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Publisher's Summary

An account of all the new and surprising evidence now available for the beginnings of the earliest civilizations that contradict the standard narrative
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.
©2017 Yale University (P)2017 Audible, Inc.
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Lauren L on 04-15-18

History for the closet anarchist

Quite frankly astonishing. A witty, subversive re-writing of history that will forever alter my view of the modern state. Brilliant.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Paul Richards on 04-28-18

World without Women

Ignoring the matrilineal and matrilocal origins of human kind in our prehistory is the chief limit of this study. It is enlightening to know that farming and domestication of animals preceded city state by 4 thousand years. But what about the tens, even hundreds of thousands of years before that? A time when there is no record of war, of class, or male domination. Women hardly appear in his entire book..Did women create language? Did they create agriculture? Did they create string, nets, clothes, and tame animals? When the author claims that tribes were the creation of the city states, he abandons all reason for a comforting notion that male domination always existed and that human culture sprang spontaneously from the dark past in the exact image of our current society. The origins of male usurpation of the land, aka private property, is fundamental to rise of civilization and war. The origins of the slave trade and the subjugation of women cannot be understood without understanding the origins of private property in the prehistoric past. Did the raiding pastoral "barbarians" spring up whole like an apparition from an urban dream? Did pastoralists have a prehistory without male domination and war? Why ignore all these questions and the scholarship done mainly by women? The answer is sadly obvious.

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1 of 9 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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3 out of 5 stars
By Anonymous User on 03-24-18

Irritating droning narrator. Great thesis. Book could do with further to reduce incessant replication of arguments.

Irritating droning narrator. Great thesis and arguments. Book lacks crafting; too much replication of the same ideas. But succeeds in making you look at issues with fresh ideas, and dispels old dogma.

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