Against the Grain

Against the Grain A Deep History of the Earliest States

Paperback (04 Sep 2018)

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Synopsis

An Economist Best History Book 2017
 
"History as it should be written."-Barry Cunliffe, Guardian
 
"Scott hits the nail squarely on the head by exposing the staggering price our ancestors paid for civilization and political order."-Walter Scheidel, Financial Times
 
Why did humans abandon hunting and gathering for sedentary communities dependent on livestock and cereal grains, and governed by precursors of today's states? Most people believe that plant and animal domestication allowed humans, finally, to settle down and form agricultural villages, towns, and states, which made possible civilization, law, public order, and a presumably secure way of living. But archaeological and historical evidence challenges this narrative. The first agrarian states, says James C. Scott, were born of accumulations of domestications: first fire, then plants, livestock, subjects of the state, captives, and finally women in the patriarchal family-all of which can be viewed as a way of gaining control over reproduction.
 
Scott explores why we avoided sedentism and plow agriculture, the advantages of mobile subsistence, the unforeseeable disease epidemics arising from crowding plants, animals, and grain, and why all early states are based on millets and cereal grains and unfree labor. He also discusses the "barbarians" who long evaded state control, as a way of understanding continuing tension between states and nonsubject peoples.

Book information

ISBN: 9780300240214
Publisher: Yale University Press
Imprint: Yale University Press
Pub date:
DEWEY: 320.11
DEWEY edition: 23
Language: English
Sales rank: 47198
Number of pages: 336
Weight: 342g
Height: 143mm
Width: 209mm
Spine width: 23mm