The Undivided Past: Humanity Beyond Our Differences

David Cannadine. Knopf, $26.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-307-26907-2
Readers able to navigate the dense roundabout writing style of historian/Princeton lecturer Cannadine (Mellon: An American Life) will find a complex, thoughtful examination of the fundamental ways in which humanity divides itself. While these all stem from an innate “us vs. them” mentality, Cannadine takes the investigation a step further, looking at how we think of ourselves in terms of religion, class, nation, race, gender, and civilization. Even then, he points out that it’s never as simple as “man vs. woman” or “Christian vs. Muslim”—a wide variety of factors can create numerous factions and differences within any grouping. Indeed, he speaks out against the “misleading but widespread practice” of “totalizing,” or “describing and defining individuals by their membership of one group.” It’s all a build-up for his conclusion: “We need to see beyond our differences... to embrace and to celebrate the common humanity that has always bound us together.” Unfortunately, the message may be lost due to Cannadine’s penchant for $10 words, complex sentences, alliteration, and thesaurus abuse. It might make for a great lecture, but easy reading it isn’t. Determined scholars, however, will be rewarded for their persistence. Agent: Michael Carlisle, Inkwell Management. (Apr. 12)
Reviewed on: 02/11/2013
Release date: 04/09/2013
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Hardcover - 340 pages - 978-1-84614-132-4
Compact Disc - 978-1-4708-4455-4
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