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The Descent of Woman [Paperback]

Elaine Morgan
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
Price: 9.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

28 Feb 2001
'The Descent of Woman' is a pioneering work, the first to argue for the equal role of women in human evolution. On its first publication in 1972 it created an international debate and became a rallying-point for feminism, changing the terminology of anthropologists forever. Starting with her demolition of the Biblical myth that woman was an afterthought to the creation of man, Elaine Morgan rewrites human history and evolution. This lively, informative book sets out to solve the riddle of our origins; its answer is controversial. Elaine Morgan has made the 'Aquatic Ape Hypothesis' a plausible alternative to conventional theories of evolution and 'The Descent of Woman' first set out an understanding of who humans are and where they come from.

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The Descent of Woman + The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis: Most Credible Theory of Human Evolution + The Scars of Evolution/What Our Bodies Tell Us about Human Origins
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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Souvenir Press Ltd; Rev Ed edition (28 Feb 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0285627007
  • ISBN-13: 978-0285627000
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 164,422 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Elaine Morgan was born in 1920 and after studying at Oxford University worked as a television writer. In 1972 she published The Descent of Woman suggesting that human evolution had an aquatic origin. This idea was attacked at first by scientists but the book became an international bestseller. In the decades since Morgan's aquatic ape hypothesis has gained widespread support.

Product Description


"It was one of the most outrageous, improbable evolutionary ideas
ever proposed... now the idea... is becoming respectable." -- 'The Observer'

"Part feminist polemic, part evolutionary bombshell." -- 'The Guardian'

"She is more scientific than Genesis, more up to date than
Darwin... and she writes better than Desmond Morris."
-- 'Sunday Telegraph'

About the Author

Elaine Morgan was best known as a writer for television until the publication of 'The Descent of Woman' in 1972, which became an international bestseller. She then spent ten years researching human evolution before publishing 'The Aquatic Ape' in 1982.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Convincing. Makes a lot of sense. 4 July 2001
By A Customer
We hear a lot today about the ascent of man or woman, how humans evolved. This seems to be logical how humans split from other primates. I found it interesting concerning Ms Morgan's view that by the time humans 'left' their aquatic lifestyle, there has only been one human species.
I do not disagree or agree with that. It hints at a possibility concerning those 'semi-species' that might have co-existed with modern man at any time prehistory - their differences may have been only racial rather than a separate human species. Ms Morgan suggests that even the earliest austropicalus africanus, were far more human like in appearance than the general view among experts.
Still, her view on why people are what they are seems logical enough. She argues in this book that it was 10 million years ago when certain apes were forced to take to the water for protection while in the book Aquatic Ape, she decided that it was only 5 million years ago.
But even if woman and man are much older, there is no reason why he and she couldn't have evolved from a semi-aquatic lifestyle.
A fascinating and interesting book.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So you thought Anthropology was for men? 21 Mar 2000
By A Customer
Elaine Morgan's Descent of Woman argues against some of the oldest superstitions of "Tarzanian" (Ms Morgan's term) physical anthropology. Her seminal work casts serious doubt on the andro-centric hypotheses which ascribe Women's physical attributes to the sexual needs of men. Today her theories have been all but proved, yet her book still makes illuminating reading, and a source of wonder!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Putting women in the picture 28 Jun 2005
I've bought about 5 copies of this book since the first edition was published in the 1970s: they were lent to friends because the book is so good, and not returned for the same reason.
Elaine Morgan provides a refreshing and plausible account of how we got where we are today, how you cannot consider evolution without considering women, and challenges many of the men-the-mighty-hunter myths.
What puzzles me is that her theories (based on Hardy) have now got wide-spread credence, but it is still possible to find recently-published books on evolution that make no reference to the aquatic theory.
A brilliant book: informative, readable ... and - added bonus - funny.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How women became oppressed....? 26 May 2003
By A Customer
The Descent of Woman takes a critical look at how the theory of evolution, has become dogged by male prejudice. The book explains how this prejudice has led to some rather unscientific interpretations being placed upon the evidence.
For example it explains how aggression has become misinterpreted and even admired by men as part of their evolution, yet our closest relatives, the ape and chimpanzee are not agressive by nature and there is no real evidence to suggest that humans are either.
This book is very well written and easy to read. I found some parts very amusing, when reading some of the truly ridiculous things male scientists have actually said about women...and then other parts were more worrying for the same reason. The book remains scrupulously fair and does not stray into anything remotely "feminist" or "anti male", yet I think it sends a fairly clear message to male scientists to put aside their prejudices when researching and writing on the subject. It would even help if they would stop the continual use of the pronoun "he" and the phrase "as every school boy knows".
I confess I do not believe in evolution myself, yet I would recommend this book, because the conclusions reached are far more credible than anything else offered up on the subject.
I would recommend it to anyone studying evolution and also anyone with an open mind/interested in "who we are" and "where we come from".
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Truth is In Here 3 Mar 2000
By A Customer
Elaine Morgan's updating of classical evolution is logical, detailed, thoughtful, and occassionally bitingly funny. She puts anthropology into lay terms without losing any of the science. A must-read -- even for men!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A convincing and thoroughly entertaining read 13 April 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Elaine Morgan is 92 and has just been given the freedom of the Rhondda Valley. I heard about this author recently on a BBC series on Welsh writers and wonder why her work and ideas had not been more celebrated and voiced. The Descent of Woman is not only an excellent critique of dominant evolutionary thinking it is a very convincing one. The author not only skilfully deconstructs the 'Tarzan' theory of evolution as written from an androcentric (male) perspective (which often had little or no evidential basis) it also substitutes this with a very convincing alternative from a female and logical perspective - that of the Aquatic Ape, a theoretical perspective that she develops separately in her text, The Aquatic Ape.

