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BR 91: The Lessons of History by Will Durant

Category: 2 – BUY it! (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: A truly fascinating read. I was debating whether or not to put this into Category 1. It just missed the cut.

The most fascinating thing about this book, for me, is that this is literally historian Will Durant’s thesis – a thesis of his life. Will and Ariel Durant try to put together the lessons they have learnt from all their studies and bring it all together brilliantly.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. Competition is a natural order. We only collaborate to compete better. The world is Darwinian. Character only arises once basic needs are met.

2. What was a great trait in the past is likely to be a weakness in the present. For example, a very virile brute of a man would have been THE asset in earlier times when physical survival and passing on your sperm mattered most. In today’s world however, he would just be a dumb mannerless brute.

3. Resources (like intelligence) are always scattered unfairly. As a result, a small proportion of the world will always control it. There is no such thing as equality in nature.

4. As a result, religion matters greatly because it is what ensures the masses keep faith. (Will Durant predicts a period of social unrest within decades because of falling faith in Christianity in the 1960s when this is written and my jaw dropped as I thought of the period of social unrest we are having right now)

5. Respect for tradition is something he feels he would take more seriously if he had to ‘do it all over again.’ It is the tension between youth and old age that advances our civilization after all and he acknowledges that as he’s getting older, he has increased respect for traditions.

Some of his observations and predictions are truly amazing. And as you can see from the extra 2 learnings, this was a fantastic book!


PS: It’s been a while since I’ve updated this. Lots of exciting books but a lack of time. More to follow..

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