On Deep History and the Brain

On Deep History and the Brain

On Deep History and the Brain

On Deep History and the Brain

Synopsis

When does history begin? What characterizes it? This brilliant and beautifully written book dissolves the logic of a beginning based on writing, civilization, or historical consciousness and offers a model for a history that escapes the continuing grip of the Judeo-Christian time frame. Daniel Lord Smail argues that in the wake of the Decade of the Brain and the best-selling historical work of scientists like Jared Diamond, the time has come for fundamentally new ways of thinking about our past. He shows how recent work in evolution and paleohistory makes it possible to join the deep past with the recent past and abandon, once and for all, the idea of prehistory. Making an enormous literature accessible to the general reader, he lays out a bold new case for bringing neuroscience and neurobiology into the realm of history.

Excerpt

In the 1970s, John R. W. Smail, a professor of Southeast Asian history at the University of Wisconsin, began teaching “The Natural History of Man,” an undergraduate course that ranged freely across the millennia, paying little attention to the boundaries of modern disciplines. Looking back on it, I can see that he was influenced by evolutionary approaches to the understanding of society that were just starting to filter back into the social sciences in the 1960s. At the time, however, it seemed like a rather odd course for a professor of Southeast Asian history to be teaching. Be that as it may, I developed my own life-long fascination for natural history, evolution, and the theory of natural selection while listening to my father try out his ideas on us, a pattern that my own children will no doubt recognize. Several decades later, as my father was collapsing under the iron grip of Alzheimer’s, I decided to try my own version of a deep history of humankind as a kind of intellectual memorial. the result, in the fall of 2000, was “A Natural History,” a course I was to teach on two more occasions at Fordham University. This book has grown out of that course. More accurately, it first took form as a short introduction . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.