Oh, East is East, and West is West,and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat
But there is neither East nor West, Border,nor Breed, nor Birth
When two strong men stand face to face,though they come from the ends of the earth.
Over the past few years, no doubt as a consequence of HIV/AIDS newspapers have been full of stories about the threat from plagues some such as TB and bubonic plague appear like spectres from the past while apparently new diseases such as E-coli and the Ebola virus threaten to run riot in the future. It is against such a background that Christopher Wills has published Plagues.
In his new book Steven Pinker, psychologist at Harvard University, sets out to fundamentally alter our understanding of the trajectory of violence from pre-historic times to the present. He takes issue with the widely held perception that the most recent past, the 20th century, was an age of large-scale bloodshed and genocidal slaughter.
At first sight this looks like another of those increasingly common commodity books, some of which are intended to be global in scope, and which include studies of chocolate, sugar, cod, salt and many others (digestible or not!). As Riello points out, commodities are a good way to tell a global story since many of them have been traded throughout the world for centuries.
In the latest of our occasional Reviews in History podcast series, Daniel Snowman talks to Peter Burke about his background, career, influences and forthcoming book.
Peter Burke is Professor Emeritus of Cultural History at the University of Cambridge.
Daniel Snowman is a writer, lecturer and broadcaster on social and cultural history.