The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?

The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?

Hardback

By (author) Jared M Diamond

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  • Publisher: Penguin USA
  • Format: Hardback | 512 pages
  • Dimensions: 168mm x 241mm x 43mm | 862g
  • Publication date: 31 December 2012
  • Publication City/Country: New York, NY
  • ISBN 10: 0670024813
  • ISBN 13: 9780670024810
  • Edition: 1
  • Edition statement: New ed.
  • Sales rank: 101,608

Product description

Most of us take for granted the features of our modern society, from air travel and telecommunications to literacy and obesity. Yet for nearly all of its six million years of existence, human society had none of these things. While the gulf that divides us from our primitive ancestors may seem unbridgeably wide, we can glimpse much of our former lifestyle in those largely traditional societies still or recently in existence. Societies like those of the New Guinea Highlanders remind us that it was only yesterday-in evolutionary time-when everything changed and that we moderns still possess bodies and social practices often better adapted to traditional than to modern conditions. The World Until Yesterday provides a mesmerizing firsthand picture of the human past as it had been for millions of years-a past that has mostly vanished-and considers what the differences between that past and our present mean for our lives today. This is Jared Diamond's most personal book to date, as he draws extensively from his decades of field work in the Pacific islands, as well as evidence from Inuit, Amazonian Indians, Kalahari San people, and others. Diamond doesn't romanticize traditional societies-after all, we are shocked by some of their practices-but he finds that their solutions to universal human problems such as child rearing, elder care, dispute resolution, risk, and physical fitness have much to teach us. A characteristically provocative, enlightening, and entertaining book, The World Until Yesterday will be essential and delightful reading.

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Author information

Jared Diamond is a professor of geography at the University of California, Los Angeles. He began his scientific career in physiology and expanded into evolutionary biology and biogeography. Among his many awards are the National Medal of Science, the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, Japan's Cosmos Prize, a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, and the Lewis Thomas Prize honoring the Scientist as Poet, presented by The Rockefeller University. His previous books include "Why Is Sex Fun?," "The Third Chimpanzee," "Collapse," "The World Until Yesterday, " and "Guns, Germs, and Steel," winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

Review quote

"Challenging and smart...By focusing his infectious intellect and incredible experience on nine broad areas -- peace and war, young and old, danger and response, religion, language and health -- and sifting through thousands of years of customs across 39 traditional societies, Diamond shows us many features of the past that we would be wise to adopt." --Minneapolis Star Tribune "The World Until Yesterday [is] a fascinating and valuable look at what the rest of us have to learn from - and perhaps offer to - our more traditional kin." --Christian Science Monitor "Ambitious and erudite, drawing on Diamond's seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of fields such as anthropology, sociology, linguistics, physiology, nutrition and evolutionary biology. Diamond is a Renaissance man, a serious scholar and an audacious generalist, with a gift for synthesizing data and theories." --The Chicago Tribune "The World Until Yesterday is another eye-opening and completely enchanting book by one of our major intellectual forces, as a writer, a thinker, a scientist, a human being. It's a rare treasure, both as an illuminating personal memoir and an engrossing look into the heart of traditional societies and the timely lessons they can offer us. Its unique spell is irresistible." --Diane Ackerman, author of The Zookeeper's Wife "As always, Diamond manages to combine a daring breadth of scope, rigorous technical detail and personal anecdotes that are often quite moving." --The Cleveland Plain Dealer "Diamond's investigation of a selection of traditional societies, and within them a selection of how they contend with various issues[...]is leisurely but not complacent, informed but not claiming omniscience[...]A symphonic yet unromantic portrait of traditional societies and the often stirring lessons they offer."--Kirkus, Starred Review "This is the most personal of Diamond's books, a natural follow-up to his brilliant Guns, Germ