Is a Little History of the World Accurate?

The Controversy Around A Little History of the World

A Little History of the World is a book written by Ernst Gombrich, an Austrian-born art historian. The book, originally published in German in 1935, became widely popular and was translated into several languages. It presents a concise history of the world, from prehistoric times to the end of World War II.

While the book has been praised for its accessible writing style and ability to make history interesting for children and adults alike, it has also been criticized for its accuracy. Some historians and scholars argue that A Little History of the World is not entirely reliable and that it presents a limited and biased view of history.

The Accuracy Debate

One of the main criticisms levelled against A Little History of the World is that it oversimplifies complex historical events and presents them in a way that is misleading or inaccurate. For example, some critics argue that Gombrich’s account of ancient Greece focuses too much on Athens and ignores other important city-states like Sparta.

Another criticism is that Gombrich’s narrative is Eurocentric and neglects non-European cultures and civilizations. This Eurocentrism can be seen in his portrayal of Christopher Columbus as a hero who discovered America, without acknowledging the devastating impact his arrival had on indigenous peoples.

Despite these criticisms, defenders of A Little History of the World contend that it was never intended to be a comprehensive or authoritative account of history. Instead, they argue that its purpose was to provide an engaging introduction to historical events and figures for young readers or those with little prior knowledge.

The Importance of Historical Accuracy

Whether or not one agrees with the criticisms levelled against A Little History of the World, it is important to recognize the significance of historical accuracy. History is not just a collection of facts and dates, but a way of understanding the past and its impact on the present.

Therefore, it is crucial that historians and writers strive to present a nuanced and accurate representation of historical events, rather than perpetuating myths or oversimplifying complex issues. This is especially important when writing for children, who may form their understanding of history based on the books they read.


In conclusion, while A Little History of the World has been criticized for its accuracy, it remains a popular and accessible introduction to historical events for readers of all ages. It is important for readers to approach any work of history with a critical eye and an awareness of potential biases or oversimplifications.

Ultimately, the goal should be to seek out multiple perspectives and sources in order to develop a more comprehensive understanding of history. By doing so, we can gain valuable insights into our past and use this knowledge to shape our future.