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The Knowledge: How to Rebuild our World from Scratch [Kindle Edition]

Lewis Dartnell
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £8.99
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Book Description

Maybe it was a viral pandemic, or an asteroid strike, or perhaps nuclear war. Whatever the cause, the world as we know it has ended and you and the other survivors must start again. What key knowledge would you need to start rebuilding civilisation from scratch?

Once you've scavenged what you can, how do you begin producing the essentials? How do you grow food, generate power, prepare medicines, or get metal out of rocks? Could you avert another Dark Ages or take shortcuts to accelerate redevelopment?

Living in the modern world, we have become disconnected from the basic processes that support our lives, as well as the beautiful fundamentals of science that enable you to relearn things for yourself.

The Knowledge is a journey of discovery, a book which explains everything you need to know about everything. This is a quickstart guide for rebooting civilisation which will transform your understanding of the world - and help you prepare for when it's no longer here...

Product Description


"As the scouts say – be prepared! Say your prayers that you never need this book" (Bear Grylls)

"A glorious compendium of the knowledge we have lost in the living… This is the most inspiring book I’ve read in a long time" (Peter Forbes Independent)

"An extraordinary achievement... It is a great read even if civilisation does not collapse. If it does, it will be the sacred text of the new world ― Dartnell that world’s first great prophet" (The Times)

"The ultimate do-it-yourself guide to ‘rebooting’ human civilization" (Nature)

"A terrifically engrossing history of science and technology" (Steven Poole Guardian)

"Impeccably researched and beautifully written, The Knowledge makes me proud of all we humans have achieved - and dismayed at how much we have to lose. You need to read this book" (Stephen Baxter)


Dartnell makes the technology and science of everyday life in our civilization fascinating and understandable. This book may or may not save your life but it'll certainly make it more interesting.

This the book we all wish we'd been given at school: The Knowledge that makes everything else make sense

" (Ken MacLeod, author of Descent)

"A marvelously astounding work: In one graceful swoop, Lewis Dartnell takes our multi-layered, interconnected modern world, shows how fragile its scaffolding is, and then lays out a how-to guide for starting over from scratch. Imagine Zombieland told by Neil deGrasse Tyson and you'll get some sense of what a delight The Knowledge is to read" (Seth Mnookin, New York Times bestselling author of The Panic Virus and associate director of MIT's Graduate Program in Science Writing)

"A remarkable and panoramic view of how civilization actually works" (Roger Highfield of the Science Museum)

"This book is useful if civilization collapses, and entertaining if it doesn't. After the cometary impact it may save your life, and if it doesn't at least you'll know why you perished" (S. M. Stirling)

Book Description

A captivating journey of discovery and a quickstart guide to rebuilding our world after the apocalypse.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2634 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital (3 April 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00H4EM594
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #21,197 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I'd been looking forward to reading this book before its publication as it sounded like a great idea but also such a monumental undertaking; I wasn't sure how Dartnell was going to tackle the entirety of human science and engineering in ~350 pages. His approach made a lot of sense, and I have to commend him in sticking to a logical and 'first-principles' approach that kept me interested and engaged throughout. It wouldn't be possible (or make for a very interesting read) to do it any other way! After finishing it I felt I had a renewed respect and perspective on how far we've come, but also how quickly we could fall given how distantly removed many of us are from the ideas and processes that keep our advanced societies ticking over. I feel grateful to the many, mostly nameless, giants on whose shoulders we stand as they slowly chipped away at the rockface of progress to deliver us to the point at which I could read this book on a tiny handheld device weighing next-to-nothing whilst sitting on a plane! The Knowledge will help us pick up the pieces should we stumble, and should be required reading for everyone.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brain Candy 4 Jun. 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
There are several ways you could look at this book;

A manual for restarting civilisation
A fascinating insight into what underpins our way of life
The stuff our grandparents knew and we forgot

Take your pick! It's a good read if you're interested in how things work. I hope they pop a few copies on the shelves along with the seed bank at Svalbard.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars All the things you thought you'd never need 22 April 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Following a review in the Times, I thought I'd dip in.

This covers a lot of stuff and gives some basic ideas on how to do things. Hopefully I will never need to know any of these. What would be great is a series of 'projects' to achieve some of the things talked about - i.e. detailed information on making butter, smoked food etc so that we could try some of these things out.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Lewis Dartnell has put into one volume more useful information on the underpinnings of our society than I have ever seen in one place. Every schoolchild should read this.

