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Summary

Brought to you by Penguin. 

For generations, our remote ancestors have been cast as primitive and childlike - either free and equal, or thuggish and warlike. Civilisation, we are told, could be achieved only by sacrificing those original freedoms or, alternatively, by taming our baser instincts. David Graeber and David Wengrow show how such theories first emerged in the 18th century as a reaction to Indigenous critiques of European society and why they are wrong. In doing so, they overturn our view of human history, including the origins of farming, property, cities, democracy, slavery and civilisation itself.

Drawing on path-breaking research in archaeology and anthropology, the authors show how history becomes a far more interesting place once we begin to see what's really there. If humans did not spend 95 per cent of their evolutionary past in tiny bands of hunter-gatherers, what were they doing all that time? If agriculture, and cities, did not mean a plunge into hierarchy and domination, then what kinds of social and economic organisation did they lead to? The answers are often unexpected and suggest that the course of history may be less set in stone and more full of playful possibilities than we tend to assume.

The Dawn of Everything fundamentally transforms our understanding of the human past and offers a path towards imagining new forms of freedom, new ways of organising society. This is a monumental book of formidable intellectual range, animated by curiosity, moral vision and faith in the power of direct action.

©2021 David Graeber, David Wengrow (P)2021 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

"Pacey and potentially revolutionary." (Sunday Times)

"Iconoclastic and irreverent...an exhilarating read." (Guardian)
 

"Boldly ambitious, entertaining and thought-provoking." (Observer)

What listeners say about The Dawn of Everything

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

not the great revolution I was expecting

David Graeber was a genuinely provocative and original thinker, a beautiful writer, and his “Debt: The First 5000 years” is a really thought-provoking book. Perhaps I have been softened up having read works by James C Scott, Jane Jacobs, Barbara Tuchman, Jeremy Lent and others, but this wasn't the epic gobsmacker it was billed as. It is interesting, but not gripping, and the promised takedowns of Yuval Harari and Steven Pinker weren't quite as eviscerating as I was hoping.

Graeber’s post structuralist approach means he can't king-hit conventional wisdom anything like as hard as he would clearly like to - the best he can do is say “this is coloured and biased by X and y perspectives, and here's an alternative perspective ...” but he would have too concede that his perspective, too, is necessarily biased and coloured, drawing just as selectively and extrapolating just as willfully from the record.

Fairly well read but the narrator's tone, whether by accident or design, errs on the side of sounding snide, which doesn't help the presentation.

9 people found this helpful

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Challenges the myths of how societies develop

This is a thoroughly enjoyable book, very well reproduced as an audiobook.
It has become axiomatic that societies develop from hunter-gatherer to rural farming to urban, commercial, then industrial. This book challenges this assumption with multiple well-described examples. Why shouldn’t people like us (our ancestors) have been just as capable as we are of living in multiple different ways?
The world and our history is much more complex than simple myths of “inevitable progress” might suggest.

4 people found this helpful

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Judgemental

This might be good but I struggled with tone of narration. “Everyone who has come before me is a complete idiot”. Found it hard to take the book seriously with such emotional bias in the reading

4 people found this helpful

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A masterpiece

What an incredible book. It is a magnum opus that is remarkably broad, demonstrates an astonishing level of scholarship, and draws conclusions that I found compelling. I am an evolutionary biologist rather than a historian or social scientist, who had found the standard narratives of the rise of modern-day civilisation unconvincing. The reason for this is I have personally always felt free to seek an alternative lifestyle away from social norms and laws that govern most of our existences and know several people who live off grid in various parts of the world who are happy living socially unconventional lives. I have not followed this route myself, because I am content with my lot.

I had always assumed that such freedoms to escape from societal norms must have been available for most folk throughout human history, and that, ultimately, this gave groups of people nearly unlimited opportunity to try all sorts of forms of social organisation, from the egalitarian through to the strictly hierarchical. It does not seem to me that the mass pursuit of a contented life would ultimately always result in the nation states we inhabit today. Instead, the outcome would to be partially determined by the dominant belief system that the group, or tribe, or nation, predominantly adopted. David Graeber and David Wengrow’s book provided some evidence to suggest my previously uninformed postulate has some support. I loved this book, and I learned so much. I now wish to travel to visit many of the archaeological sites they so eloquently bring to life.

If you want to believe that capitalist economics and western society were both inevitable from the day our first ancestors hewed a rough stone tool, then this book is not for you. If you have an open mind and are fan of well-researched heterodoxy challenging established dogma, then read this book. I will read it again. A masterpiece.

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The Dawn of Everything, a difficult listen

I found this a really difficult Listen. Boring, scattered and it's difficult to follow what the overall point that the writers are trying to illustrate in each chapter is..
couldn't finish

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Poorly narrated

It is well written but I found the narrator so irritating I was unable to complete the book.

2 people found this helpful

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This book will change the world

You rarely read books like this one, that not only adds little building blocks to your understanding of the world but completely reconfigures the foundation.

Narrator is good and pleasant to listen to, but you listen to this book for the content, not the narration.

1 person found this helpful

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Mind blowing

Imagine being at the court when Galileo first described The Earth orbiting round The Sun

Imagine being alive in the Victorian era and read Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.

That is how sensational the ambition and the achievement of this book is.

It is revolutionary accumulation of the forensic evidence available to modern archeology and a lifetime of interrogation of written sources in long disappeared languages

Just the first of its phalanx of (flawlessly evidenced) epoch-making ideas is the astounding discovery that the modern European enlightenment - and its associated political reforms - were actually initiated by conquered Native American critics articulating the advantages of their societies to the European overlords now attempting to control them.

Beautifully read in a friendly British schoolmaster tone.

An absolute breeze of concentrated learning , leavened with wit, but mostly of awe at the erudition and achievements of the authors.

1 person found this helpful

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a curates egg

history good but interpretation very right on. left me realising that social science is an oxymoron.

1 person found this helpful

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Absolutely excellent

Such a fantastic yet down to earth revisiting of embedded certainties. I look forward to reading it again and again.

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  • Jarrod
  • 24-10-21

Better than Yuval Harari’s Sapiens

A brilliant, wide ranging and fascinating journey into human history that references intellectual and indigenous voices alike.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 28-11-21

Brilliantly mind opening

A stunningly detailed account of the key conceptions and misconceptions about early civilisation. A must read for anyone who thinks contemporary accounts of history just don’t add up.

The narration is compelling and sincere, a joy to listen to.

Overall whilst it is a mammoth undertaking it is rewarding, especially the well thought out conclusion.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Jesper Doepping
  • 03-11-21

Just awesome!

The audiobook is an amazing companion to the real thing.

The book itself is incredible well written and mind blowing.

1 person found this helpful

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  • David Watson
  • 30-10-21

Fascinating, challenging provocative and entertaining

A powerful critique of received wisdom and an open challenge to current researchers and university curriculums. Should be required reading for anyone interested in the human condition. Highly recommended

1 person found this helpful

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  • Greg
  • 01-08-22

tremendous book, mostly excellent audio

this is really a thought-provoking volume. It's likely to radically change how the reader approaches other 'big history' works.

The audio production is also excellent. There is an occasional misreading (e.g., 'casual' for 'causal'), but given the scope of the subject matter, that's not unsurprising.

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  • Bob Brown
  • 21-12-21

not suited to this format

this is an important landmark academic document. it is conceptually dense and needs to be poured over to unpack. The audiobook format presents it in an upbeat 'level' toner which impedes comprehension.