Human Race: 10 Centuries of Change on Earth

by Ian Mortimer

Paperback, 2015



Call number



Random House India (2015)


Original language



We are an astonishing species. Over the past millennium of plagues and exploration, revolution and scientific discovery, woman's rights and technological advances, human society has changed beyond recognition. Sweeping through the last thousand years of human development, Human Race is a treasure chest of the lunar leaps and lightbulb moments that, for better or worse, have sent humanity swerving down a path that no one could ever have predicted. But which of the last ten centuries saw the greatest changes in human history? History's greatest tour guide, Ian Mortimer, knows what answer he would give. But what's yours?

User reviews

LibraryThing member wyvernfriend
I found this very interesting, Mortimer takes various centuries and examines change during those centuries, pointing out that without this then that wouldn't have happened and at the end of each chapter he selects one thing that he prefers over all of them. It's a whirlwind tour of the world, well
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mostly Western Europe and some of America after invasion, but it's endlessly fascinating to hear what he selects. His coda (which is what he narrates) is also interesting and would be interesting to revisit in later years to see if much of what he posits would come true.
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LibraryThing member mattries37315
Throughout the later part of 1999, many programs were dedicated to showing the impressive change in the 20th Century over any other time in the previous 1000 years. Author Ian Mortimer thought this was presumptuous and decided to research to find which century of Western civilization in the
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previous millennium saw the most change. In Centuries of Change Mortimer presents the fruits of over decade worth of research to general audience.

From the outset of the book Mortimer gives the reader the scope and challenge about defining and measuring change, especially when focusing in specific 100 year periods. Avoiding the cliché answers of bright, shiny objects and larger-than-life historical figures from the get go, Mortimer looked for innovations of cultural, political, societal, and technological significance that fundamentally changed the way people lived at the end of a given century than when it began. Throughout the process Mortimer would highlight those inventions or well-known historical individuals that defined those innovations of change which resulted positively or negatively on Western civilization. At the end of each chapter, Mortimer would summarize how the ‘changes’ he highlighted interacted with one another and which was the most profound in a given century and then identify an individual he believe was ‘the principle agent of change’.

The in-depth analysis, yet easily readable language that Mortimer wrote on each topic of change he highlighted was the chief strength of this book. The end of chapter conclusions and identification of an agent of change is built up throughout the entire chapter and shows Mortimer’s dedication to providing evidence for his conclusion. Whether the reader agrees or not with Mortimer, the reader at least knows why he came to those decisions. When coming to a decision about which century of the past millennium saw the most change at the end of the book, Mortimer’s explanation of the process in how he compared different periods of time and then the results of that process were well written and easily understandable to both general readers and those from a more scholarly background, giving the book a perfect flow of knowledge and thought.

Centuries of Change was geared for the general reading audience instead of a more academic one. While I do not think this is a negative for the book, it did allow for those editing the book as well as Mortimer in reexamining his text to miss several incorrect statements on events and personages that while minor do to missing a word or two, just added up over the course of the book.

While looking at the progression and development of Western civilization is always a challenging process, Ian Mortimer’s Centuries of Change gives readers glimpse of how different types of innovations impacted just a 100 year period of time. Very readable for general readers and a nice overall glimpse for more academic readers, this book is a thought-provoking glimpse in how human’s bring about change and responds to change.
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LibraryThing member PhilSyphe
Another winner from Ian Mortimer, who confirms his position as my favourite non-fiction author.

Would’ve given this book five stars if not for the last two chapters, which didn’t appeal to me because they include too much statistical comparisons and such like. At times, it felt like a maths or
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science lesson. I’m not a fan of long lists of percentages.

I am, as stated at the beginning, a fan of Ian Mortimer, though, and the rest of the book was a pleasure to read. Nothing dry or tedious in the writing style here. The narrative is engaging from the start, and the changes throughout history discussed range from the interesting to the fascinating.
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LibraryThing member GeoffSC
A well constructed and researched book.
It walks you through each century, from 1000 to the
twentieth, examining what changed and who/what
was the biggest change agent.
The final chapter "Why it matters" is more speculative
than previous chapters.
He gives plenty of food for thought on what we may
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to do to survive!

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Original publication date


Physical description

5.08 inches


0099593386 / 9780099593386
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