Are indigenous peoples just societies that haven’t evolved yet? Is it accurate to think of them as savage or primitive? In The Dawn of Everything, anthropologist David Graeber and archaeologist David Wengrow assert that our beliefs about the evolution of human societies have been wrong all along. They challenge the conventional anthropological narrative and attempt to set the record straight on indigenous societies. Keep reading for an enlightening discussion about where indigenous stereotypes come from and how they miss the mark.
Is there a “recipe” for democratic government? Is democracy contingent? Can political decay be reversed? To understand the pressures on democracy in the 21st century, it’s important to understand what modern democracy is and where it came from. Francis Fukuyama aims to build that foundation in his book The Origins of Political Order. Continue reading for the book’s takeaways on understanding democracy in the world today.
How far did the Russian Empire extend? How was it a threat to the British Empire? Did this clash lead to World War I? The rise of the Russian Empire began in the early 1800s, and its eventual expansion posed a threat to the interests of the British Empire. The clash between these two powers impacted the world for years to come. Keep reading to learn about the Russian Empire vs. the British Empire.
Is inequality inevitable? How did we come to view inequality this way and get stuck in unequal state-level societies? David Graeber and David Wengrow raise these questions in The Dawn of Everything. They suggest that understanding the complexity and diversity of different kinds of societies throughout history might prompt us to broaden our ideas about the possibilities for our contemporary societies. Keep reading for an invitation to consider these important questions, including an exercise to help you think through alternatives.
How is government accountability important to democracy? What can we learn from the history of democracy in England? One piece of the puzzle that makes up a modern liberal democracy is accountability—a state’s commitment to the rights and needs of the people it governs. In The Origins of Political Order, political economist Francis Fukuyama examines how government accountability evolved in England. Keep reading to learn about the history and the importance of accountability in government.
What were the origins of the Black Death? What impact did the plague have on society? Are there similarities to the Covid-19 pandemic? In The Silk Roads, historian Peter Frankopan discusses the Black Death in the context of East-West dynamics. He notes how it changed the world economy and the balance of power. Some commentators compare that shift to today’s Great Resignation. Keep reading to understand the impact of the Black Death and how it compares to what we’re seeing with Covid-19.
What difference did the Magna Carta make? Why was medieval England particularly disposed to democracy? In the Middle Ages, England stood out from the rest of Europe. Political economist Francis Fukuyama discusses the Magna Carta, English society’s long-standing organization around local politics, and its emphasis on the legal system as the source of political legitimacy. Keep reading for a brief history of democracy in England that shows how it was unlike any other nation of its time.
Who was Kandiaronk? Did his ideas influence the Enlightenment in Europe? Kandiaronk, a leader of the Wendat people in North America, was an intellectual whose ideas made their way to Europe in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. In The Dawn of Everything, David Graeber and David Wengrow argue that these ideas gave rise to the Enlightenment. Continue reading to learn about this intriguing character and his philosophy.
What were the Crusades about? What impact did they have on the world? Muslim conquests in Asia, Africa, and Europe—and threats of further conquests—sounded the alarm for the Christian Byzantine Empire. The emperor asked Western European Catholics for help. The resulting Crusades would shape the world in ways that we see still today. Keep reading to learn about the impact of the Crusades.
Are democracies safe as long as they respect the rule of law? What does history tell us? A major component of modern liberal democracies is the rule of law—the belief that the state is constrained by some higher standard of conduct. However, the rule of law is not a complete safeguard of democracy. Continue reading to learn about the limitations of the rule of law.