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Climate Change and the Course of Global History
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Book description

Climate Change and the Course of Global History presents the first global study by a historian to fully integrate the earth-system approach of the new climate science with the material history of humanity. Part I argues that geological, environmental, and climatic history explain the pattern and pace of biological and human evolution. Part II explores the environmental circumstances of the rise of agriculture and the state in the Early and Mid-Holocene, and presents an analysis of human health from the Paleolithic through the rise of the state. Part III introduces the problem of economic growth and examines the human condition in the Late Holocene from the Bronze Age through the Black Death. Part IV explores the move to modernity, stressing the emerging role of human economic and energy systems as earth-system agents in the Anthropocene. Supported by climatic, demographic, and economic data, this provides a pathbreaking model for historians of the environment, the world, and science.


'Think of this as travel writing of the highest order. A rough journey for mankind becomes a stimulating armchair adventure for the reader. This is big history, framed by big ideas but anchored in the very recent explosion of knowledge about climate through the ages and about our history and prehistory. Brooke skillfully navigates the interpretive hazards of proxy paleoclimate data. In Brooke’s persuasive account, our evolution to modernity is not absolutely determined by climate and disease, but it has been substantially influenced by them. Our new knowledge shows that quite often these influences abruptly change course, and Brooke shows that much of our history is a consequence of societies scrambling to adjust.'

Mark A. Cane - G. Unger Vetlesen Professor of Earth and Climate Sciences, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University

'John Brooke skillfully joins a vast scientific literature to the historiography of virtually every major region to argue that climatic shifts always have been the primary agency determining the pace and direction of human development. He thus offers an unprecedentedly coordinated global chronology as well as a nuanced, distinctly original understanding of the relation between endogenous and exogenous forces. A jaw-dropping tour de force.'

Victor Lieberman - Raoul Wallenberg Distinguished University Professor of History, University of Michigan

'Readers with advanced degrees in meteorology, archaeology, economics and world environmental history will easily comprehend Brooke's magisterial survey-synthesis. For others, it poses an interesting challenge. The author's mastery and referencing of the vast technical literature in different disciplines is remarkable. … The author also explains seven phases of climate history since 3000 BCE and three industrial revolutions. The consequence is a fundamental change from a lightly populated world controlled by nature to a heavily populated world controlled by both nature and human agency. Summing up: highly recommended.'

F. N. Egerton Source: Choice

'… a wide-ranging work starting with our pre-human and early human ancestor and ending with a consideration of future trajectories … One of the reviews on the back cover has called it ‘a jaw-dropping tour de force’; spanning, as it does, millennia and continents, it is hard to argue with that conclusion.'

Carleton Jones Source: The Journal of Irish Archaeology

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  • Introduction
    pp 1-14
  • Growth, Punctuation, and Human Well-Being


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