Our Origin Stories
Histories of the Kings, Cavepeople, Beasts, and Battles Behind Today’s News
David Tollen’s new book tells the histories behind today’s great issues. It’s a “reader’s digest” for the vital ideas of anthropology and world history – with a user-friendly voice and a rare breadth of topics. Those topics include the origins and role of “races,” humanity’s 50,000-year management of the environment, the sources of Western power, the deaths of democracies, our species’ unusual war with microorganisms, and the myths and realities of conspiracies. Each of the f0urteen chapters covers one topic — in just eight to eighteen pages.
Our Origin Stories views history from 10,000 feet. It offers a clearer view of the present by telling background stories that span centuries, millennia, and more. Its genre includes works like Harari’s Sapiens and Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel. But it’s shorter and simpler than those and similar books, so it will serve a broader audience.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Not-Quite-True Tales and Origin Stories
HUMAN BLUEPRINTS AND OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH NATURE
- What Our Forager Origins Say About Human Nature
- How We Switched from Many Species to One and How Much We Differ Now
- How Much We’ve Killed Each Other and Why
- How We Created Today’s “Natural World”
- How We Ended Up Prey for So Many Germs & How They’ve Shaped Our World
- How We Formed Today’s Populations
BUILDING BLOCKS OF OUR CIVILIZATION
- The Distant Origins of Today’s Religions
- How We Created Races and Racism
- Nationalism: How We’ve Unified, Divided, and Supercharged the Political World
- The Enlightenment: The Key to Modern Success
- What History Says About Conspiracies and Conspiracy Theories
- How Technologies Change Our World
- How Civilizations Change or Die
APPENDICES: THREE VERY SHORT PRIMERS AND A TIMELINE
B. Natural Selection in the Evolution of Life and Other Things
C. Timeline of Big History
- Hanging Gardens of Babylon from 16th century CE engraving by Martin Heemskerck, cropped – public domain and provided through World History Encyclopedia
- Neanderthal woman, cropped, © Stiftung Neanderthal Museum
- The Emperor Augustus Rebuking Cornelius Cinna for His Treachery, Etienne-Jean Delécluze, 1814, cropped (including to remove Cinna) — provided through VanGoYourself
- King George III
These six histories shape our world, yet they’re seldom told. This unique booklet recounts six pivotal events – ancient, medieval, and modern – in brief and simple language, accompanied by detailed maps and beautiful original illustrations.
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