History’s “Mankind” tells the epic tale of human history

History has certainly embarked upon a program worthy of its network name with its new 12-hour, six-night event series Mankind The Story of All of Us. Following in the wake of its successful America The Story of Us, this series takes the same approach, but — as its title suggests — expands its canvas to a much wider subject: nothing less than the history of the human race.

Starting, indeed, as far back as the Big Bang and explaining how conditions on our planet became just right for our species to develop, the series fast-forwards to the first humans and proceeds to key touchstones in our progression, from the discovery of fire to the formation of villages to the realization by our “farming mother” that spreading discarded seeds could result in an explosion of crop growth. War, being a common theme throughout human history, is touched on quite a bit, at least in the first few episodes that we’ve seen. And as historians in the program point out, war has always seemed to have a way of accelerating technology in human society.

As with the America series, Mankind is no boring history lecture. It’s a rapid-fire progression through world history, stopping on key elements and spending some time looking at momentous milestones (building of the Great Pyramids in Egypt; creation of the first democracy in Athens, etc.). Again, CGI animation and reenactments help bring to life these long-ago events, and actor Josh Brolin lends a nice sense of drama as narrator, even when we obviously know how situations of historical fact will turn out.

Ian Morris of Stanford University served as a historical consultant on the production, which (again, at least in the first two episodes) does a good job of encompassing a global perspective of how different cultures were developing on their own, but also toward the overall human society in which we would all one day be interconnected. From Africa, to the Middle East, to Europe, to China and more, the series globetrots more than Indiana Jones, but doesn’t feel rushed.

In the series, insights on various elements of the historical topics of discussion are offered by noted personalities, from Brian Williams and Dr. Oz, to Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Anthony Bourdain. History is also offering a worldwide education program in conjunction with the series (for more information, visit history.com/classroom).

Whether you don’t know much about history or find the subject deeply fascinating, you should find this “story of all of us” one worth following.

Mankind The Story of All of Us premieres Nov. 13 at 9pm ET on History.

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© 2012 A&E Networks/Joe Alblas

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