From one of our most acclaimed historians comes an account of human solidarity throughout the ages, provocatively arguing against the received wisdom that history is best understood as a chronicle of groups in conflict.
Investigating the six most pervasive categories of human difference - religion, nation, class, gender, race, and civilization - Cannadine asks how determinative each of them has really been over the course of history. Without denying their power to motivate populations dramatically at particular moments, he reveals that in the long term none has proven remotely as divisive as the occasional absolutist cries of "us versus them" would suggest, whether Christian versus Muslim during the Crusades (and now), landed gentry versus peasantry during the Bolshevik Revolution, or Jews versus "Aryan race" in Nazi Germany. For most of recorded time, these same "unbridgeable" differences were experienced as just one identity among others; whatever most chroniclers, self-serving mythmakers, and demagogues would have us believe, history needs to be reimagined to include the countless fruitful interactions across these lines, which are usually left out of the picture.
"Cannadine systematically examines the six most pervasive areas of identities across historical periods.… Drawing on history, philosophy, economics, sociology, and religion, Cannadine offers a broad and sweeping look at the myriad ways we’ve been at each other’s throats throughout history. Still, he ends with the hopeful prospect that more historians will reexamine the chronicles of group conflicts and offer balanced perspectives." (Booklist)
"Historian and editor Cannadine constructs a stirring critique of history that questions conventional approaches to narrating the human chronicle.… That we exaggerate animosities and fail to recognize how cooperation, at least as much as conflict, has marked humanity’s experience, may seem a belaboring of the obvious. Yet Cannadine, an accomplished writer, details it in fresh and provocative terms." (Kirkus Reviews)
"A complex, thoughtful examination of the fundamental ways in which humanity divides itself." (Publishers Weekly)
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