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Book: Hardcover | 235 x 159mm | 512 pages | ISBN 9780670024810 | 31 Dec 2012 | Viking Adult
Jared Diamond

Jared Diamond, professor of physiology at the UCLA School of Medicine, is the author of the best-selling and award-winning The Third Chimpanzee. He has published over 200 articles in Discover, Natural History, Nature, and Geo magazines.

THE WORLD UNTIL YESTERDAY

WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM TRADITIONAL SOCIETIES

Jared Diamond

Most of us take for granted the features of our modern society, from air travel and telecommunications to literacy and obesity. Yet for nearly all of its six million years of existence, human society had none of these things. While the gulf that divides us from our primitive ancestors may seem unbridgeably wide, we can glimpse much of our former lifestyle in those largely traditional societies still or recently in existence. Societies like those of the New Guinea Highlanders remind us that it was only yesterday—in evolutionary time—when everything changed and that we moderns still possess bodies and social practices often better adapted to traditional than to modern conditions.

The World Until Yesterday provides a mesmerizing firsthand picture of the human past as it had been for millions of years—a past that has mostly vanished—and considers what the differences between that past and our present mean for our lives today.
This is Jared Diamond’s most personal book to date, as he draws extensively from his decades of field work in the Pacific islands, as well as evidence from Inuit, Amazonian Indians, Kalahari San people, and others. Diamond doesn’t romanticize traditional societies—after all, we are shocked by some of their practices—but he finds that their solutions to universal human problems such as child rearing, elder care, dispute resolution, risk, and physical fitness have much to teach us. A characteristically provocative, enlightening, and entertaining book, The World Until Yesterday will be essential and delightful reading.


“Challenging and smart…By focusing his infectious intellect and incredible experience on nine broad areas -- peace and war, young and old, danger and response, religion, language and health -- and sifting through thousands of years of customs across 39 traditional societies, Diamond shows us many features of the past that we would be wise to adopt.”
--Minneapolis Star Tribune

“The World Until Yesterday [is] a fascinating and valuable look at what the rest of us have to learn from – and perhaps offer to – our more traditional kin.”
--Christian Science Monitor

“Ambitious and erudite, drawing on Diamond's seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of fields such as anthropology, sociology, linguistics, physiology, nutrition and evolutionary biology. Diamond is a Renaissance man, a serious scholar and an audacious generalist, with a gift for synthesizing data and theories.”
--The Chicago Tribune

“The World Until Yesterday is another eye-opening and completely enchanting book by one of our major intellectual forces, as a writer, a thinker, a scientist, a human being. It's a rare treasure, both as an illuminating personal memoir and an engrossing look into the heart of traditional societies and the timely lessons they can offer us. Its unique spell is irresistible.”
--Diane Ackerman, author of The Zookeeper's Wife

“As always, Diamond manages to combine a daring breadth of scope, rigorous technical detail and personal anecdotes that are often quite moving.”
--The Cleveland Plain Dealer

  “Diamond’s investigation of a selection of traditional societies, and within them a selection of how they contend with various issues[…]is leisurely but not complacent, informed but not claiming omniscience[…]A symphonic yet unromantic portrait of traditional societies and the often stirring lessons they offer.”--Kirkus, Starred Review

“This is the most personal of Diamond's books, a natural follow-up to his brilliant Guns, Germs, and Steel.  Diamond has very extensive and long-term field experience with New Guineans, and stories of these admirable people enrich his overview of how all human beings acted until very recently.  Not only are his accounts fascinating, they will ring true to all who have experience with hunter-gatherer cultures.  And they carry many lessons for modern societies as well on everything from child-rearing to general health.  The World Until Yesterday is a triumph.”
--Paul R. Ehrlich, author of Human Natures.

