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The Other Side of Eden: Hunter-gatherers, Farmers and the Shaping of the World [Paperback]

Hugh Brody
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Mar 2002

Hugh Brody has an international reputation as an anthropologist and documentary film-maker of the Inuit peoples. This book is a marvellous account of hunter-gatherer culture, gleaned from years of living and hunting with the Inuits of the Arctic and the salmon-fishing tribes in the Canadian Northwest.

Brody explores the frontiers between hunters and farmers, and shows us how the encounter between radically different ways of being in the world is at the core of human history. He travels through exquisite landscapes of ice and snow, with people who know the land as part of their selves. Posing the question, 'Why did the farmer triumph over the hunter-gatherer?', Brody finds answers in a variety of places, among them the Book of Genesis, the great creation myth at the centre of the agriculturalist view of the world.

This is a book that invites the reader to embark on a series of expeditions, into the territories of hunter-gatherers, and into radical ideas about what it means to be human in the present, and what it could mean in the future.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; New Ed edition (4 Mar 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 057120502X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571205028
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 145,406 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

In the 1970s acclaimed British writer Hugh Brody (Maps and Dreams), spent several years studying the native hunter-gatherer tribes of Canada. In 1997 he joined an institute dedicated to the San Bushmen, the last true hunter-gatherers in Africa. In between he has visited virtually every region on earth inhabited by so-called primitive man.

As a result, few could be better qualified then Brody to write a book about the origins, history and future of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. And, yes, the book is a fund of knowledge about these intriguing peoples: Brody moves from the Saami of Finland to the Australian Aborigines to the Inuit of the Canadian Arctic, comparing and contrasting their allegedly archaic languages and social systems, and wondering where and how they lost out to the farmer who came after.

But what ennobles this book, what makes it more than a worthy, interesting anthropological tract, is Brody's prose style. His lush descriptions of landscape and skilful and sometimes lyrical interweaving of personal experience with history, myth and futurology, leave one with a far profounder concern for the destiny of these precious but endangered societies than 10,000 pages of the most scandalised agitprop. --Sean Thomas --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


'Often eloquent, sometimes moving, and always fascinating... Brody's gripping book brings the resourceful intelligence and courage of hunter-gatherers vividly to life.' New Scientist 'The case for the hunter's ethic has never been more persuasively argued than in this wide-ranging, eloquent book.' TLS

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Brody's descriptions are sparse, haunting and beautifully-crafted. At his best (as in the opening pages) it is verging on poetry. His core theme - I quote from page 160 - is this:
"The profound dichotomy that has shaped the agricultural era may indeed therefore lie in an opposition between nomads and settlers, between people for whom home is place of timeless constancy, a centre in which humanity itself arose, and those who are on the move and, if at rest, rest only while preparing for further movement. the paradox, of course, is that this is the divide between the settled hunters and the nomadic farmers."
To illustrate this view, he describes what Eskimos and Indians say and do and how they are inextricably linked to a form of resource use that is massively sustainable and eco-friendly when compared to 'settled' farming. The construction of his points can be laboured and weighty, and there is repetition, but within a page he will deftly withdraw into some delightful and poignant descriptive passage. He does not shy away from making strong political and moral points, nor does he hide himself: his own background is modestly sketched out.
I urge whoever reads this to follow the notes in the back - they are the sideroads and crimson herrings that really make the whole.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A journey 25 Jan 2007
This book is fantastic, no exaggeration.

The books takes you on a journey; a journey into the experiences had by Brody, the experiences of the native peoples he encounters and a journey through the harsh landscape of the arctic.

Whether read as part of an anthropology/ archaeology course or as a book for pleasure I would highly recommend it.

The style of Brody's prose is something to admire and aspire to both.

The book is insightful and points out the injustices hunter gatherer communities in the discussed region have undergone without insulting the reader. it is a subtle account which, in my humble opionion, spreads the desired message far more effectively than an 'in your face' rant at the reader.

All in all a splendid read and very much worth the cost.

Having read the book, in hindsight I would pay far more for it!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Extremely valuable for those interested. 12 Oct 2010
Some great passages in here on the different hunter-gatherer communities Brody has spent time living and working with. Unfortunately, for me, too often it gets rather bogged down in the intricacies of linguistic origins or the various belief systems. As interesting as these subjects are it felt much more disjointed and less satisfactory reading than his other work Maps And Dreams which I'd recently read and enjoyed far more. For a student of this particular field of anthropology it will doubtless prove extremely valuable.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars should be part of everyone's education! 5 Dec 2001
By A Customer
Hugh Brody is an anthropologist & documentary filmmaker who has worked and traveled extensively among indigenous peoples. He has spent nearly three decades studying, learning from, crusading for, & thinking about hunter-gatherers, who survive at the margins of the vast, fertile lands occupied by farming peoples & their descendants, now the great majority of the world's population.
That said be ready to take off for faraway places, ideas & behaviors!
The hunters have been all but vanquished, yet in this profound and passionate book, Brody dispels the notion that theirs is a lesser way of life, & reveals the systems of thought, belief, & practice that distinguish them from the farmers.
The hunters' deep attachment to the places & ways of their ancestors stems from an enviable sense that they are part of a web of relationships in the natural & spiritual worlds. Brody's aim is not to elevate one mode of being over another, but to suggest that we move beyond dichotomies & accept that there are various ways of being fully human.
"The Other Side of Eden" is an exciting, generally well-written saga of the dreams & accomplishments of a dying culture, & as such should be part of everyone's education.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Defenders of capitalism tell us that it is futile to try to create a more co-operative and equal society because they claim that human society has always been, and always will be, unequal, class-divided, competitive and driven by the innate selfishness of human beings.

But for over ninety percent of the time that Homo sapiens has existed, until the development of agriculture twelve thousand years ago, all humans lived in hunter-gatherer societies. These societies were classless, egalitarian and co-operative. (Marx and Engels called this type of society "primitive communism".)

Hugh Brody's book is about hunter-gatherer societies that still exist in remote parts of the world today. Brody has spent years living with hunter-gatherers, particularly the Inuit of the Canadian Arctic, and helping them to resist the encroachment of "civilised" modern society.

The book has two elements. There is a narrative about Brody's time with the Inuit and other hunter-gatherers, and there is a general discussion about hunter-gatherer societies. Personally, I found the constant jumping backwards and forwards between narrative and analysis rather annoying. But the book is still well worth reading.

Of course, present-day hunter-gatherer societies are not exactly like their prehistoric equivalents. For one thing, none are untouched by more "advanced" societies. For another, the only remaining hunter-gatherers today live in marginal areas of the world: farmers and more developed societies have taken over the best bits. Nevertheless, today's hunter-gatherers still see their homelands as "lands of plenty".

Incidentally, there is evidence from the archaeology of bones that hunter-gatherers had a healthier diet and life-style than later farmers.
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