For as long as there have been civilizations, there has been the urge to venture outside of them, either in search of other civilizations or in search of novelty. Exploration: A Very Short Introduction surveys this quintessential human impulse, tracing it from pre-history to the present, from east to west around the globe, and from the depths of volcanoes to the expanses of space.
Stewart Weaver arranges the history of world explorations into thematic chapters, each of which isolates the distinctive qualities and characteristics of exploration in a particular era, period, or place. He introduces the reader to the definition of exploration; to the Polynesians crossing vast seas on their canoes and other early explorers; through Columbus and the European discovery of the Americas. James Cook and the place of exploration in the Enlightenment form the subject of a chapter. So too do the natural histories and explorations of Alexander von Humboldt in South America and Lewis and Clark in North America. Exploration: A Very Short Introduction's final chapters chart exploration through imperial expansion and into new frontiers, guiding the reader through exploration in Africa and Central Asia, the race to the North and South Poles, and today's efforts in space and deep sea exploration.
But what accounts for this urge? Through this unique survey of the history of exploration, Weaver clearly shows how the impulse to explore is also the foundation of the globalized world we inhabit today. Exploration combines a narration of explorers' daring feats with a wide-lens examination of what it fundamentally means to explore. As Weaver shows us, the act of exploration in the largest possible global context is the natural history of the earth itself.
List of illustrations
1 What is (and is not) Exploration?
2 The Peopling of the Earth
3 First Forays
4 The Age of Exploration
5 Exploration and the Enlightenment
6 Exploration and Empire
7 The Ends of the Earth
Epilogue: Final Frontiers?
Stewart A. Weaver is a Professor of History, University of Rochester. He is the co-author (with Maurice Isserman) of Fallen Giants: A History of Himalayan Mountaineering from the Age of Empire to the Age of Extremes, which won the National Outdoor Book Award for History and Biography and the Banff Mountain Festival Award for mountaineering history.
"In 35,000 words (130 pages) is it possible to give appropriate scope to the subject as a whole and still say something meaningful about he explorer, the subaltern, the contact zone or the encounter? In Stewart Weaver's hands, yes. Written with a deft touch, his account of exploration gives scope while still finding room for subjects that require special detail and analysis."
– Studies in Travel Writing