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.
And whenever we abuse that reason, and act beneath the character and dignity of a rational creature, we lose the divine image in that respect; we have nothing to denominate us men but outward shape; or, in other words, we become brutes in the shapes of men.(1)
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.
Psychoactive drug restrictions and prohibitions have typically followed a reactionary pattern. From tobacco to LSD, the introduction of novel drugs has prompted therapeutic experimentation. Officials showed little concern until these substances also became popular recreational intoxicants.
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.
We have a sense of living on in our children and their children, an endless biological chain of being. Or in our work, small or large, in our influence upon others; or in something we call spiritual attainment, some sort of religious idea or belief; or in the idea of eternal nature, which all societies symbolize in some way.
The history of emotions, a rocket taking off according to Jan Plamper, seems to be screaming ‘know thyself!’ at psychology in all its various forms, but most specifically at neuroscience. The development of a hard science of emotions has involved, with every step ‘forward’, the forgetting of the previous step.
Historians of pretty well every field and period have long acknowledged that historical enquiry cannot (indeed, must not) be limited to describing the actions and experiences of elites.
In the latest of our occasional Reviews in History podcast series, Dr Jordan Landes talks to Professor Jan Plamper about his new work on the history of emotions, a subject which he has memorably described as a 'rocket taking off'.
Jan Plamper is Professor of History at Goldsmiths, University of London.
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.