The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity - book cover
  • Publisher : Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Published : 09 Nov 2021
  • Pages : 704
  • ISBN-10 : 0374157359
  • ISBN-13 : 9780374157357
  • Language : English

The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity

A dramatically new understanding of human history, challenging our most fundamental assumptions about social evolution―from the development of agriculture and cities to the origins of the state, democracy, and inequality―and revealing new possibilities for human emancipation.

For generations, our remote ancestors have been cast as primitive and childlike―either free and equal innocents, or thuggish and warlike. Civilization, we are told, could be achieved only by sacrificing those original freedoms or, alternatively, by taming our baser instincts. David Graeber and David Wengrow show how such theories first emerged in the eighteenth century as a conservative reaction to powerful critiques of European society posed by Indigenous observers and intellectuals. Revisiting this encounter has startling implications for how we make sense of human history today, including the origins of farming, property, cities, democracy, slavery, and civilization itself.

Drawing on pathbreaking research in archaeology and anthropology, the authors show how history becomes a far more interesting place once we learn to throw off our conceptual shackles and perceive what's really there. If humans did not spend 95 percent of their evolutionary past in tiny bands of hunter-gatherers, what were they doing all that time? If agriculture, and cities, did not mean a plunge into hierarchy and domination, then what kinds of social and economic organization did they lead to? The answers are often unexpected, and suggest that the course of human history may be less set in stone, and more full of playful, hopeful possibilities, than we tend to assume.

The Dawn of Everything fundamentally transforms our understanding of the human past and offers a path toward imagining new forms of freedom, new ways of organizing society. This is a monumental book of formidable intellectual range, animated by curiosity, moral vision, and a faith in the power of direct action.

Includes Black-and-White Illustrations

Editorial Reviews

"Graeber and Wengrow offer a history of the past 30,000 years that is not only wildly different from anything we're used to, but also far more interesting: textured, surprising, paradoxical, inspiring . . . It aims to replace the dominant grand narrative of history not with another of its own devising, but with the outline of a picture, only just becoming visible, of a human past replete with political experiment and creativity."
William Deresiewicz, The Atlantic

"[An] iconoclastic and irreverent new book . . . an exhilarating read."
David Priestland, The Guardian (UK)

"An instant classic . . . Fatalistic sentiments about human nature melt away upon turning the pages . . . [The Dawn of Everything] sits in a different class to all the other volumes on world history we are accustomed to reading . . . If comparisons must be made, they should be made with works of similar caliber in other fields, most credibly, I venture, with the works of Galileo or Darwin. Graeber and Wengrow do to human history what the first two did to astronomy and biology respectively."
Giulio Ongaro, Jacobin

"A boldly ambitious work that seems intent to attack received wisdoms and myths on almost every one of its nearly 700 absorbing pages . . . entertaining and thought-provoking . . . an impressively large undertaking that succeeds in making us reconsider not just the remote past but also the too-close-to-see present, as well as the common thread that is our shifting and elusive nature."
Andrew Anthony, The Observer (UK)

"Our forebears crafted their societies intentionally and intelligently: This is the fundamental, electrifying insight of The Dawn of Everything. It's a book that refuses to dismiss long-ago peoples as corks floating on the waves of prehistory. Instead, it treats them as reflective political thinkers from whom we might learn something."
―Daniel Immerwahr, The Nation

"An ingenious new look at 'the broad sweep of human history' and many of its 'foundational' stories . . . [Graeber and Wengrow] take a dim view of conventional accounts of the rise of civilizations, emphasize contributions from Indigenous cultures and the missteps of the great Enlightenment thinkers, and draw countless thought-provoking conclusions . . . A fascinating, intellectually challenging big book about big ideas."
Kirkus Reviews [starred review]

"Pacey and potentially revolutionary . . . the argument of the book is firmly based on a deluge of recent evidence that suggests that pre-agricultural societies were complex, that agriculture was not the sudden turning point it is claimed to be and, most importantly, that large, successful sy...

Readers Top Reviews

Michel Larcher
As always, it's a wonderful and very interesting book.
A very interesting new book which presents a different perspective on "western" civilization by reevaluating Christian theological influences and the theories of the Enlightenment by introducing Indigenous intellectual content.
BookReader 1989
This book blew my mind. Then it blew my mind again. I listened to the interview that David Wengrow did on the SRSLY WRONG podcast and that blew my mind. Then, after I was done reading it, I started to re-read it, and the chapters I had just read blew my mind in new ways. It's a big book. And it keeps hitting you with absolutely fascinating points. I saw someone describe it as a "feast," another person as a "hailstorm." - I know that it's a book I'm going to be referencing and reading for years to come. The two Davids have written something that changed the way I looked at human history. It's such a shame we lost David Graeber to COVID-19. I'm sure he had much more to share with us. I look eagerly to David Wengrow's next offering, and plan to read his back catalogue. Read this book!
Truly a fascinating book. Offers a wonderful counter narrative to the writers such as Diamond, Yuvel Noah, Pinker about the origins of mankind etc using evidence not often cited from those readers. Defiantly worth a read.