A Brief History of The Human Race

This book by Michael Cook should have been written in 1950 so I could have learned to love the subject of history in my youth, as my father vainly urged me.

It provides what I had often longed for: a general framework, with big boxes for subject areas, into which I could logically put, for later intelligent retrieval, the endless streams of information we students were supposed to memorize for reasons and purposes never clear to me.

The book is organized into four major parts:

  1. Why is History the Way It Is?
  2. The Smaller Continents
  3. The Eurasian Landmass
  4. Toward One World? “Modern humans—in the sense of people anatomically indistinguishable from us—date back a good 130,000 years, and perhaps considerably longer.”

From “Human Evolution: A start for population genomics” by S. Blair Hedges; Published in Nature, 7 December 2000

I was reminded of the following video I recently saved, in that the book gives one a dynamic view of the ebb and flow of peoples, cultures and events that influenced our arrival at this point in world history: Imperial History of the Middle East

Throughout the book the author pauses briefly to ask rhetorical questions, and answers them clearly, entertainingly and usefully:

  • Why did history happen when it did? Why has it all been packed in the last 10,000 years?
  • Did humans make the only kind of history they could?
  • Why did events and significant changes in human populations happen when they did? Could they have happened differently?

My wish that this book should have been written in 1950 could not possibly have been fulfilled. Much of the scientific research and findings currently available to the author was not available then, especially within the sciences of human, and even animal genetics. But it is available now to suffering students in high school and college, or university. It certainly is also for those whose love of history is already established.