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Good Reads  History & Other Humanities  Environmental History

Material World A Substantial Story of Our Past and Future

By: Ed Conway(Author)
501 pages
Publisher: WH Allen
Material World
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  • Material World ISBN: 9780753559154 Hardback Jun 2023 In stock
Price: £21.99
About this book Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

Sand, salt, iron, copper, oil and lithium. They built our world, and they will transform our future.

These are the six most crucial substances in human history. They took us from the Dark Ages to the present day. They power our computers and phones, build our homes and offices, and create life-saving medicines. But most of us take them completely for granted.

In Material World, Ed Conway travels the globe – from the sweltering depths of the deepest mine in Europe, to spotless silicon chip factories in Taiwan, to the eerie green pools where lithium originates – to uncover a secret world we rarely see. Revealing the true marvel of these substances, he follows the mind-boggling journeys, miraculous processes and little-known companies that turn the raw materials we all need into products of astonishing complexity.

As we wrestle with climate change, energy crises and the threat of new global conflict, Conway shows why these substances matter more than ever before, and how the hidden battle to control them will shape our geopolitical future. This is the story of human civilisation from a new perspective – our ambitions and glory, innovations and appetites – literally from the ground up.

Customer Reviews


Ed Conway is a writer and broadcaster. He is the Economics and Data Editor of Sky News and a regular columnist for The Times and Sunday Times. He has written two critically acclaimed and bestselling books and has won numerous awards for his journalism. He lives in London.

By: Ed Conway(Author)
501 pages
Publisher: WH Allen
Media reviews

"A compelling narrative of the human story"
– Tim Marshall, author of Prisoners of Geography

Lively, rich and exciting [...] full of surprises. Underlines that to understand global geopolitics, you need to understand natural resources and geology"
– Peter Frankopan, author of The Silk Roads

"Expansive, erudite, and edifying. A stunning insight into the materials that shaped our history and built the modern world"
– Prof. Lewis Dartnell, author of Being Human: How Our Biology Shaped World History

"Fascinating, fun, and vitally important. A wonderful exploration of the world we've built yet somehow manage to ignore"
– Tim Harford, bestselling author of How to Make the World Add Up

"A stunning book that will transform the way you think about economics and life. Brilliantly written"
– Matthew Syed, author of Rebel Ideas

"In Material World, Ed Conway uncovers the hidden history of the materials that structure our world. Full of colourful characters and fascinating connections, Material World shows how the seemingly simplest materials – from sand to salt to iron – require unbelievably complex refining and processing before arriving at their final form. Absorbing storytelling [...] Fascinating and insightful"
– Chris Miller, author of Chip War

"Conway's gripping explanation of a world you didn't know needed explaining deserves this highest of accolades: Material World, once read, leaves us baffled that nobody ever thought of writing it before"
– Matthew Parris

"Ed Conway is a great thinker [...] Material World is an engrossing study of the basic substances on which we all depend. Anyone who cares about the resources which built our world and where mankind is heading must read this vital book"
– Adam Boulton, Times Radio

"A masterful exploration of how materials shape our world more than ever – economically, geopolitically and environmentally"
– Diane Coyle CBE

"A highly engaging and important look at the key materials powering our modern world, and how we feed our insatiable appetite for them"
– Professor Kenneth Rogoff, Professor of Economics at Harvard University and ex-Chief Economist of the IMF

"Fascinating and forensic in equal measure [...] reveals the web of mining and manufacturing that underpins the lives of everyone on the planet"
– Mark Miodownik, author of Stuff Matters and UCL Professor of Materials & Society

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