Why is the world the way it is? What forces have forged our planet and how have they in turn governed our evolution, influenced the rise and fall of civilisations through history, and ultimately shaped the story of humanity?
Lying imperceptibly beneath everything we encounter in the modern world is a vast architecture of causal links, chains of consequences that explain why things are the way they are. Origins is the story of this connectivity; it's not about what we've done to our environment, but about what our environment has done to us.
We'll range from the deep roots behind everyday realities, like why do most of us eat cereal for breakfast, to the profound factors that enabled life to make transitions in evolution. These questions and their answers will take us via the make-up of our anatomy and the geography of the Mediterranean coastline, to the production of cocaine and the importance of volcanoes. With unquenchable curiosity, Lewis Dartnell shows us history that goes back far before the existence of historical records, relying instead on scientific clues like the tell-tale signs preserved in ancient rocks, revealed in our genes, or observed through a telescope.
Origins unravels the story of humanity by exposing this vast web of connections that stretch deep into the past, that explain our present and that will inform how we face the challenges of the future.
Lewis Dartnell is a UK Space Agency research fellow at the University of Leicester, in the field of astrobiology and the search for signs of life on Mars. He has won several awards for his science writing, and contributes to the Guardian, The Times and New Scientist. He has also written for television and appeared on BBC Horizon, Sky News, Wonders of the Universe, Stargazing Live, and The Sky at Night. A tireless populariser of science, his theory on how the heisters could have saved the gold bullion in the cliff-hanging ending of The Italian Job was mocked on Have I Got News For You. His previous books include The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World After an Apocalypse, Life in the Universe: A Beginner's Guide and the illustrated children's book My Tourist's Guide to the Solar System and Beyond.
"Origins by Lewis Dartnell stands comparison with Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens [...] A thrilling piece of Big History"
– James McConnachie, Sunday Times
"A sweeping, brilliant overview of the history of not only of our species but of the world. Whether discussing the formation of continents or the role that climate (and climate change) has had on human migration, Lewis Dartnell has a rare talent in being able to see the big picture – and explaining why it matters."
– Peter Frankopan, author of The Silk Roads
"'Extraordinary [...] Origins is one of those rare books that dissolves mystery through the steady application of sublime lucidity. While reading it, I kept thinking: "Oh, that makes sense [...] " [...] Dartnell understands geology, geography, anthropology, physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy and history. That's quite an achievement, but what makes him special is the way he communicates the interconnectedness of these disciplines in a clear, logical and entertaining way [...] Superb."
– Gerard DeGroot, The Times
"Dartnell has found the perfect blend of science and history. This is a book that will not only challenge our preconceptions about the past, but should make us think very carefully about humanity's future"
– Simon Griffith, Mail on Sunday
"Dartnell's story is beautifully written and organized. His infectious curiosity and enthusiasm tug the reader from page to page, synthesizing geology, oceanography, meteorology, geography, palaeontology, archaeology and political history in a manner that recalls Jared Diamond's classic 1997 book Guns, Germs, and Steel"