Humanity today functions as a gigantic, world-encompassing system. Renowned world historian, Patrick Manning traces how this Human System evolved from Homo sapiens' beginnings over 200,000 years ago right up to the present day. He focuses on three great shifts in the scale of social organization – the rise of syntactical language, of agricultural society, and today's new global social discourse – and links processes of social evolution to the dynamics of biological and cultural evolution. Throughout each of these shifts, migration and social diversity have been central, and social institutions have existed in a delicate balance, serving not just their own members but undergoing regulation from society. Integrating approaches from world history, environmental studies, biological and cultural evolution, social anthropology, sociology, and evolutionary linguistics, Patrick Manning offers an unprecedented account of the evolution of humans and our complex social system and explores the crises facing that Human System today.
List of Maps
List of Figures
List of Tables
Part I Introduction
1. The Human System
Part II Pleistocene Evolution
2. Biological and Cultural Evolution
3. Speech and Social Evolution
4. Systemic Expansion
5. Production and Confederation
Part III Holocene Evolution
6. Society: Network vs. Hierarchy
7. Collisions and Contraction
8. From Global Networks to Capitalism
Part IV Anthropocene Evolution
9. Systemic Threats
10. Hope for Adaptations
Appendix: Frameworks for Analysis
Patrick Manning is Andrew Mellon Professor of World History, Emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh, Founding Director of the World History Center and former President of the American Historical Association. He is a multidisciplinary scholar in African and world history and in historical datasets.
"A great world historian surveys the whole of human history, offering new insights and perspectives into 'the human system'. This is world history on a canvas broad enough to help us think seriously about how we got to dominate planet earth [...] and where it is all going."
– David Christian, author of Origin Story: A Big History of Everything
"Our age sorely needs clear accounts of the human past. Manning provides a thoughtful one in ten brief chapters with a provocative premise – what he calls the human system – blending biological and cultural evolution into a coherent historical vision. All interested in world history will want to read it."
– J.R. McNeill, author of Something New Under the Sun
"People talk and they walk, and that has made all the difference. This brief book by a master historian integrates research from many disciplines to trace the evolution of human society from the Pleistocene to today, highlighting the role of spoken language and migration in creating the human system that now dominates the planet."
– Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, Editor-in-chief of Cambridge World History
"Patrick Manning has written a stimulating and exciting history of humanity, from the dawn of Homo to today, with a look to the future. This book introduces many new ideas about language, society, and institutions, challenging old paradigms and rethinking human progress."
– E.N. Anderson, author of The East Asian World-System: Climate and Dynastic Change
"In his unconventional and wide-ranging book Patrick Manning knits together an intricate account of how human beings became the unusual biological, cultural, and social entity they are. Whatever your stance on the many issues it broaches, it will get you thinking."
– Ian Tattersall, co-author of The Accidental Homo sapiens: Genetics, Behavior, and Free Will