Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

THE INVENTION OF YESTERDAY by Tamim Ansary

  • Written by  Jon Wright
  • Published in Books
THE INVENTION OF YESTERDAY by Tamim Ansary
21 Nov
2019
by Tamin Ansary • Public Affairs • £21.99 (hardback)

No groundbreaking ‘big idea’ prowls the pages of this book. We are not introduced to some previously concealed process or narrative that explains every last aspect of human history over tens of thousands of years. And, to be frank, this comes as something of a relief. The historiographical who- (or what-) dunnits that often place a hefty hermeneutic burden on the shoulders of a couple of explanatory factors (the quirkier the better), have come thick and fast in recent years.

Keep an eye on the world
signup buttonGet Geographical’s latest news delivered straight to your inbox every Friday, plus a collection of free eBooks on the subjects that matter to you!

No, Ansary takes a more sober approach. He is not, however, allergic to recurrent themes and patterns in the human story. He explores the ways in which ideas and developments have cropped up in one place and rippled out across the globe. He identifies the abiding tension of our shared history: civilisations have always been interconnected but, while encounters have created new syntheses and world views, localism and its ‘whirlpools of exclusion’ have always been resilient. Indeed, the very concept of a ‘world history’ is problematic: any account is always ‘somebody-centric’ and any conceptualisation of the past is driven by local ways of understanding the historical process, and the rich, idiosyncratic cultural assumptions and traditions of any given time and place. Better, perhaps, simply to revel in the messiness of it all. We hear all about the engines of change through the millennia: the arrival of language, agriculture, religion, dazzling technological advances, and we meet everyone from the guys in the caves to modern AI geeks.

Perhaps this sounds like a return to an older way of doing history. Not the worst idea, and it certainly doesn’t signal a lack of ambition. If you chose to cover everything from Phoenician explorations of language to the utterly unexpected historical rise of Europe, and topics as diverse as farming methods in ancient Mesopotamia and the faiths of Mauryan India, you run an obvious risk. A couple of false steps and your reader will become hopelessly confused. Luckily, Ansary remains sure-footed throughout.

Click here to order The Invention of Yesterday via Amazon

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox by signing up to our weekly newsletter and get a free collection of eBooks!

geo line break v3

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in REVIEWS...

Books

by Zoran Nikolic • Collins • £14.99 (softback)

Books

by John Haywood • Thames & Hudson • £19.95 (hardback)

Books

by Ed Stafford • White Lion Publishing • £30 (hardback/eBook)

Books

In need of inspiration? Check out Geographical’s best books of…

Books

by Rory MacLean • Bloomsbury • £20 (hardback)

Books

by David Runciman • Profile Books • £14.99 (hardback)

Books

Give the gift of adventure this year with these superb…

Books

by David Sim • Island Press • £26 (paperback)

Books

by Tamin Ansary • Public Affairs • £21.99 (hardback)

Books

DK • £30 (hardback)

Books

by Philip Marsden • Granta • £20 (hardback)

Books

by James Lovelock • Allen Lane • £14.99 (hardback)

Exhibitions

The largest collection of treasures from Tutankhamun’s tomb ever to…

Films

Fresh from an award-winning screening at the Sundance Film Festival…

Films

The inside story about The Cave – the first feature…

Books

by Laura Waters • Affirm Press (via bookdepository.com) • £16.61 (paperback)

Books

by John Halpern, MD and David Blistein • Hachette Book…

Books

by Gavin Thurston • Seven Dials • £16.99 (hardback)