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The invention of prehistory : empire, violence, and our obsession with human origins  Cover Image Book Book

The invention of prehistory : empire, violence, and our obsession with human origins / Stefanos Geroulanos.


"Books about human origins dominate bestseller lists, while national newspapers present breathless accounts of new archaeological findings and speculate about what those findings tell us about our earliest ancestors. We are obsessed with prehistory--and, in this respect, our current era is no different from any other in the last three hundred years. In this coruscating work, acclaimed historian Stefanos Geroulanos demonstrates how claims about the earliest humans not only shaped Western intellectual culture, but gave rise to our modern world. The very idea that there was a human past before recorded history only emerged with the Enlightenment, when European thinkers began to reject faith-based notions of humanity and history in favor of supposedly more empirical ideas about the world. From the "state of nature" and Romantic notions of virtuous German barbarians to theories about Neanderthals and a matriarchal paradise where women ruled, Geroulanos captures the sheer variety and strangeness of the claims that animated many of the major thinkers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, including Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Charles Darwin, and Karl Marx. Yet as Geroulanos shows, such ideas became, for the most part, the ideological foundations of repressive regimes and globe-spanning empires. Deeming other peoples "savages" allowed for guilt-free violence against them; notions of "killer apes" who were our evolutionary predecessors made war seem natural. The emergence of modern science only accelerated the West's imperialism. The Nazi obsession with race was rooted in archaeological claims about prehistoric Indo-Germans; the notion that colonialized peoples could be "bombed back to the Stone Age" was made possible by not only the technology of flight, but by the anthropological idea that civilization advanced in stages. As Geroulanos argues, accounts of prehistory tell us more about the moment when they are proposed than anything else--and if we hope to start improving our future, we would be better off setting aside the search for how it all started. A necessary, timely, indelible account of how the quest for understanding the origins of humanity became the handmaiden of war and empire, The Invention of Prehistory will forever change how we think about the deep past." -- Provided by publisher.

Record details

  • ISBN: 9781324091455
  • ISBN: 1324091452
  • Physical Description: 498 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
  • Edition: First edition.
  • Publisher: New York, NY : Liveright Publishing Corporation, a division of W. W. Norton & Company, [2024]

Content descriptions

Bibliography, etc. Note:
Includes bibliographical references (pages 409-466) and index.
Formatted Contents Note:
Introduction: The human epic -- Part 1. Scattered shapes of a fabulous past (from the 1750s to the 1870s). The infancy of humanity -- Europe's "indigenous" noble savages -- The creatures deep time invented -- Humanity, divided by three -- The conflict of the sciences -- Part 2. The concepts that tied it all together (from the 1830s to World War I). Mother love: primitive communism -- The disappearing native -- Neanderthals, "our doubles" -- The thin veneer -- On the antiquity of the psyche --- Part 3. The horror, Part 1 (from 1900 to the 1960s). The hordes and the flood -- Nazis -- Bomb them back to the Stone Age -- The Manchurian Catholic and the future of the humanity -- Part 4. The new scientific ideologies: or the horror, Part 2 (since 1930, and still ongoing). Darwin in the age of UNESCO -- A history of cave painting -- Killer apes for an age of decolonization -- Stone-age computers -- The births and ends of patriarchy -- Is violence ingrained, and how? -- Epilogue: A storm blowing from paradise.
Subject: Human beings > Origin.
Anthropology and history.
Prehistoric peoples > History.
Civilization > Philosophy.
Ethnophilosophy > History.
Violence > History.
Racism > History.
Science and civilization.
Imperialism and science.
Civilization > History.
Êtres humains > Origines.
Civilisation > Histoire.
Violence > Histoire.
Anthropologie et histoire.
Racisme > Histoire.
Sciences et civilisation.
Impérialisme et sciences.
Civilisation > Philosophie.
Ethnophilosophie > Histoire.
Genre: Informational works.
Documents d'information.

Available copies

  • 1 of 1 copy available at Homer Library. (Show)
  • 1 of 1 copy available at Homer Library System. (Show)
  • 1 of 1 copy available at Homer Public Library.


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Location Call Number / Copy Notes Barcode Shelving Location Status Due Date
Homer Public Library 909 GER (Text) 000173003 New Books Available -

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