Reading: “The Undivided Past: Humanity Beyond Our Differences”

The Undivided Past: Humanity Beyond Our DifferencesThe Undivided Past: Humanity Beyond Our Differences by David Cannadine
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I saw lots of two- and three-star reviews on Goodreads after I had started already reading The Undivided Past, but I found the content fascinating and its messages well-supported. I’m not a historian, but I am a interdisciplinary writer who works with historical material, and those reviewers who said this was not “good history” . . . I disagree. Cannadine’s assertions were well structured, well supported, coherent and easy to read— the last of those four may be what the historians don’t like. Frankly, if Cannadine had added more supporting facts, The Undivided Past would have been like a multivolume history, like Gibbon’s work that he references often. For a book with about 250 pages of actual content, the subject was well-covered for general readers.

David Cannadine’s premise in the book is particularly appealing to me: the idea that divisions within human life aren’t clear cut, aren’t dichotomous, and in some cases aren’t even real. Using mostly European and American history, but periodically making forays into global history, the author points out how people usually live cooperatively and peacefully, side by side, until some political leader or”thinker” comes along and trumps up a dichotomy for the sake of advancing his own agenda. The truth is that we are more alike than we are different. In a book this size, David Cannadine may not go all the way to proving that unequivocally, but he made his point well.

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