So the end product is not only a very convincing theory of evolution based on Hardy's ideas, it is an excellent demonstration of the power of both andro-centric thinking and the power of the academe in dismissing anyone who might rock their little boats with an alternative argument.

For anyone thinking that you need to be a scholar to read this then you will be pleasantly surprised that it is both very easy to read (although a couple of terms I did have to look up) and amusing and I thoroughly recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating, fun, clever and informative 5 Mar 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I borrowed a copy and had to order a few more for interested friends.. Fascinating, clever, and enlightening on many aspects of male-female interaction. Interesting and funny.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars intelligent and original author
Elaine Morgan has very interesting perspectives and ideas.
Enjoyable, stimulating and easy reading.
I've read her other books and recommend those too.
Published 3 months ago by Margarite
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking.
I found this book to be an enjoyable and thought provoking read. An alternative view of the evolution of wo/mankind. Read more
Published 5 months ago by isismoonchild
5.0 out of 5 stars Makes One Wonder
Interesting throughout, gave the reader so much to think about. Must read it again as the first time. I couldn't get through it quickly enough!
Published 6 months ago by Sue williams
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant account of the aquatic theory of the descent of mankind.
It is a brilliant account of all the reasons for why the aquatic theory of the descent of not just women but of humanity is the best theory that has thus far been presented. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Ami Hjorth
5.0 out of 5 stars descent of woman
shes a brilliant writer not frightened to state her views and qualifies it up with very feasable facts. Nice to see /read that women are on par if not above men!!
Published 15 months ago by susan roderick
5.0 out of 5 stars The Descent of Woman
.Having read "Knock 'em Cold, Kid" I have further enjoyed the intellectual rigor and research of this book. Thoroughly enjoying it!
Published 15 months ago by John Gough
4.0 out of 5 stars well worth having
We read this book decades ago, and were very impressed with its hypothesis. I don't think the quality of the reprint is quite as good as the original, but it's far better than some... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Taponne
5.0 out of 5 stars The Descent of Woman
I purchased this book after seeing the first chapter in "The Observer" newspaper in 1972. The all the books after... I am such a fan... Read more
Published 19 months ago by R. J. Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars stepping back into the early feminist movement
Two fascinating things here, first the freshness of the rights of women shown here (she was born in 1920 and I was born in 1929, so some 50s experience shared), and where our race... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Ms Joy Kay
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Theory
I really enjoyed this book and I think the aquatic ape theory deserves more research and recognition by experts. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Bookworm
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