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Peter Watson: The Great Divide: History and Human Nature in the Old World and the New

Agar, J; (2014) Peter Watson: The Great Divide: History and Human Nature in the Old World and the New. Science & Education , 23 (10) 2153 - 2157. 10.1007/s11191-014-9719-5. Green open access

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Abstract

Peter Watson is an intellectual historian, who writes big, ambitious books. His previous work, The German Genius (2010) did an admirable job surveying the extraordinary flo- rescence of German intellectual thought from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries. It was an accessible, although lengthy, guide to not only the great names—Goethe, Gauss, Kant, Einstein—but also managed to include a host of relatively minor figures, while making sense of the whole. In The Great Divide , Watson sets himself an even more daunting task: he tries, by tracing human history from origins to the early modern period, to account for why the New World (North, Central and South America) has diverged from the Old. This divergence, in terms of civilisation and power, is what forms the ‘great divide’. Like the German Genius , then, The Great Divide is necessarily a work of synthesis, pulling together scholarship from a host of disciplines: anthropology, comparative theology, archaeology, climatology, biology, geology and history. The diversity of this list is a clue to the sources of Watson’s overall argument. The causes of the Great Divide are as much natural as social. To this extent the book is an argument about global environmental history as it relates to grand, large-scale trends in human history.

Type: Article
Title: Peter Watson: The Great Divide: History and Human Nature in the Old World and the New
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1007/s11191-014-9719-5
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11191-014-9719-5
Additional information: Copyright © The Author(s) 2014. This article is published with open access at Springerlink.com. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and the source are credited.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Science and Technology Studies
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1466265
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