• A History of the Twentieth Century

  • By: Martin Gilbert
  • Narrated by: John Curless
  • Length: 29 hrs and 53 mins
  • 4.2 out of 5 stars (125 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Martin Gilbert, author of the multivolume biography of Winston Churchill and other brilliant works of history, chronicles world events year by year, from the dawn of aviation to the flourishing technology age, taking us through World War I to the inauguration of Franklin Roosevelt as president of the United States and Hider as chancellor of Germany. He continues on to document wars in South Africa, China, Ethiopia, Spain, Korea, Vietnam, and Bosnia, as well as apartheid, the arms race, the moon landing, and the beginnings of the computer age, while interspersing the influence of art, literature, music, and religion throughout this vivid work. A rich, textured look at war, celebration, suffering, life, death, and renewal in the century gone by, this volume is nothing less than extraordinary.

©2001 Martin Gilbert (P)2006 Recorded Books, LLC
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about A History of the Twentieth Century

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

I didn't know that.

I have always been a history buff, but this has opened my eye to a lot of 'hidden' history. I have not managed to listen to the whole book yet, but I currently live in Ukraine and have surprised some of my Ukrainian friends by knowing more of their history than they do. Also taking the history year by year puts things into proportion.

6 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Entertaining. Worth reading.

This was an interesting book. Entertaining and it contains a lot of information that I didn't already know.

One thing that confuses me is that in the wrap up of the audio book it says that you have just finished reading "the condensed version of Martin Gilbert's 3 volume work." In the description of the book it clearly says unabridged. I don't know what condensed means if it doesn't mean shortened. Also, if the book was indeed abridged that would help explain a few mysteries which I had earlier chalked up to either an omission on the author or a case of me spacing out during portions of the book. There were a few times when it seemed like certain individuals were referenced without ever being introduced. Also the author covered the space race a lot, but then there was no mention of the moon landing.

Long story short: this is worth buying, but it's possible that you aren't getting the whole book.

5 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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A Focus on the Facts with Minimal Commentary

What made the experience of listening to A History of the Twentieth Century the most enjoyable?

Getting a breakdown of events across the globe decade by decade gives the listener a unique perspective on major happenings (mostly catastrophes) of the century. After finishing this work, one can see how difficult it is for modern historians to sort through the sheer volume of information to find some thread of reason behind it all.

What was one of the most memorable moments of A History of the Twentieth Century?

As I lover of world history, I was surprised to find so many critical details I had previously missed. For example, other works originally led me to think that WWI was sort of everyone's fault. 'However, after listening to a blow by blow progression of events the Kaiself himself seems to deserve most of the blame. . In addition, I had no idea that so much upheval occurred in the Soviet Union during the interwar period.

What aspect of John Curless’s performance would you have changed?

He kind of grows on you after a few hours, but I initially felt that he wasn't enunciating properly. He does well with pronunciation and really deserves at least 3.5 stars.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, its fairly engaging but you really should limit yourself to one decade a day. Otherwise its easy to lose focus and end up Leopold's Congo thinking that the author is still discussing Republican China.

Any additional comments?

I think this work should have been shortened to only focus on its strong points_ politics, international relations and war. The terse references to developments in science, art and popular culture also seemed somewhat out of place,One other thing I could have done without was the author's bizarre obsession with automobile-related fatalities for which he provides almost yearly statistics.

2 people found this helpful

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With no chapter headings it is a useless book

The book is almost 800 pages and has 12 chapters the audible version has 68 chapters none of which are identified so if you know what actual chapter you want to read it’s totally impossible in this audible addition. All audible books are like this and it is infuriating that’s why I refuse to buy an audible standalone addition.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Wide ranging, but lacking.

Gilbert's work is far reaching and full of information, but it's really a chronicle of the 20th century rather than a work of historical analysis. As such the significance of most events is largely lost in the tide of dates and names. The book also suffers from a lack of footnotes and sources in the print and Kindle versions (I bought this with Whispersync for a class), which is all the more problematic since there are multiple inaccurate and misleading statements throughout, especially early on.

