Magazine October 5, 2009, Issue

The Epic of The Durants

The Durants in 1975 (Bettmann/Corbis)

Eighty years after Will and Ariel Durant started writing their history of the world, their finished project appears as quixotic as their dream: It’s hard to imagine two feet of books, unconcerned with America and current events, making for a rush on Borders checkout lines. But, during its four-decade publication odyssey, The Story of Civilization regularly had its volumes on the bestseller list; the last volume, The Age of Napoleon (1975), spent seven weeks there.

In 1981, Will and Ariel Durant died within a fortnight of each other. It seemed fitting. They had been married for almost seven decades, won both

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Education Section

Books, Arts & Manners




A reader argues that drug dealers are criminals — and if drugs were legalized, they would still be criminals.


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