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The World

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The World

A Brief Introduction

Penguin Press,

15 min read
8 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Everything you ever wanted to know about the world – in one convenient package. 

Editorial Rating



  • Applicable
  • Background
  • For Beginners


Do you ever feel as if you’re lacking context for today’s news? It could be that you’re missing a background in the history that has led to the present moment. Richard Haass, head of the Council on Foreign Relations, explains that a discussion with an engineering student made him realize that few people today learn about history and politics in school, leading to a lack of understanding that can leave them vulnerable to the misleading claims of self-interested politicians and others. Although inspired by a young person, Haass’s enlightening book is for all ages, covering the global history that created today’s conditions and tomorrow’s challenges.


You should learn the basic facts about history, politics and economics for three major reasons.

First, knowledge helps people hold their elected representatives accountable and support sound policy decisions. Second, every country should have citizens who are “globally literate” and able to function abroad. And third, understanding international markets is critical for countries, businesses and individuals who want to stay economically competitive. Americans in particular would do well to learn more about the world, given their nation’s major role on the global stage during the 20th and 21st centuries. 

Young people in America are undereducated in the subjects of history and politics. Few colleges require students to take courses in history or economics. This knowledge gap may be due to limited resources, an increased focus on science and math education, and a lack of consensus on what students must know. Older readers can also benefit from a refresher in these areas; it’s easy to forget some facts, and the world has changed dramatically over time.

The modern international system dates back to ...

About the Author

Richard Haass is an American diplomat and the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. He was the director of policy planning at the US State Department and a close adviser to Secretary of State Colin Powell.

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