The development of the various schools and sects is treated in great detail. The philosophical bases of the different versions of Buddhism are compared and contrasted. It's also a good introduction to Asian history in general. Each country or region has its own chapter. I thought the emphasis given to the politicization of Buddhism and its importance in the emergence of the national identity of the various Asian peoples was especially good. I also learned how Buddhism greatly enriched Taoism, Confucianism, and Hinduism.
Noble Ross Reat's 'Buddhism: A History' sheds new light on old theories of connections between Mahayana and Hinduism, the emergence of Mahayana philosophy as a reaction to Nikaya Buddhist philosophies, the importance of Nikaya Buddhism as the fundament of later (Mahayana) development, and the large cultural framework wherein Buddhism evolved to its present from. The emphasis and relativation of Mahayana in historical and philosophical context makes its importance brittle. He has a clear style, good argumentation, terrific insight and a no-nonsense approach. The rich text, unfortunately, is so inviting that one would wish for a larger elaboration and more Pali or Sanksrit terminology. Essential reading for advanced afficionados.