The Great Divide
This book’s subtitle is “Nature and Human Nature in the Old World and the New,” which comes close to a summing up, for this is history – roughly, from 15,000 BC to 1500 AD – as seen through a compound eye composed of studies in archeology, anthropology, geology, meteorology, climatology and mythology. It’s a massive (and often unwieldy) synthesis, with ideas and theories drawn from many disciplines, used to support a thesis about why the cultures of the New World evolved differently to the cultures of Asia, Africa and Europe, and, further, why the “discovery” of the 15th century caused the great western civilizations to so speedily collapse. The wandering, highly speculative subject matter might drive a scientific specialist crazy, but as a writer and an avid reader of popular works by Jared Diamond, Barry Cunliffe, Brian Fagan, Spencer Wells, Bryan Sykes, J.P. Mallory, et al., I couldn’t stop turning pages. There were points at which I was off the bus, but the “No Way!” moments didn’t, in the end, detract from my overall enjoyment. Copious notes and reference material are provided for further research. There is plenty here to provoke, educate and entertain.