Barnes & Noble
December 18, 2000
Each of the twenty-five “turning points” included in this brisk historical survey altered “the trend of man’s life on this planet” and sent “the mainstream of history tumbling in a new direction,” writes the author. As readers of this hard-to-put-down volume will discover, a new direction in history can be brought about by a happening, stage, or set of conditions, and occasionally by the action of a single individual. But whatever the event – a battle, speech, an invention, a piece of writing – it is rendered here with such concern for sense and understanding the readers come to learn – through brief biographies, profiles, excerpts, and other methods of backgrounding – exactly why the thing happened and what were its immediate and eventual results.
The selection begins with the battle of Marathon in 490 BC – in which the underdog Greeks triumphed over the mighty Persians, giving Western civilization its Greek, instead of Near Eastern, character – and ends with the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945, history’s “ultimate” turning point. In between are events from every sphere – religious, political, intellectual.
Here are a few: the life and crucifixion of Jesus, whose teaching give the West its standards and morals; the flight of Muhammad from Mecca in 622; the coronation of Charlemagne by Pope Leo III in 800, which marked the beginning of the struggle between church and state; the invention of printing; Newton and the law of gravitation, which replaced the universe of chance with one of unfailing orderliness; the Frenchmen who set fire to a battered prison and without knowing it started a revolution; the Communist Manifesto, one of the most effective calls to action ever written; the flight of the Wright Brothers; the 1914 assassination at Sarajevo, which sparked a devastating world war; the Epic of Stalingrad, the key turning point of World War II; and fifteen other world-changing events, all recounted with precision and drama.