It's not a complete manual, for it would have been infeasibly large in that case, but it is a great guide, and being reasonably educated in technology and science, I still learned a lot. In a few cases, you'd like just a bit more explanation, but again, it's one small volume.

In one way, it can also be read as a novel in a unique (to me) second person future tense format- "you are going to............", although don't take that analogy too far.

Later on in the book, it does seem as if LD has got a bit bored, and one or two items are a bit peremptory, but it remains highly enjoyable.

I checked a few numbers which seemed Ok, but I think I spotted one mistake. On p280, he requires that the tube in a glass barometer be a constant diameter- I don't think that's right, as the pressure is affected only by height of a fluid column, not volume. Any thoughts out there? Oh, I think I see now, calibration would be hard if not constant diameter-it wouldn't be linear. Too pedantic as ever.....
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Just finished The Knowledge by Lewis Dartnell its nominally about how to rebuild civilisation if it ever falls. For that purpose it is a must have for anybody who thinks civilisation might collapse during their lifetime*1 or the lifetime of anyone who they might care about and is on the list to inherit their personal library. But it is also an interesting and entertaining read on how our technological civilisation was created,how things work and are interconnected . I was aware of knew a fair bit of the contents of the book but it did join up the dots of quite a few things I knew about separately. Its kind of the book equivalent of James Burke's connections TV series (for any of you old enough to remember it) for the important parts of our technological civilisation and it would be of interest even to those who don't think civilisation is on its way out. I was lucky enough to get my copy free by coming 2nd in a twitter competition and its the best non fiction book I have ever been given and that's coming from a person who now has to double stack books in his personal library.

The book also has its own website with additions :-


*1 Being a fully paid up tinfoil hat wearing paranoid I would not currently give odds better than 50/50 of our civilisation making it to the 22nd century but unfortunately its unlikely I could ever collect on the side I would bet on, on at least 2 counts ;-) ];-)
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What it says on the tin... 26 May 2014
By Nik
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I'm no 'prepper', I'm just very, very well-read, but I was astonished how much of the stuff in this book used to be 'common knowledge' in science and text books I still half-remember. Now, such interesting but off-curriculum material has been squeezed out. Libraries shun it as irrelevant. It may be 'out there' on the wwweb, but...

A cautionary note; technically, this is a 'work in progress'. I'd hope that the second or third edition will be printed on 'acid free' paper, so endure until required. Similarly, I'd hope this book may spawn a set of supplementary volumes, a modest return to those well-thumbed 'home cyclopaedia' works beloved of grannies and aunts...
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic. If only things were this interesting when I was at school!
Amazing. I prefer the original, less sensationalist title, but this fantastic book rekindled in me a youthful fascination in science and technology. Read more
Published 5 days ago by Tr1ke79
5.0 out of 5 stars Neither Pyramid Nor Book, But Power
I discover I have found a society - primitive, perhaps post-apocalyptic, perhaps pristine. I will woe with them tales of the past - of the roots of information, the stock of... Read more
Published 16 days ago by Esarin
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good quick delivery, happy.
Published 1 month ago by Cahoot
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book - Very Informative
This is a very informative book with a lot of fascinating detail. It is basically a thought experiment. Read more
Published 1 month ago by NC Review
5.0 out of 5 stars A very interesting book throughout. Even if the end ...
A very interesting book throughout. Even if the end of the world as we know it never occurs this book at least enables you to possess a clearer view of how and why many things... Read more
Published 1 month ago by monty
5.0 out of 5 stars There is a lot you do not realise you do not know, but that you rely...
This is a really interesting book. Lewis gives himself a huge topic to go at - basically everything you need to know to reboot society should things go cataclysmically pear-shaped... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Nick Dale
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, lots of very useful information presented in ...
Excellent book, lots of very useful information presented in a viable and interesting way. Would reccomend to anyone interested in SHTF, prepping or functional Farming/Chemistry.
Published 2 months ago by Mark W
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should have a copy.
Fascinating read about what we take for granted.
Published 2 months ago by P. Blackett
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
My son loves it.
Published 2 months ago by sarah quigley
5.0 out of 5 stars ... year old Son for Christmas and he thinks its brilliant. Keeps...
Bought this for my 28 year old Son for Christmas and he thinks its brilliant. Keeps texting me useful hints and tips for when the apocalypse comes :)
Published 4 months ago by Judith Ibbitson
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