"An intellectual odyssey, a traveler's diary, and a comic novel all rolled into one. Smart, original, and utterly delightful." --Daniel Gilbert, Harvard professor and bestselling author of Stumbling on Happiness"A charming mix of history and wisdom cloaked as a rollicking travelogue." --Walter Isaacson, bestselling author of Steve Jobs Travel the world with Eric Weiner, the New York Times bestselling author of The Geography of Bliss, as he journeys from Athens to Silicon Valley--and throughout history, too--to show how creative genius flourishes in specific places at specific times. In The Geography of Genius, acclaimed travel writer Weiner sets out to examine the connection between our surroundings and our most innovative ideas. He explores the history of places, like Vienna of 1900, Renaissance Florence, ancient Athens, Song Dynasty Hangzhou, and Silicon Valley, to show how certain urban settings are conducive to ingenuity. And, with his trademark insightful humor, he walks the same paths as the geniuses who flourished in these settings to see if the spirit of what inspired figures like Socrates, Michelangelo, and Leonardo remains. In these places, Weiner asks, "What was in the air, and can we bottle it?" This link can be traced back through history: Darwin's theory of evolution gelled while he was riding in a carriage. Freud did his best thinking at this favorite coffee house. Beethoven, like many geniuses, preferred long walks in the woods. Sharp and provocative, The Geography of Genius redefines the argument about how genius came to be. His reevaluation of the importance of culture in nurturing creativity is an informed romp through history that will surely jumpstart a national conversation.
A monumental retelling of world history through the lens of the sea--revealing in breathtaking depth how people first came into contact with one another by ocean and river, lake and stream, and how goods, languages, religions, and entire cultures spread across and along the world's waterways, bringing together civilizations and defining what makes us most human. The Sea and Civilization is a mesmerizing, rhapsodic narrative of maritime enterprise, from the origins of long-distance migration to the great seafaring cultures of antiquity; from Song Dynasty human-powered paddle-boats to aircraft carriers and container ships. Lincoln Paine takes the reader on an intellectual adventure casting the world in a new light, in which the sea reigns supreme. Above all, Paine makes clear how the rise and fall of civilizations can be linked to the sea. An accomplishment of both great sweep and illuminating detail, The Sea and Civilization is a stunning work of history.
To travel the Silk Road, the greatest land route on earth, is to trace the passage not only of trade and armies but also of ideas, religions, and inventions. Making his way by local bus, truck, car, donkey cart, and camel, Colin Thubron covered some seven thousand miles in eight months--out of the heart of China into the mountains of Central Asia, across northern Afghanistan and the plains of Iran into Kurdish Turkey--and explored an ancient world in modern ferment.
Most history is hierarchical: it's about emperors, presidents, prime ministers and field marshals. It's about states, armies and corporations. It's about orders from on high. Even history from below is often about trade unions and workers' parties. But what if that's simply because hierarchical institutions create the archives that historians rely on? What if we are missing the informal, less well documented social networks that are the true sources of power and drivers of change? The 21st century has been hailed as the Age of Networks. However, in The Square and the Tower, Niall Ferguson argues that networks have always been with us, from the structure of the brain to the food chain, from the family tree to freemasonry. Throughout history, hierarchies housed in high towers have claimed to rule, but often real power has resided in the networks in the town square below. For it is networks that tend to innovate. And it is through networks that revolutionary ideas can contagiously spread. Just because conspiracy theorists like to fantasize about such networks doesn't mean they are not real. From the cults of ancient Rome to the dynasties of the Renaissance, from the founding fathers to Facebook, The Square and the Tower tells the story of the rise, fall and rise of networks, and shows how network theory--concepts such as clustering, degrees of separation, weak ties, contagions and phase transitions--can transform our understanding of both the past and the present. Just as The Ascent of Money put Wall Street into historical perspective, so The Square and the Tower does the same for Silicon Valley. And it offers a bold prediction about which hierarchies will withstand this latest wave of network disruption--and which will be toppled.
Far more than a history of the Silk Roads, this book is truly a revelatory new history of the world, promising to destabilize notions of where we come from and where we are headed next. From the Middle East and its political instability to China and its economic rise, the vast region stretching eastward from the Balkans across the steppe and South Asia has been thrust into the global spotlight in recent years. Frankopan teaches us that to understand what is at stake for the cities and nations built on these intricate trade routes, we must first understand their astounding pasts.Frankopan realigns our understanding of the world, pointing us eastward. It was on the Silk Roads that East and West first encountered each other through trade and conquest, leading to the spread of ideas, cultures and religions. From the rise and fall of empires to the spread of Buddhism and the advent of Christianity and Islam, right up to the great wars of the twentieth century--this book shows how the fate of the West has always been inextricably linked to the East. Also available: The New Silk Roads, a timely exploration of the dramatic and profound changes our world is undergoing right now--as seen from the perspective of the rising powers of the East.
Acclaimed history writer William Weir takes on the most common myths that our school textbooks have proliferated through the years. He not only uncovers some startling untruths, but also he exposes the reasoning behind each lie and examines why the myths keep going. The true stories behind historical events give readers a fascinating new look at our past. The revelations shock and amaze by exposing veiled motivations and convenient inaccuracies in well-documented actions by established leaders that often have a continuing effect on the world.Each of the fifteen chapters points out a myth that is held as a common truth in history and summarizes what we think we know. Then the author shreds the tale to academic ribbons using the latest findings on each subject. Each true story sets the record straight, reveals timeless ulterior motives, introduces important personalities who successfully (and suspiciously) avoided responsibility in common history texts, and notes underlining issues that have continued relevance in the modern age. For instance, did Nero really fiddle as Rome burned? Did Paul Revere actually alert the militia that the British were coming? Did the Catholic Church imprison Galileo because his teachings conflicted with the Bible? Weir travels through the globe and time to bring you the stories behind the people, the places, and conflicts you thought you knew. The results is a captivating read for history enthusiasts or those just hungry for the truth.
From the New York Times-bestselling author of Clemente and When Pride Still Mattered comes the blockbuster story of the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome--17 days that helped define the modern world.
From ancient times to the present day, astrology has captured the imagination -- is it possible that human fate is influenced by the stars? Astrologers throughout the ages have advised the powerful, from popes to presidents to royalty, and their influence can be seen as a hidden history behind the great events of the past. In The Fated Sky, historian Benson Bobrick writes the first serious history of astrology and takes a fascinating look at its origins and impact on human events.Astrology is the origin of science itself, as astronomy, mathematics, and other disciplines arose in part to make possible the calculations necessary in casting horoscopes. In earlier times, it was a science that won the respect and allegiance of the greatest thinkers and rulers of the ancient world, and eventually claimed adherents among the great astronomers of the scientific revolution -- Copernicus, Kepler, and Newton among them. Statesmen such as Churchill and de Gaulle consulted astrologers, and St. Thomas Aquinas thought astrology not incompatible with Christian doctrine. It is even said the Incas submitted to the Spanish conquistadors without a fight because their arrival coincided with an astrological prophecy. And astrology permeates our cultural consciousness, from references in the Bible and Shakespeare to expressions such as ill-starred or lucky stars. Rich in historical anecdote and astrological lore, The Fated Sky shows us that while the true power of astrology may be open to debate, the belief in its power has been -- and continues to be -- an enduring and intriguing influence on history and the history of ideas.