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Neanderthals, Bandits and Farmers. How Agriculture Really Began (Darwinism Today) Hardcover – 5 Oct 1998

4.2 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Orion; First Ed edition (5 Oct. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297842587
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297842583
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 1 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 23,985 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Amazon Review

This slim volume is part of "Darwinism Today", a series of provocative short books by an international group of leading thinkers in the field of evolutionary theory and its impact on our society. The series developed out of a programme of Darwin Seminars at the London School of Economics. Each essay stands alone as a topic and is about 14,000 words long. Topics include parenting, labour, and genetics. The series is edited by Helena Cronin and Oliver Curry and aims to reach a wide readership.

Colin Tudge argues against the traditional belief that agriculture began in the Middle East a mere 10,000 years ago and then spread out around the world. In this readable and provocative essay, Tudge claims that from at least 40,000 years ago (the late Palaeolithic), people were "managing their environment to such an extent that they can properly be called 'proto-farmers' ". He goes on to argue that this much earlier development explains the relatively sudden and enormous success of modern humans after that date and their global distribution. Furthermore Tudge claims that the really interesting question is why anyone took up farming at all when "it so obviously beastly". Accordingly "people did not invent agriculture and shout for joy; they drifted or were forced into it, protesting all the way". Tudge equates the success of farming and production of surplus food with human reproductive success and the vicious spiral of population growth. He ends with the somewhat romantic view of our hunting ancestors as "lazy, as lions are" and hopes that "we should learn from them".

This is the stimulating and provocative language of the lecture hall but it translates well in the context of an essay in the best tradition of our Victorian forbears. Colin Tudge is the well-known author of a number of semi-popular books for adults in the general area of anthropology and evolution. He also holds a research fellowship in the Centre for Philosophy at the LSE and is currently editing The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Evolution. --Douglas Palmer


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