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The Great Divide

Nature and Human Nature in the Old World and the New

Peter Watson

This book is available for download with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device, and with iTunes on your computer. Books can be read with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


Exploring the development of humankindbetween the Old World and the New—from15,000 BC to AD 1500—the acclaimed authorof Ideas and The German Genius offers agroundbreaking new understandingof human history.

Why did Asia and Europe develop far earlierthan the Americas? What were thefactors that accelerated—or impeded—development? How did the experiences of OldWorld inhabitants differ from their New Worldcounterparts—and what factors influenced thosedifferences?

In this fascinating and erudite history, PeterWatson ponders these questions central to thehuman story. By 15,000 BC, humans had migratedfrom northeastern Asia across the frozen Beringland bridge to the Americas. When the worldwarmed up and the last Ice Age came to an end,the Bering Strait refilled with water, dividingAmerica from Eurasia. This division—with twogreat populations on Earth, each unaware of theother—continued until Christopher Columbusvoyaged to the New World in the fifteenth century.

The Great Divide compares the developmentof humankind in the Old World and the Newbetween 15,000 BC and AD 1500. Watson identifiesthree major differences between the twoworlds—climate, domesticable mammals, andhallucinogenic plants—that combined to producevery different trajectories of civilization in thetwo hemispheres. Combining the most up-to-dateknowledge in archaeology, anthropology, geology,meteorology, cosmology, and mythology, thisunprecedented, masterful study offers uniquelyrevealing insight into what it means to be human.

Publishers Weekly Review

Apr 30, 2012 – Watson, a former senior editor at the London Sunday Times, explores the radically different cultures and fates of the Eastern and Western hemispheres in this sweeping comparative history from the last Ice Age to the Columbian contact. His analysis spotlights gross environmental disparities: compared to the Old World, the Americas had a smaller land mass and population, a geographical layout that impeded cultural and technological exchange, a dearth of domesticable plants and animals and an unstable climate and terrain wracked by hurricanes, droughts, volcanoes, and earthquakes. But Watson reaches further—sometimes implausibly far—in linking physical and ecological conditions to ideology and religion; he contends that the New World’s frequent geoclimatic disasters provoked rites of human sacrifice to propitiate angry gods, and that the Old World’s experience with animal husbandry helped engender both the Judeo-Christian tradition and rationalism. Watson (The Caravaggio Conspiracy) integrates reams of multidisciplinary scholarship into an ambitious and stimulating unifying framework. Inevitably, some of his speculations feel forced, especially on the meanings of the New World’s bloodthirsty rituals and shamanistic jaguar deities, which feel like exotic enigmas beside the more familiar narrative of Old World progress. Still, like Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, his grand-scale history contains fascinating insights at every turn. B&w illus.; maps.
The Great Divide
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  • $13.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: History
  • Published: Jun 26, 2012
  • Publisher: Harper
  • Seller: HarperCollins
  • Print Length: 640 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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