A SHORT HISTORY OF THE WORLD

Geoffrey Blainey, Author . Ivan R. Dee $27.50 (480p) ISBN 1-56663-421-0

Eschewing the traditional compendium of names, dates, battles and lists, Australian historian Blainey (The Causes of War) offers a compact human history—about how our species evolved, coped, adapted and matured—in this cogently written volume. From his vantage point in another hemisphere, he also furnishes a useful corrective to our predictable North American/European outlook, by chronicling human progress from Asian and African perspectives as well. As the millennia fly by in fewer than 500 pages, superficiality sets in—but then again, when the task is to trace history from the early hominids some two million years ago to the shrinking world of 2000, this is to be expected. Blainey's strengths lie in charting the development of human functions—how skills became technologies, how beliefs became systems, how mechanical communications of every kind have strikingly changed the world, how lives have become more complex and more fulfilled. In the midst of all this, Blainey considers the impact of the oceans and seas, climate and land obstacles, slavery and declining physical labor, food production and diet, disease and medicine, wars and famines, and curiosity and exploration. Countries and cultural heroes both ancient and modern get their share of the narrative, and Blainey picks both central events—like the voyages of Columbus—and symbolic small ones—like the exhumation from Alpine ice of a still-fleshy corpse some 5,000 years old—to explain the growth of knowledge about the past. "In human history," Blainey concludes his highly accessible saga, "almost nothing is preordained." 11 maps. (Apr. 12)

Reviewed on: 02/04/2002
Release date: 02/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
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