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Review: Mankind the Story Of All of Us

(History, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 9 p.m.) 11/13/2012 8:00 AM Eastern

History’s sequel to its highestrated special, 2010’s America the Story of Us, is a panoramic look at the history of the world from the perspective of how we humans came to dominate it. It moves fast but stops in order to tell pertinent stories of key individuals or events. All with the latest computer imagery — showing empires spreading across the globe, or wheat fields spreading across the landscape — and dramatic recreations.

In the first hour of the six-night, 12-hour miniseries, some of those individuals are unnamed: the athletic, spear-toting hunter who we are told is “the genetic ancestor of all mankind,” and the “farming mother” in the Middle East who planted the first crops. In the second hour, they include Spartan and Athenian warriors who, being in the age of iron, swung their swords a lot.

It’s explained that the Greeks, using iron weapons and “people power, resisted tyranny.” Such summaries help tie the story together, and most depictions are bolstered with archaeological evidence, such as that one in 10 skeletons of early farming communities show signs of violence, from warding off violent attacks on food supplies.

Later episodes will show Genghis Kahn, the invention of movable type, mastering flight, mapping our own DNA and other key events. The production quality is high, befitting a series History is premiering worldwide (a first for the network) and backing with an educational campaign, including a glossy, mass-market almanac more than 400 pages long.

September