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 death:

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 Durant’s signature look like?

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 don’t 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 that’s 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 we’re immortal by any means. We’d be very happy if people still know what our names are when we die.

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, but wonder:

Did he really say it? and if so, in what book and where precisely?
Does 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 system?

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.