Category Archives: History

From the Big Bang to the present via Agriculture, the “Dark Ages”, the Enlightenment and the Four Industrial Revolutions

History of Humankind: Social Constructs as Imagining Minds

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind -  Yuval Harari   Big History; Social Evolution; Future Intelligence

A world best-seller, Harari’s Sapiens belongs to the genre that has become known as Big History, a sub-discipline which focuses on the biological, geological, archaeological, ethnographic and ecological evidence that has accumulated over the last 60 years as a result of improved carbon-dating and the discovery of DNA.

Sapiens is a must-read – challenging, exciting and well-written.

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The Decline of Violence: A Long View

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined -  Steven Pinker   History; Psychology; Cultural Development
  • The world is getting more violent!” …….WRONG. It has become less violent.
  • “The Twentieth Century was the most violent century in history!….NO! There have been worse.
  • “Our societies are falling apart!” Nobody can predict the future, but I suspect that every generation has thought both that things were better in the past and the peace that we all wish for has always been elusive.
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The East versus the West – Development, Hubris and Catch-up

Why the West Rules - For Now -  Ian Morris   Big History, Civilisation Development, USA v. China

Ian Morris is a historian with an interest in archaeology who goes beyond a traditional historical method that relies on written records. He uses carbon dating techniques, DNA and chemical samples from a range of archaeological sites in tandem with statistical records from the more recent past to construct an intriguing index of social development over 20,000 years. The index is made data on caloric energy inputs (as a proxy for standard of living), city size (as a proxy for organizational complexity), information and communication technology (as a proxy for trading capability), and military size (as a proxy for political power).

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How Energy and Geography Shape Human Values

Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels: How Human Values Evolve -  Ian Morris   Long-Term History, Sociology, Ethics, Culture

These four confronting lectures by Ian Morris are based on his book, Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels: How Human Values Evolve. Morris argues that fundamental long-term values are driven by the interaction of geography and energy extraction.

Morris confronts us not only with the politically unacceptable view that democracy and equality are far from universal values, but also that values are circumscribed by energy and geography and that the bloodshed, inequality and geopolitics of the past were “needed”.

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Antisemitism in the Modern Age

Anti-Semitism in the Modern Age -  Yehuda Bauer   Jew-hatred, Israel-Palestine, Politics

Yehuda Bauer begins his talk by recounting how the word ‘antisemitism’ was coined by a liberal German Jew-hater who felt uncomfortable with using the more accurate description ‘Jew-hatred’. Having made his point, Bauer continues with common usage instead of grandstanding on a distracting pedantry. He is clearly upset, annoyed and frustrated by the world he sees around him, yet he retains an old-school liberal middle-Europe Enlightenment vision  that is idealistic yet grounded.

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