- by New Deal democrat
I just finished reading Susan Wise Bauer’s “The History of the Ancient World,” which in a little under 800 pages summarizes an almost endless string of kings and battles from the earliest written records kept by the Sumerians around 3000 BC through the accession of Constantine as Roman Emperor in 306 AD.
“In any event, [“The Dawn of Everything” makes] a good argument that historically the default government for most human populations hasn’t been dynasty or autocracy, but rather small-scale Republics, with pre-set rules and public participation (Vindication for John Rawls!).”
Bauer picks up just about where “The Dawn of Everything” leaves off. The latter uses archeology and anthropology to sketch what human civilization looked like before writing came into use. Bauer explicitly uses writing as her dividing line between pre-history and history. She starts with, and almost exclusively bases her narrative upon, written records, the first of which were made by the Sumerians about 5000 years ago. Because she explicitly limits discussion to those cultures with written records, there is no discussion of life in the Americas, Australia, or sub-Saharan Africa, nor of the northern tribes of Eurasia. Rather, the focus of the book expands as the use of writing expands, from ancient Mesopotamia to Egypt to India and China, then to the Jews, Greeks, Macedonians and Romans.