“In this fascinating book, Diamond brings fresh perspective to historic and contemporary ways of life with an eye toward those that are likely to enhance our future.”—Booklist

“Lyrical and harrowing, this survey of traditional societies reveals the surprising truth that modern life is a mere snippet in the long narrative of human endeavor[…]This book provides a lifetime of distilled experience but offers no simple lessons.”—Publishers Weekly

“Jared Diamond has done it again. Surveying a great range of anthropological literature and integrating it with vivid accounts of a lifetime of visits—sometimes harrowing, more often exhilarating—to highland New Guinea, he holds up a needed mirror to our culture and civilization. The reflection is not always flattering, but it is always worth looking at with an honest, intelligent eye. Diamond does that and more.”
--Melvin Konner, author of The Tangled Wing and The Evolution of Childhood

“An incredible insightful journey into the knowledge and experiences of peoples in traditional societies. Diamond’s literary adventure reflects on the problems of today in light of his exhaustive literature review and 40 plus years of living with rural New Guinean peoples.”
--Barry Hewlett, author of Intimate Fathers  (with Michael Lamb)

“In the 19th century Charles Darwin's trilogy—On the Origin of Species, The Descent of Man, and The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals changed forever our understanding of our nature and our history. A century from now scholars will make a similar assessment of Jared Diamond's trilogy: Guns, Germs, and Steel, Collapse, and now The World Until Yesterday, his magnificent concluding opus on not only our nature and our history, but our destiny as a species. Jared Diamond is the Charles Darwin of our generation, and The World Until Yesterday is an epoch-changing work that offers us hope through real-life solutions to our most pressing problems.”
--Michael Shermer, Publisher of Skeptic magazine, monthly columnist for Scientific American, author of The Believing Brain and Why Darwin Matters — Praise for The World Until Yesterday




"Extraordinary in erudition and originality, compelling in [its] ability to relate the digitized pandemonium of the present to the hushed agrarian sunrises of the past." — The New York Times Book Review




"Diamond's most influential gift may be his ability to write about geopolitical and environmental systems in ways that don't just educate and provoke, but entertain." — The Seattle Times




"Extremely persuasive...replete with fascinating stories, a treasure trove of historical anecdotes [and] haunting statistics." — The Boston Globe




"Essential reading...Collapse [shows] that resilient societies are nimble ones, capable of a long-term planning and of abandoning deeply entrenched but ultimately destructive core values and beliefs." — Nature




"There are hopeful messages in Collapse. With Diamond's help, maybe we'll learn to see our problems a little more clearly before we chop down that last palm tree." — Time




"Extraordinarily panoramic...Diamond's complex historical web of how human communities either master their environment or become victims of them...takes a lifetime of research and, in normal English, leads the reader painstakingly where the media and intellectual journals have often refused to go." — The Washington Post




"Rendering complex history and science into entertaining prose, Diamond reminds us that those who ignore history are bound to repeat it." — People (four stars)




"Taken together, Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse represent one of the most significant projects embarked upon by any intellectual in our generation. They are magnificent books...I read both thinking what literature might be like if every author knew so much, wrote so clearly and formed arguments with such care." — The New York Times




"Read this book. It will challenge you and make you think." — Scientific American




Praise for Collapse
A New York Times bestseller

"A magisterial effort packed with insight and written with clarity and enthusiasm. It's also the deal of the year--the equivalent of a year's college course by an engaging, brilliant professor, all for the price of a book. — BusinessWeek


List of Tables of Figures

PROLOGUES: At the Airport

An airport scene / Why study traditional societies? / States / Types of traditional societies / Approaches, causes, and sources / A small book about a big subject / Plan of the book


PART ONE: SETTING THE STAGE BY DIVIDING SPACE

CHAPTER 1. Friends, Enemies, Strangers, and Traders
A boundary / Mutually exclusive territories / Non-exclusive land use / Friends, enemies, and strangers / First contacts / Trade and traders / Market economies / Traditional forms of trade / Traditional trade items / Who trades what? / Tiny nations