John Curless's narration was pleasant, if a bit dry, but I guess that's to be expected given the material.

All in all it's an easy read and does help give a broad, if shallow, understanding of the events of the 20th century, but inaccuracies and a lack of sources and analysis leaves a lot to be desired.

1 person found this helpful

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We get it. The roads are dangerous.

The book was interesting, there's no denying that. However, I thought it was quite odd what the author chose to include and exclude. The part about the Korean War was excellent and is often excluded in books of this nature but statistics for road deaths are included at least 10 times, despite having no relevance to the story. Idi Amin, Amelia Earhart, FDR's health, and just about anything happening in South America or Africa weren't included at all or were given less than two minutes. I loved the format of the story but wish it wasn't so Eurocentric and so focused on wars as opposed to important cultural moments, which got almost no attention past the 1920s. Additionally, I had hoped the author would spend more time on stories that weren't so well known so I could have listened for 30 hours and come away feeing like I learned something.

1 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

select history given as a grocery list

What would have made A History of the Twentieth Century better?

So this is very Eurocentric and war focused. It doesn't discuss much more than the politics leading up to/and war. Art, culture, science, technology can be combined into maybe 10 min. There is virtually no mention of central and south america nor africa (besides British imperial struggles). It also bothers me that the actor pronounces spanish words as if he is speaking Italian.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

grocery list reading (dry as hell) and he thinks spanish is pronounced like Italian

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

YES> hearing the larger picture of the Eurocentric story was nice, but it seems to be from a selective perspective.

Any additional comments?

You may need a separate History of the 20th century to help balance the information

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A Thorough and Mostly Apolitical History Book

I enjoyed Martin Gilbert’s near 100% “just the facts” approach throughout the entire book. It’s exactly what is needed in the retelling of historical events.

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History for the Distracted

Chrono-mini treatment of an entire 100 years on the planet. Very little perspective other than how persistent genocide was. When I heard the JFK assassination was supposedly committed by a “lone deranged gunman,” thus further indicating the lack of depth in the scholarship, I considered stopping. Yet I persisted. Valuable if one already at least moderately familiar with the period is looking for a definite timeline and random unrealized factoids along the way.

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Failure to provide dates.

Interesting historical narrative, but lacking date markers. An enormous oversite. Should be added now, at least for each chapter.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Robert
  • 11-03-11

A century of massacre and slaughter

Martin Gilbert's view of the 20th Century is the most dismal I have read or heard. Was it really like this?
This century was dominated by religious fanatics, meglomaniac dictators, tribal conflicts and human misery. Nothing good has come of it. Listen to this book and then kill yourself. Or go out and do something about it.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Marcus
  • 12-15-11

An extended timeline

The author decides to give us a year by year account of 20th century history.  This means that you end up with a set of very brief sketches of events.  There is no depth and little analysis.  Often there are interesting facts to be heard, but if you have a decent knowledge of 20th century history then this is little more than a revision course.

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • MR
  • 01-11-13

Factual and grim

Don't expect any light relief. This book is a chronological account of atrocities and disasters. There is very little commentary or analysis. It does, however, contain an immense amount of information and certainly identified and filled in the blanks I had. I do recommend it, but be aware of what you're letting yourself in for - it's not for the faint-hearted.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Kim ALI
  • 01-28-19

Interesting but...

The approach is completely chronological. Interesting idea, but hard to follow. I'm used to getting my history based on particular themes (like the beginning, middle, end of a multi-year war). Not so easy to make sense if the whole world is covered entirely according to the timeline, year by year. Factually interesting though and the juxtaposition of events across the world that happened to have occurred during the same year can be revealing.

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  • Shane
  • 05-29-16

Strange but Well Done

The format of this book was really unique. It is continuously read almost as a news cast with no analysis or input from the author besides what was actually happening. I'm really glad I read it even if I'd probably prefer a more conventionally written book most times.

1 person found this helpful