Synopses & Reviews
This is a little book about 50,000 years of human history that finally connects modern history, and medieval history, and ancient history, and what's still called prehistory . Offering a fascinating digest of the significant scientific discoveries of recent years, Harvard History Professor Daniel Lord Smail presents a new paradigm for understanding changes in human culture, commerce, hierarchy, and civilization throughout time. First he debunks all the ways in which historians have justified continuing writing about 6,000 years of history by talking about writing, civilization, or historical consciousness. Then he guides the reader accessibly through an enormous literature on recent, 'hot' work on evolution, Paleolithic studies, and neuroscience--and shows how this can change our view of history, human life, and historical writing. Lastly he shows how history of all peoples at all times can be understood through psychotropy (humans using substances or actions to alter their own brain-body states). Through fascinating stories that range from religious ritual to coffee drinking, medieval knights to nineteenth-century gin, Smail finally brings the latest developments in the humanities and sciences together to put an entirely new, holistic cast on our understanding of ourselves.