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Origins: How the Earth Made Us Reviews

Origins: How the Earth Made Us  by Lewis Dartnell

Origins: How The Earth Made Us

Lewis Dartnell

4.17 out of 5

3 reviews

Imprint: The Bodley Head Ltd
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publication date: 31 Jan 2019
ISBN: 9781847924353

Dartnell has a rare talent in being able to see the big picture - and explaining why it matters' PETER FRANKOPAN, author of The Silk RoadsWhen we talk about human history, we focus on great leaders, mass migration and decisive wars.

  • The TimesBook of the Year
5 stars out of 5
Gerard DeGroot
18 Jan 2019

"This fascinating book shows the role that tempestuous Planet Earth plays in driving human history"

Earth is in a constant state of flux. In the late 1950s construction workers digging in Trafalgar Square found the remains of rhinos, hippos, elephants and lions. That was once the norm in the previous interglacial period. The interglacial, which provided the conditions for man’s extraordinary progress, started about 12,000 years ago. It will come to an end. That is certain. What will happen next is anyone’s guess, but it’s bound to involve a lot of ice. Perhaps the most profound lesson of this superb book is that nothing is permanent, or predictable.


3 stars out of 5
1 Feb 2019

"snappily written"

Origins, snappily written, is a fast read, unencumbered in the text by acknowledgement of sources, although the briefest possible notes supply references. Its brief discursions are fascinating too... A canny synthesis, the book is less original than it wants to appear, being in the tradition established by Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel of 1997, doubtless also hoping to emulate the success of Tim Marshall’s Prisoners of Geography of 2015 (444,500 sales in the UK). 

2 stars out of 5

"Dartnell is deplorably unambitious. "

Wonderful books have helped us understand how environment intersects with human agency in making our world. I think, for instance, of Martin Jones on the beginnings of agriculture, Roland Bechmann on the ‘roots’ of Gothic architecture, Jared Diamond on the reasons for Eurasian and North African precocity in innovation, William MacNeill on how disease helped dissolve Europe’s New World empires and Geoffrey Parker on the ‘global crisis’ of the 17th century. There is still an unfilled niche for a work on the theme of Origins that does this subject justice.