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Magnificent History of the World (from Below)
on 23 June 2013
This is a brilliant book chronicling the history of the world from the emergence of the first humans to the current global economic collapse. Written in a very clear, easy to understand and concise language, the chapters are short, clearly titled and can each be read in about ten minutes. The book can be read as a continuous narrative or delved into as a source of reference. It describes how human society first evolved as small clans of hunter-gatherers, roaming along the great river-banks of Africa, Europe and Asia, foraging for food, living what Karl Marx described as a "primitive communist" existence. It describes the three great transormations in human history:
(1) The agricultural revolution which gave rise to increased food surpluses as land was farmed and animals bred, leading to the growth of more permanent settlements with larger populations;
(2) The rise of social classes as a small elite was able to gain control over the surplus and use it for their own purposes to the detriment of the great majority;
(3) The industrial revolution and the rise of capitalism leading to a vast increase in productive capacity.
This is not a history focussed on a few kings, queens, emperors, generals, presidents etc. It is not a "history from above" as we are taught in school and via the media. Of a few great men and occasionally women with the rest of humanity just passive observers. This is a "history from below" focussed on how the masses have taken centre stage at key points in history and played a decisive role in transforming the world. It looks at the three engines of history and describes how they have acted to shape past events:
(1) Technological development;
(2) The struggle within and between rival ruling classes;
(3) The struggle between the ruling classes and the exploited classes.
This is an essential book for understanding how human society has evolved, how it changes, the forces that are at work (often behind the scenes) and how it can be changed in future. It is written from a Marxist perspective and was first published in serial form on the web site "Counterfire". Even if you do not consider yourself to be a Marxist, or if you have limited knowledge of what Marxism is, you will find this a fascinating and illuminating read showing how world events are often linked and describing not just what happened in history, but why.