Author: James C Scott
Date: 2017
Publisher: Yale University Press
ISBN: 978-0-300-18291-0

Overview: A long history of pre-history up to industrialisation. Covers the domestication of animals, use of fire, impact of humans on landscape, development of agricultural, ecology, population control, bondage and war, looks at early states, and their collapse.

The general case is that, for the majority of history, the majority of people lived outside the early states - this persisted until about 1600. Our history is not the inevitable progression of civilisation but its rather surprising dominance given that for a long time people could and did opt out. The reason we came to a story of the progress of civilisation is that the archaeological record is biased by physical remains which are then studied and used to create a story. Nomads (the majority) in contract leave little trace and their history is invisible.

Relevance: If we have our basic long term historical story wrong we will draw the wrong conclusions. If we could reform society so that we live and work in smaller groups, with shallower hierarchies with an assumption of the need for and desirability of cooperation - it would actually suit us better by being more in keeping with what we experienced for most of our history. 

Cross refer to Sapolsky, "When humans invented socioeconomic states, they invented a way to subordinate like nothing that hierarchical primates had ever seen before" p623