This book falls into two categories of books for me. Similar to a book I read recently “The End of the Myth” by Greg Grandin, where I felt like the book is a great overview of a topic and acts as much as a syllabus than a book (James Loewen’s “Lies Your Teacher…” book also covers), and then also books that I don’t know enough about the topic to truly interact with, like Jared Diamond’s books. Looking over the reviews of this book, the ways in which this author more obliquely references Jared Diamond, and thinking a little more about the ways this book is approached, I think this book is mostly fine to good. It’s very much a “big, if true” kind of thing too. But like I said, I am mostly a passive observer on this one.
There’s a point early on in the book where the author shows his hand in an important. He says something like “if you want to read this culture as very far advanced, look at the use of zero”, referring here to their use of the mathematical concept of zero hundreds of years before others, and then also he says “if you want to see them as a failure look at their use of the wheel” referring to them NOT using the wheel.
As an English scholar (and minor expert) and theorist by training, ways of looking are more my deal. It’s very clear that huge amounts of history, social sciences, and writing makes some very clear assumptions about advancements or no based entirely on their frames of reference. Some of the reviews for this book do the same thing in obnoxious ways. This book is asking for the ways of looking to be shifted, to return to what evidence exists, and to try to understand the different possible interpretations of that evidence.