Origins by Lewis Dartnell
Subtitled How The Earth Shaped Human History, this is a fascinating and very well written survey of how geology and landscape have shaped the course of human history. It’s aimed at the general reader, but doesn’t skimp on facts and theory. Comparisons with Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens are for once not exaggerated.
Set into nine chapters, the work opens with the evolution of humanity in East Africa, showing how continental drift, deep magma events and climate all forged conditions in which human evolution occurred. Continental drift is the fascinating subject of the next chapter, followed by chapters covering ocean geography, fault lines, building materials, metal, the steppe and desert areas of the world, trade winds/currents and the age of Western explorers, and finally energy, this mostly coal and oil.
What this book excels at is showing how apparently random or unrelated events are actually created, initiated or corralled by geology – the shape of our environment, its long-term change, what it’s made of and where it is. This work is readable, accessible and enjoyable. Highly recommended.