The Great Divide: Nature and Human Nature in the Old World and the New

The Great Divide: Nature and Human Nature in the Old World and the New

by Peter Watson
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

Peter Watson, the acclaimed author of Ideas and The German Genius, offers a groundbreaking new exploration of the progress of human history. Watson’s The Great Divide compares and contrasts the development of humankind between the “Old World” and the “New”—between 15,000 B.C. and 1,500 A.D—and, like…  See more details below

Overview

Peter Watson, the acclaimed author of Ideas and The German Genius, offers a groundbreaking new exploration of the progress of human history. Watson’s The Great Divide compares and contrasts the development of humankind between the “Old World” and the “New”—between 15,000 B.C. and 1,500 A.D—and, like Jarod Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, Watson’s remarkable book offers a fascinating, all-encompassing, highly readable overview of how human civilization has grown and expanded. Combining the most up-to-date findings in archaeology, anthropology, geology, meteorology, cosmology and mythology, this unprecedented, masterful study offers uniquely revealing insights into what it means to be human.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Watson, a former senior editor at the London Sunday Times, explores the radically different cultures and fates of the Eastern and Western hemispheres in this sweeping comparative history from the last Ice Age to the Columbian contact. His analysis spotlights gross environmental disparities: compared to the Old World, the Americas had a smaller land mass and population, a geographical layout that impeded cultural and technological exchange, a dearth of domesticable plants and animals and an unstable climate and terrain wracked by hurricanes, droughts, volcanoes, and earthquakes. But Watson reaches further—sometimes implausibly far—in linking physical and ecological conditions to ideology and religion; he contends that the New World’s frequent geoclimatic disasters provoked rites of human sacrifice to propitiate angry gods, and that the Old World’s experience with animal husbandry helped engender both the Judeo-Christian tradition and rationalism. Watson (The Caravaggio Conspiracy) integrates reams of multidisciplinary scholarship into an ambitious and stimulating unifying framework. Inevitably, some of his speculations feel forced, especially on the meanings of the New World’s bloodthirsty rituals and shamanistic jaguar deities, which feel like exotic enigmas beside the more familiar narrative of Old World progress. Still, like Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, his grand-scale history contains fascinating insights at every turn. B&w illus.; maps. Agent: Robin Straus Agency. (July)
Kirkus Reviews
An ingenious work about the course of human history. From the time ancient people came into America until Columbus landed, two entirely separate populations existed on Earth, one in each hemisphere. Journalist and cultural historian Watson (The German Genius, 2010, etc.) examines that epoch of over 16,000 years as they adapted, developing different survival strategies, customs, languages, religions and ultimately different civilizations. After leaving Africa, modern humans took about 50,000 years to reach eastern Siberia, arriving during the last ice age when sea levels were lower, exposing a land bridge to Alaska. Around 15,000 years ago, many crossed. They entered a violent hemisphere with destructive hurricanes, dramatic temperature and rainfall variations and 90 percent of the world's tornados, as well as far more seismic and volcanic activity than Old World mainland areas. Added to naturally occurring hallucinogenic and stimulant plants (rarer in the Old World), New World religions and ideology displayed a vivid, apocalyptic tone. Watson discusses what these migrants brought: specific flood and creation myths, genetic markers, language elements and dogs. Agriculture and cities eventually developed, but the New World made do without horses or other beasts of burden, except the llama, which never reached Mexico, as well as large, edible domestic animals, the plow and the wheel. The author seems to know everything about his subject and to hold an opinion on every issue, which he enthusiastically passes on. Watson makes a fascinating case that while there may be a single human nature, long exposure to dissimilar landscapes, food, animals and climate created two unique approaches to this nature.

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061672453
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
06/26/2012
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
640
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)

Meet the Author

Peter Watson has written for the New York Times, The Observer, The Spectator, and numerous other publications. He is the author of Ideas, War on the Mind, Wisdom and Strength, The Caravaggio Conspiracy, and other books. He lives in London.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >