From Sunday Times bestselling author of The Knowledge, a book that takes us far back in time to the point where history becomes science, and that unpeels the layers of this history to reveal not how we made the earth, but how the earth made us.
When we talk about human history, we focus on great leaders, mass migration and decisive wars. But how has the Earth itself determined our destiny? How has our planet made us?
As a species we are shaped by our environment. Geological forces drove our evolution in East Africa; mountainous terrain led to the development of democracy in Greece; and today voting behaviour in the United States follows the bed of an ancient sea. The human story is the story of these forces, from plate tectonics and climate change, to atmospheric circulation and ocean currents.
How are the Himalayas linked to the orbit of the Earth, and to the formation of the British Isles? By taking us billions of years into our planet’s past, Professor Lewis Dartnell tells us the ultimate origin story. When we reach the point where history becomes science we see a vast web of connections that underwrites our modern world and helps us face the challenges of the future.
From the cultivation of the first crops to the founding of modern states, Origins reveals the Earth’s awesome impact on the shape of human civilizations.
About the Author
Lewis Dartnell is an astrobiology researcher and professor at the University of Westminster. He has won several awards for his science writing, and contributes to the Guardian, The Times and New Scientist. He has also written for television and appeared on BBC Horizon, Sky News, and Wonders of the Universe, as well as National Geographic and History channels. A tireless populariser of science, his previous books include the bestselling The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch.
"An original and timely way of looking at human history through the materials and natural resources that our species has employed to such effect. It should be read by everyone who ponders how long exploitation can continue on a finite planet."
"Endlessly enthralling, Lewis Dartnell explains why the history of humanity, and of human cultures, both take dictation from the deeper history of Earth herself - from broad generalities to surprisingly specific details. An entertaining and informative essay on contingency - and worthy successor to the writing of Stephen Jay Gould."
"Dartnell has found the perfect blend of science and history. This is a book that will not only challenge our preconceptions about the past, but should make us think very carefully about humanity’s future."
Simon Griffith, Mail On Sunday
"What a treat to see history through the eyes of an astrobiologist! Our history was shaped profoundly by the laying down of iron beds two billion years ago, by the tectonic forces that ripped open the African rift valley, by the slow cooling of the earth that began 50 million years ago, and by the evolution of grasses! Lewis Dartnell’s absorbing new book shows, with many vivid examples, how deeply human history is embedded in the history of planet earth."
David Christian, author of Origin Story