Academic Articles English Blog

Book Review: The Shortest History of Europe by John Hirst

Hirst, John. The Shortest History of Europe. Black Inc., 2009.

John Hist is an Australian historian and intellectual, currently serving as an emeritus professor of history at La Trobe University, Melbourne. His book The Shortest History of Europe is a relatively concise yet an impressive book. In the print form, the book spans 160 pages however, I got the chance to read electronic copy which was well configured for my kindle device.

 “A wise, illuminating little book”, writes Sydney Morning Herald about the book. It is, as a matter of fact, not an ordinary history book with lots of names and dates yet it is the briefest account of the evolution of Europe as a whole from their Greek heritage. The language of the book is simple. It is divided into three parts; introduction and interlude and conclusion. The first two chapters define what was classical and what is modern Europe while rest of the six chapters highlight the evolutionary progress of the Europe through the phases of so called Dark Ages, Renaissance, Reformation and Enlightenment.

A peculiarity that appeals me as a Political Science student is that the author has particularly focused on the Roman Empire as an entity to which the roots of modern Europe can be traced. If I were to rename the book, I would call it as The Shortest Political History of Europe. Two chapters out of six in interlude are dedicated to the Forms of Government, one to the differences between Emperors and Popes and the last one to The Common People. The accounts of political activity are oriented around the notion, “Not everything is the king’s”. The author has mentioned this notion twice in his book. He spends enough time on explaining the German and Norman invasions on Roman Empire as well as development of Romance languages like French and Italian, once Latin had disappeared from the normal life. Least discussed topics are industrial revolution, enlightenment and technological developments. While reading, I have felt the reverence of the author for the Christian faith yet this does not seem to harm the objectivity of the book.

Overall, the book is well written and to the point. John Hirst has beautifully avoided trivial details that usually make the history books boring. I was able to finish it within 5 hours without losing interest in the subject. So, The Shortest History of Europe is recommended by me for everyone.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.