Is the entire Story of
Civilization available on CDRom?
Currently, the Story of Civilization is
not available on CDRom. The Will Durant Foundation has begun plans to release
a new CDRom in the next year. Please check the forum and news
section for updates.
Where can I purchase volumes of
the Story of Civilization?
The Story of Civilization is currently
out of print. The best place to look for copies of the volumes
is via used bookstores.
Did Will Durant believe in God?
Durant was, by his own definition, an agnostic.
His views on God can be best explained in his own words from
his Dual Autobiography, written a few years before his
I am still an agnostic, with pantheistic
overtones. The sight of plants and children growing inclines
me to define divinity as creative power, and to reverence this
in all its manifestations, even when they injure me. I cannot
reconcile the existence of consciousness with a deterministic
and mechanistic philososphy. I am skeptical not only of theology
but also of philosophy, science, history, and myself. I recognize
supersensory possibilities but not supernatural powers.
I recently bought a signed copy
of a Durant book at a sale and would like to know if the
signature is authentic. What does Will Durants signature
Will any of the Durant books that
are currently out of print be released?
The decision to republish Durant books which
are no longer in print (most notably the Story of Civilization series)
is determined by two factors: who owns the rights to publish
them and whether the publisher thinks another print run would
be profitable. At this time, Simon and Schuster still owns the
rights to the Story of Civilization series. We have
discussed with them the possibility of reprinting the series,
but as of now they do not believe it will be a profitable enough
enterprise to engage in. It is a business decision, nothing more.
While we respect and understand the point of view of Simon and
Schuster, we will continue to encourage them to reconsider.
As for the other Durant books, if the publishing
rights to the books have reverted back to the estate, we will
likely make an effort to republish them. Please check the forum
and news section for updates.
Why is Will Durant so frequently
criticized by other historians?
The primary reason, in my estimation, would
be envy. The Durants enjoyed unprecedented success and prestige
as historians, which ruffled (and continues to ruffle) the feathers
of many academics, who may feel they deserve the accolades far
more than the Durants.
Another reason is that the intended audience
of the Durants was the general public, rather than the academic
world. Historians, like professional philosophers, tend to look
at their work as the product and pervue of the elite, and resent
people who try to popularize the subjects.
Additionally, Will Durant's approach to writing
history was very different than the standard academic approach.
Whereas the academics tend to specialize and spend their entire
careers on specific subjects or epochs, Durant sought to produce
an epic overview of history. Many historians also took exception
to Durant's attempts to humanize history by focusing on (and
celebrating) historical figures, as opposed to the standard historian's
method of focusing on events and criticizing the course of history.
Durant's writing ability was also something
that bothered other historians. From a literary perspective,
Durant was perhaps the most gifted writer of history in the modern
era. His works were widely respected for their literary merit
as well as their academic contributions. This set him further
apart from his peers.
Finally, historians have made weak attempts
at criticizing the Durants' work by citing flaws they have found
in the Durant books. In many cases, history is subjective, and
it is not uncommon for historians to disagree on events in time.
Secondly, errors are an inevitable reality of writing on the
subject of history. The works of the Durants are not alone in
this, as most history books have a short shelf life. The sweeping
undertaking that the Durants engaged in for over fifty years
was a feat never before (or since) attempted by any other historian.
Durant knew that his history would naturally be subject to revision,
like any other history book, as knowledge progressed.
Wrote Durant, in his Dual Autobiography:
I know that my own work is flawed,
and that our laborious masterpieces will be superseded as knowledge
grows and vistas change.
Many historians felt that Durant was arrogant
in attempting such a grand record of history. None of Durant's
critics knew his perspective on his own efforts, which was decidedly
pragmatic. In the film documentary, A Visit With Will and
Ariel Durant (available in the products section of this
site), Durant said:
I dont like this notion of
a great achievement; I know too much history to
have delusions as to how long these things last. I once defined
literary immortality as a moment in geological time and
thats the way it is with books, you know. If you
write works of great poetry, they can last for hundreds of
years because they are not dependent upon the progress of knowledge;
but when you write history, you can be ruined in a few years
by some discovery like The Dead Sea Scrolls that may
shed new light upon all sorts of things, or by the decipherment
of the script of the Minoan civilization which was undeciphered
when we wrote The Life of Greece, you see so
we have no notion that were immortal by any means. Wed
be very happy if people still know what our names are when
Ironically, it is history itself that
has vindicated Will Durant; for among his peers, whose books
are still being read now?
I've now read 'a
bunch' of times about Will Durant estimating there have only
been 29 years
in recorded history when there wasn't a war going on somewhere,
Did he really say
it? and if so, in what book and where precisely?
he say which years these 'no-war' years were?
This appears quite frequently on the internet
and is commonly misquoted. The actual quote can be found on page
81 of the book The Lessons of History (1968), by Will
and Ariel Durant. Actually, what Durant says, and I quote: "In
the last 3,421 years of recorded history only 268 have seen no
war." He does not specify the years of peace.
Why do you think it is that the
Durants don't have more recognition in our present educational
The first (and most important) reason is that
Will Durant was a popularizer of history. He wrote for the masses,
not academics. Scholastic historians, by and large, write for
themselves; they do not address a broad public. Secondly, Durant
was a very successful and popular representative of philosophy
and history. Many academics resent and envy such cross-over success,
and diminish his contributions to the two fields. Lastly, with
the exception of The Story of Philosophy, Durants books
have been out of print for the last several years, including
the entire Story of Civilization.