Of all the books that comprise “The Good Book”, Histories is arguably the most pointless waste of space so far. It is 186 pages long, making it more than a quarter of the total page count, and far and away the longest of the books. And all for no good reason.
The entire thesis of Histories is explained – in terms of good and evil that make it quite clear that Grayling (a) grew up during the Cold War; and (b) never questioned the assumptions of American propaganda in that era – in the first chapter. Acording to Grayling, all history can be simplified into the conflict between East and West, the East noted for being terribly, terribly numerous and indifferent to human suffering; the West being fewer, smarter and more free. That’s in the first six verses of the first chapter, and that’s really the only meaning to be taken from the entire book. But that doesn’t stop Grayling from going on to spend the next 185.6 or so pages going into entirely unneccessary detail.
That said, his entire book is a retelling of the war between the Persians and Greeks between 560 and 465 BCE. This one period, apparently, contains everything that you need to know about wars, because it’s not like the nature of warfare was drastically changed by advances in weapons technology at least twice in the twentieth century alone – it is too much to ask that some contemplation of the Bomb be included in this increasingly inaccurately named book? This retelling in detailed and yet lacking in depth – in fact, its wealth of detail obscures whatever points are trying to be heard in it. But its flaws don’t stop there – there’s an extensive coverage in infighting on both sides which would seem to undermine the conception of unified East and West that is supposedly the basis of the book; and there’s also the sheer simplicity of its conception of humanity. This is like a boring academic version of Frank Miller’s 300, only without the pretty pictures.