Professor J. H. Plumb's opinion on the series was that 'historical truth… can rarely be achieved outside the professional world [of historians' " and gives as source somebody else quoting a review that Plumb wrote in the New York Review of Books. This is obviously a reference to Plumb's article of July 1st 1965 in NYRB titled "Amateurs" in which he reviews three books and says that "historical truth, it would now seem, can rarely be achieved outside the professional world". But none of those three books is by Durant! I am not (yet) deleting this reference, because I was able to read only part of Plumb's article (a subscription to NYRB is needed to read it all online) and Plumb might refer critically to Durant elsewhere in the article. But I am suspicious. Can anybody who has access to the full Plumb review state whether it mentions Durant? If not, this has to go - AG, UK. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:13, 9 August 2010 (UTC) (continued 21:20)

Further to my immediately preceding comment, I've now read Jack Plumb's article in NYRB and it makes no reference whatsoever to Durant or his work. Plumb criticises "amateur" historians as often getting things wrong, but he says there are exceptions and for all we know he regarded Durant as one. I'm deleting this quote from the article. If anybody can find a quote elsewhere from Jack Plumb (or another 'professional' historian) criticising Durant on these grounds, let them put it in, but this one illustrates the danger of 2nd hand quoting ("J. H. Plumb, New York Review of Books; quoted in Arnold Beichman, “Is History Only for the Historians?” The Christian Science Monitor, 28 October 1965") - AG, UK. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:56, 23 October 2010 (UTC)

Manners and MOrals[edit]

It was an age of strict manners and loose morals.

Not up to much, but this is such a great quote because they basically say the same thing in just about every "Morals" and "Manners" section in the whole eleven volume series. Very typical and well-chosen. john k 08:28, 14 November 2007 (UTC)

ETA: THe "Art of Life" and "Life of Art" quote is also extremely typical - they love those kinds of inversions. NOw all we need is a passage in which three relatively obscure, preferably non-western, figures are compared in their relationship to one another to very famous exemplars, and we'll have the whole of the work. Something along the lines of "If X was the Socrates of 14th century German sock-making, then Y was his Plato and the more modest Z his Xenophon." john k 08:30, 14 November 2007 (UTC)
Here's one in the section about Thomas Hobbes: `In a distant future it may be possible for a state to be Christian, as was once that of Ashoka, who was a Buddhist.' (Book VIII (Age of Louis XIV), Chapter XX (English Philosophy), Section I (Hobbes), subsection 6 (Results), paragraph 4.) --ESA
And here's an egregious one about Raphael: `In the arbitrary analogies of genius he finds his place just below the greatest, but with them: Dante, Goethe, Keats; Beethoven, Bach, Mozart; Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael.' (Book V (The Renaissance), Chapter XVIII (Leo X), section ix (Raphael: the Last Phase)). --ESA
— Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 20:13, 25 December 2009 (UTC)

A veritable index![edit]

When I came across this page just now I at first was very sceptical about the virtue of such an exhaustive & exhausting apparently nerdish list. But then suddenly realized that, if suitably furnished with all the relevant links, it can constitute in effect a schematic index to much of Wikipedia. Splendid. Wingspeed (talk) 22:55, 28 July 2008 (UTC)

An enigmatic remark. Anyway, I just rejigged the criticism section which had no attribution. The Sound and the Fury (talk) 21:05, 19 February 2012 (UTC)

Criticism (continue sections 4–9)[edit]

The six preceding sections concern criticism of The Story of Civilization, largely by us wikipeditors rather than by second parties. Apparently there never was much coverage in the article. User:TheSoundandtheFury (just above) last year cut the last bit, a single sentence painted with a broad brush and no reference.[1] See #Criticism again regarding the cut by "AG, UK" three years ago.[2]

This article needs some coverage of contemporary reception, by professional historians and others, and subsequent criticism by historians. I suppose we are more likely to find professional criticism of single volumes rather than the whole, in which case the coverage must be pointed.

--P64 (talk) 17:10, 25 October 2013 (UTC)