Keeping Together in Time : Dance and Drill in Human History
William H. McNeill pursues the possibility that co-ordinated rhythmic movement and the shared feelings it evokes has been a powerful force in holding human groups together. As he has done for historical phenomena as diverse as warfare, plague, and the pursuit of power, McNeill brings a breadth and depth of knowledge to his study of dance and drill in human history. He maintains that people who move together to the same beat tend to bond and thus that communal dance and drill alter human feelings, he envisages dance as a shaper of evolution, a perpetually sustainable and sustaining resource.
- Paperback | 216 pages
- 144.8 x 213.4 x 15.2mm | 294.84g
- 30 Oct 1997
- HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS
- Cambridge, Mass, United States
- New edition
- New edition
In his imaginative and provocative book...William H. McNeill develops an unconventional notion that, he observes, is 'simplicity itself.' He maintains that people who move together to the same beat tend to bond and thus that communal dance and drill alter human feelings. -- John Mueller New York Times Book Review Every now and then, a slender, graceful, unassuming little volume modestly proposes a radical rethinking of human history. Such a book is Keeping Together in Time...Important, witty, and thoroughly approachable, [it] could, perhaps, only be written by a scholar in retirement with a lifetime's interdisciplinary reading to ponder, the imagination to conceive unanswerable questions, and the courage, in this age of over-speculation, to speculate in areas where certainty is impossible. Its vision of dance as a shaper of evolution, a perpetually sustainable and sustaining resource, would crown anyone's career. -- Penelope Reed Doob Toronto Globe and Mail McNeill is one of our greatest living historians...As usual with McNeill, Keeping Together in Time contains a wonderfully broad survey of practices in other times and places. There are the Greeks, who invented the flute-accompanied phalanx, and the Romans, who invented calling cadence while marching. There are the Shakers, who combined worship and dancing, and the Mormons, who carefully separated the functions but who prospered at least as much on the strength of their dancing as their Sunday morning worship. -- David Warsh Boston Sunday Globe [A] wide-ranging and thought-provoking book...A mind-stretching exploration of the thesis that 'keeping together in time'--army drill, village dances, and the like--consolidates group solidarity by making us feel good about ourselves and the group and thus was critical for social cohesion and group survival in the past. Virginia Quarterly Review [This book is] nothing less than a survey of the historical impact of shared rhythmic motion from the paleolithic to the present, an impact that [McNeill] finds surprisingly significant...McNeill moves beyond Durkheim in noting that in complex societies divided by social class muscular bonding may be the medium through which discontented and oppressed groups can gain the solidarity necessary for challenging the existing social order. -- Robert N. Bellah Commonweal The title of this fascinating essay contains a pun that sums up its thesis" keeping together in time, or coordinated rhythmic movement and the shared feelings it evokes, has kept human groups together throughout history. Most of McNeill's pioneering study is devoted to the history of communal dancing...[This] volume will appeal equally to scholars and to the general reader. -- Doyne Dawson Military History As with so many themes [like this one], whether in science or in symphonies, one wonders (in retrospect) why it has not been invented before...[T]he book is fascinating. -- K. Kortmulder (The Netherlands) This scholarly and creative exploration of the largely unresearched phenomenon of shared euphoria aroused by unison movement moves across the disciplines of dance, history, sociology, and psychology...Highly recommended. Choice
Table of contents
Muscular Bonding Human Evolution Small Communities Religious Ceremonies Politics and War Conclusion Notes Index
About William H. McNeill
William H. McNeill is Professor of History, Emeritus, University of Chicago and author of, among other books, The Rise of the West, which won the National Book Award in 1964, and Plagues and Peoples.