The Dawn of Everything

The Dawn of Everything

A New History of Humanity

Summary

THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER AND SUNDAY TIMES, OBSERVER AND BBC HISTORY BOOK OF THE YEAR

FINALIST FOR THE ORWELL PRIZE FOR POLITICAL WRITING 2022

'Pacey and potentially revolutionary' Sunday Times


'Iconoclastic and irreverent ... an exhilarating read' The Guardian

For generations, our remote ancestors have been cast as primitive and childlike - either free and equal, or thuggish and warlike. Civilization, we are told, could be achieved only by sacrificing those original freedoms or, alternatively, by taming our baser instincts. David Graeber and David Wengrow show how such theories first emerged in the eighteenth century as a reaction to indigenous critiques of European society, and why they are wrong. In doing so, they overturn our view of human history, including the origins of farming, property, cities, democracy, slavery and civilization itself.

Drawing on path-breaking research in archaeology and anthropology, the authors show how history becomes a far more interesting place once we begin to see what's really there. If humans did not spend 95 per cent of their evolutionary past in tiny bands of hunter-gatherers, what were they doing all that time? If agriculture, and cities, did not mean a plunge into hierarchy and domination, then what kinds of social and economic organization did they lead to? The answers are often unexpected, and suggest that the course of history may be less set in stone, and more full of playful possibilities than we tend to assume.

The Dawn of Everything fundamentally transforms our understanding of the human past and offers a path toward imagining new forms of freedom, new ways of organizing society. This is a monumental book of formidable intellectual range, animated by curiosity, moral vision and faith in the power of direct action.

'This is not a book. This is an intellectual feast' Nassim Nicholas Taleb

'The most profound and exciting book I've read in thirty years' Robin D. G. Kelley

Reviews

  • A boldly ambitious work ... entertaining and thought-provoking ... an impressively large undertaking that succeeds in making us reconsider not just the remote past but also the too-close-to-see present, as well as the common thread that is our shifting and elusive nature.
    Andrew Anthony, Observer

About the authors

David Graeber

David Graeber was a professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics. He is the author of The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity, Debt: The First 5,000 Years and Bullshit Jobs: A Theory, and was a contributor to Harper's Magazine, The Guardian, and The Baffler. An iconic thinker and renowned activist, his early efforts helped to make Occupy Wall Street an era-defining movement. He died on 2 September 2020.
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David Wengrow

David Wengrow is a professor of comparative archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, and has been a visiting professor at New York University. He is the author of three books, including What Makes Civilization?. Wengrow conducts archaeological fieldwork in various parts of Africa and the Middle East.
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