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Title: Ancient Man
The Beginning of Civilizations
Author: Hendrik Willem van Loon
Posting Date: November 22, 2011 [EBook #9991]
Release Date: February, 2006
First Posted: November 6, 2003
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK ANCIENT MAN ***
Produced by Charles Aldarondo, Sjaani and PG Distributed Proofreaders ANCIENT MAN
BY HENDRIK WILLEM VAN LOON
DEDICATION To HANSJE AND WILLEM.
My darling boys,
You are twelve and eight years old. Soon you
will be grown up. You will leave home and begin
your own lives. I have been thinking about that
day, wondering what I could do to help you. At
last, I have had an idea. The best compass is a
thorough understanding of the growth and the
experience of the human race. Why should I not
write a special history for you?
So I took my faithful Corona and five bottles of
ink and a box of matches and a bale of paper
and began to work upon the first volume. If all
goes well there will be eight more and they will
tell you what you ought to know of the last six
But before you start to read let me explain
what I intend to do.
I am not going to present you with a textbook.
Neither will it be a volume of pictures. It will
not even be a regular history in the accepted
sense of the word.
I shall just take both of you by the hand and
together we shall wander forth to explore the
intricate wilderness of the bygone ages.
I shall show you mysterious rivers which seem
to come from nowhere and which are doomed to
reach no ultimate destination.
I shall bring you close to dangerous abysses,
hidden carefully beneath a thick overgrowth of
pleasant but deceiving romance.
Here and there we shall leave the beaten track
to scale a solitary and lonely peak, towering
high above the surrounding country.
Unless we are very lucky we shall sometimes
lose ourselves in a sudden and dense fog of
Wherever we go we must carry our warm cloak
of human sympathy and understanding for vast
tracts of land will prove to be a sterile desert--
swept by icy storms of popular prejudice and
personal greed and unless we come well
prepared we shall forsake our faith in humanity
and that, dear boys, would be the worst thing
that could happen to any of us.
I shall not pretend to be an infallible guide.
Whenever you have a chance, take counsel with
other travelers who have passed along the
same route before. Compare their observations
with mine and if this leads you to different
conclusions, I shall certainly not be angry with
I have never preached to you in times gone by.
I am not going to preach to you today.
You know what the world expects of you--that
you shall do your share of the common task and
shall do it bravely and cheerfully.
If these books can help you, so much the
And with all my love I dedicate these histories
to you and to the boys and girls who shall keep
you company on the voyage through life.
HENDRIK WILLEM VAN LOON.