Top critical review
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a scientific approach to human history
on 15 January 2013
I bought this book having been fascinated by the excellent The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? and having read the many glowing reviews here, but I must admit I was a little disappointed. This is much harder going for the general reader then the World Until Yesterday. The central point of this book is that some societies have reached preeminence at this point in history because of environmental and geographical factors - not, of course, because of some innate superiority of one group of people rather than another. Preeminence is shown to have been derived from the suitability of environments to facilitate and sustain settled communities. The key elements of settled communities are shown to be the availability of animals which can be domesticated, and of suitable land and crops to provide food production.
The author makes his points clearly and convincingly and draws on substantial evidence from various branches of science including archeology, anthropology, and linguistics to make his case. Much of the book is devoted to proving points already made earlier in the text
As a general reader i found the rather scientific approach taken in this book a little tedious at times - there is much repetition and summary of points already made, and most of the book is focused on the study of early groupings of people - the hunter gatherers, farmers, and small tribes who lived many thousands of years ago, but with little reference in the book to more modern times.
This is more hard science than it is sociology or history. A good book, but not as interesting for me as a general reader as I had hoped