PART TWO: PEACE AND WAR

CHAPTER 2. Compensation for the Death of a Child
An accident / A ceremony / What if…? / What the state did / New Guinea compensation / Life-long relationships / Other non-state societies / State authority / State civil justice / Defects in state civil justice / State criminal justice / Restorative justice / Advantages and their price

CHAPTER 3. A Short Chapter, About a Tiny War
The Dani War / The war’s time line / The war’s death toll

CHAPTER 4. A Longer Chapter, About Many Wars
Definitions of war / Sources of information / Forms of traditional warfare / Mortality rates / Similarities and differences / Ending warfare / Effects of European contact / Warlike animals, peaceful peoples / Motives for traditional war / Ultimate reasons / Who do people fight? / Forgetting Pearl Harbor


PART THREE: YOUNG AND OLD

CHAPTER 5. Bringing Up Children
Comparisons of child-rearing / Childbirth / Infanticide / Weaning and birth interval / On-demand nursing / Infant-adult contact / Fathers and allo-parents / Responses to crying infants / Physical punishment / Child autonomy / Multi-age playgroups / Child play and education / Their kids and our kids

CHAPTER 6. The Treatment of Old People: Cherish, Abandon, or Kill?
The elderly / Expectations about eldercare / Why abandon or kill? / Usefulness of old people / Society’s values / Society’s rules / Better or worse today? / What to do with older people?


PART FOUR: DANGER AND RESPONSE

CHAPTER 7. Constructive Paranoia
Attitudes towards danger / A night visit / A boat accident / Just a stick in the ground / Taking risks / Risks and talkativeness

CHAPTER 8. Lions and Other Dangers
Dangers of traditional life / Accidents / Vigilance / Human violence / Diseases / Responses to diseases / Starvation / Unpredictable food shortages / Scatter your land / Seasonality and food storage / Diet broadening / Aggregation and dispersal / Responses to danger


PART FIVE: RELIGION, LANGUAGE, AND HEALTH

CHAPTER 9. What Electric Eels Tell Us About the Evolution of Religion
Questions about religion / Definitions of religion / Functions and electric eels / The search for casual explanations / Supernatural beliefs / Religion’s function of explanation / Defusing anxiety / Providing comfort / Organization and obedience / Codes of behavior towards strangers / Justifying war / Badges of commitment / Measures of religious success / Changes in religion’s functions

CHAPTER 10. Speaking in Many Tongues
Multilingualism / The world’s language total / How languages evolve / Geography of language diversity / Traditional multilingualism / Benefits of bilingualism / Alzheimer’s disease / Vanishing languages / How languages disappear / Are minority languages harmful? / Why preserve languages? / How can we protect languages?

CHAPTER 11. Salt, Sugar, Fat, and Sloth
Non-communicable diseases / Our salt intake / Salt and blood pressure / Causes of hypertension / Dietary sources of salt / Diabetes / Types of diabetes / Genes, environment, and diabetes / Pima Indians and Nauru Islanders / Diabetes in India / Benefits of genes for diabetes / Why is diabetes low in Europeans? / The future of non-communicable diseases


EPILOGUE: At Another Airport
From the jungle to the 405 / Advantages of the modern world / Advantages of the traditional world / What can we learn?


Acknowledgments

Further Readings

Index

Illustration Credits

Jared Diamond, professor of physiology at the UCLA School of Medicine, is the author of the best-selling and award-winning The Third Chimpanzee. He has published over 200 articles in Discover, Natural History, Nature, and Geo magazines.

About the BookJared Diamond
Praise

“Challenging and smart…By focusing his infectious intellect and incredible experience on nine broad areas -- peace and war, young and old, danger and response, religion, language and health -- and sifting through thousands of years of customs across 39 traditional societies, Diamond shows us many features of the past that we would be wise to adopt.”
--Minneapolis Star Tribune

“The World Until Yesterday [is] a fascinating and valuable look at what the rest of us have to learn from – and perhaps offer to – our more traditional ...

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