The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity

Farrar. Nov. 2021. 704p. ISBN 9780374157357. $35. SCI
Wengrow (archaeology, Univ. Coll. London) and the late David Graeber (anthropology, London Sch. of Economics) successfully disrupt the story popularly believed about the rise of civilization: starting from small bands of peaceful hunter-gatherers, an agricultural revolution led to cities, which led to hierarchy and eventually the modern nation-state, where technological progress is bought at the cost of liberty and equality. Instead, they decentralize these founding mythologies of Western culture by examining Indigenous counterexamples from around the globe, spanning the Neolithic period to today. By synthesizing modern evidence from their two disciplines, they demonstrate that societies have been much more flexible, diverse, and creative in their social structures, adapting and reacting to their physical environs, their values, and their neighbors, and not merely constrained by technological or economic efficiencies. Asking questions about the origins of inequality or of the state requires defining those terms, and it quickly becomes obvious that there is no all-encompassing definition of either, and no inevitable social or political arrangement that history is guiding us toward.
VERDICT This well-reasoned survey of anthropological history should intrigue historians, social activists, and fans of Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens or Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel.
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