Book review: 'Sapiens': A brief history of Humankind

Updated 17 April 2018
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Book review: 'Sapiens': A brief history of Humankind

In terms of scope and ambition, Yuval Harari’s aim to offer a “Brief History of Humankind” can’t be topped. But, over 512 pages, that is exactly what the historian and academic does — and with verve and skill.
“Sapiens” tells the story of how we — humankind — transformed ourselves from insignificant apes to the most dominant species on the planet.
Harari covers a lot of ground at pace in a loosely chronological way, taking up broad themes and ideas, and resisting the temptation to bombard the reader with facts and statistics. Instead, he offers thrilling arguments and challenging theories.
The book seeks an answer to the age-old question: “Why has humankind become the most influential species on Earth?” while also revealing the problems and solutions we have created both for ourselves and the rest of nature.
“Sapiens” is as fascinating as it is provocative — one theory is that wheat is the dominant life form on the planet. Well thought-out and brilliantly written, this book will have you looking at the world through new eyes.


What We Are Reading Today: Erasmus, Man of Letters by Lisa Jardine

Updated 23 October 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: Erasmus, Man of Letters by Lisa Jardine

The name Erasmus of Rotterdam conjures up a golden age of scholarly integrity and the disinterested pursuit of knowledge, when learning could command public admiration without the need for authorial self-promotion. Lisa Jardine, however, shows that Erasmus self-consciously created his own reputation as the central figure of the European intellectual world. Erasmus himself—the historical as opposed to the figural individual—was a brilliant, maverick innovator, who achieved little formal academic recognition in his own lifetime. What Jardine offers here is not only a fascinating study of Erasmus but also a bold account of a key moment in Western history, a time when it first became possible to believe in the existence of something that could be designated “European thought.”

Lisa Jardine is professor of Renaissance studies at University College London, where she is also director of the UCL Centre for Humanities Interdisciplinary Research Projects and the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters.