William James Durant (November 5, 1885 – November 7, 1981) was a prolific American writer, historian, and philosopher. He is best known for “The Story of Civilization,” 11 volumes written in collaboration with his wife Ariel Durant and published between 1935 and 1975. He was earlier noted for “The Story of Philosophy,” written in 1926, which one observer described as “a groundbreaking work that helped to popularize philosophy.”

On Natural Disasters

By |2019-04-04T10:38:22-05:00August 29th, 2017|

“At any moment a comet may come too close to the earth and set our little globe turning topsy-turvy in a hectic course, or choke its men and fleas with fumes or heat; or a fragment of the smiling sun may slip off tangentially–as some think our planet did a few astronomic moments ago–and [...]

The Man Who Discovered Troy?

By |2019-04-04T10:38:29-05:00January 2nd, 2017|

In 1870, Heinrich Schliemann went to the Troad, the northwest corner of Asia Minor­, and made up his mind, against all current scholarly opinion, that Priam’s Troy lay buried under the hill called Hissarlik… In the year 1822, a lad was born in Germany who was to turn the spade­ work of archeology into [...]

Do Not Try to Reform the World

By |2019-04-04T10:38:31-05:00November 7th, 2016|

It is foolish to take sides in disputes, or seek some other place or mode of living, or to envy the future or the past; all desire is delusion. Even life is an uncertain good; death not a certain evil; one should have no prejudices against either of them. Best of all is a calm [...]

An Ode to Great Books and a Beautiful Library

By |2018-12-12T17:59:00-05:00May 29th, 2016|

Today’s offering in our Timeless Essay series affords readers the opportunity to join Will Durant and me as we contemplate bibliophilic exuberance. —W. Winston Elliott III, Publisher “If I were rich I would have many books, and I would pamper myself with bindings bright to the eye and soft to the touch, in paper generously [...]

The Essential Diagnosis of Our Time

By |2019-04-04T10:38:38-05:00February 3rd, 2016|

This is the essential diagnosis of our time. It is not merely great wars that have plunged us into pessimism, much less the economic depression of these recent years; we have to do here with something far deeper than a temporary diminution of our wealth, or even the death of millions of men; it [...]

The Map of Human Character

By |2019-04-04T10:38:47-05:00December 7th, 2015|

(Today’s offering in our Timeless Essay series affords our readers the opportunity to join Will Durant as he examines the importance of history in human character.—W. Winston Elliott III, Publisher) “History” said Henry Ford, “is bunk.” As one who has written history for twenty-five years, and studied it for forty-five, I should largely agree with [...]

Chaos: The Gestating Principle of Civilization

By |2019-04-04T10:38:54-05:00November 25th, 2015|

A certain tension between religion and society marks the higher stages of every civilization. Religion begins by offering magical aid to harassed and bewildered men; it culminates by giving to a people that unity of morals and belief which seem so favorable to statesmanship and art; it ends by fighting suicidally in the lost cause of the [...]

Ruled by Imagination

By |2019-04-04T10:39:02-05:00October 21st, 2015|

Morals are soon endowed with religious sanctions because mystery and supernaturalism lend a weight that can never attach to things empirically known and genetically understood; men are more easily ruled by imagination than by science. — Will and Ariel Durant, The Story of Civilization, Volume 1.56 […]

Why Do We Love Plato?

By |2019-04-04T10:39:10-05:00July 15th, 2015|

Why do we love Plato? Because Plato himself was a lover: lover of comrades, lover of the intoxication of dialectical revelry, passionate seeker of the elusive reality behind thoughts and things. We love him for his unstinted energy, for the wild nomadic play of his fancy, for the joy which he found in life [...]

History: The Miracles of Memory and Tradition

By |2019-04-04T10:39:13-05:00September 3rd, 2013|

Will Durant The very excess of our present paganism may warrant some hope that it will not long endure; for usually excess generates its opposite. One of the most regular sequences in history is that a period of pagan license is followed by an age of puritan restraint and moral discipline. So [...]

The Fall of Rome

By |2019-04-04T10:39:18-05:00November 7th, 2012|

Will Durant A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within. The essential cause of Rome’s decline lay in her people, her morals, her class struggle, her failing trade, her bureaucratic despotism, her stifling taxes, her consuming wars.—Caesar and Christ […]

On Natural Disasters

By |2019-04-04T10:39:21-05:00October 30th, 2012|

“At any moment a comet may come too close to the earth and set our little globe turning topsy-turvy in a hectic course, or choke its men and fleas with fumes or heat; or a fragment of the smiling sun may slip off tangentially–as some think our planet did a few astronomic moments ago–and [...]

The Map of Human Character

By |2019-04-04T10:39:26-05:00May 17th, 2012|

“History” said Henry Ford, “is bunk.” As one who has written history for twenty-five years, and studied it for forty-five, I should largely agree with the great engineer who put half the world on wheels. History as studied in schools—history as a dreary succession of dates and kings, of politics and wars, of the [...]