> Skip to content
About the book
  • Published: 18 February 2020
  • ISBN: 9781784705435
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • RRP: $28.00

Origins

How the Earth Shaped Human History




From Sunday Times bestselling author of The Knowledge, a book that takes us far back in time to the point where history becomes science, and that unpeels the layers of this history to reveal not how we made the earth, but how the earth made us.

Why do so many of us eat cereal for breakfast?

Is it because we like the taste? Because it's so readily available?

Or because 20 millions years ago, a certain species of plant colonised the same hospitable land that humanity did?

Why is the world the way it is? If we follow chains of explanation as far back as they go – and keep asking, like a curious child, ‘Why? Why? But WHY?’ – the answers become more and more amazing. We reach the point where history becomes science.

In this ultimate origin story, Professor Lewis Dartnell investigates how the fabric and activity of our planet have governed our evolution, influenced civilisations over millennia, and continue to shape our lives today.

Plate tectonics and ancient climate change, atmospheric circulation and ocean currents – Origins unravels the human story by exposing vast webs of connections that stretch deep into the past, underwrite our modern world and help us face the challenges of the future.

It may even change how you look at your bowl of cereal tomorrow morning…

  • Pub date: 18 February 2020
  • ISBN: 9781784705435
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • RRP: $28.00

About the Author

Lewis Dartnell

Lewis Dartnell is an astrobiology researcher and professor at the University of Westminster. He has won several awards for his science writing, and contributes to the Guardian, The Times and New Scientist. He has also written for television and appeared on BBC Horizon, Sky News, and Wonders of the Universe, as well as National Geographic and History channels. A tireless populariser of science, his previous books include the bestselling The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch.

Also by Lewis Dartnell

See all

Praise for Origins

“A sweeping, brilliant overview of the history not only of our species but of the world. Whether discussing the formation of continents or the role that climate (and climate change) has had on human migration, Lewis Dartnell has a rare talent in being able to see the big picture – and explaining why it matters.”

Peter Frankopan, author of THE SILK ROADS

“Origins by Lewis Dartnell stands comparison with Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens…A thrilling piece of Big History”

James McConnachie, Sunday Times

“‘Extraordinary… Origins is one of those rare books that dissolves mystery through the steady application of sublime lucidity. While reading it, I kept thinking: “Oh, that makes sense…” … Dartnell understands geology, geography, anthropology, physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy and history. That’s quite an achievement, but what makes him special is the way he communicates the interconnectedness of these disciplines in a clear, logical and entertaining way…Superb.”

Gerard DeGroot, The Times

“Dartnell has an easy, light touch that mixes well with his considerable knowledge. The result is a first-class read – and an important one”

Robin McKie, Observer

“Dartnell has found the perfect blend of science and history. This is a book that will not only challenge our preconceptions about the past, but should make us think very carefully about humanity’s future”

Simon Griffith, Mail on Sunday

“Origins, snappily written, is a fast read … fascinating”

David Sexton, Evening Standard, *Book of the week*

“Dartnell’s story is beautifully written and organized. His infectious curiosity and enthusiasm tug the reader from page to page, synthesizing geology, oceanography, meteorology, geography, palaeontology, archaeology and political history in a manner that recalls Jared Diamond’s classic 1997 book Guns, Germs, and Steel”

Nature

“Dartnell is an eloquent, conversational guide to these daunting aeons of time”

Katy Guest, Guardian

“What a treat to see history through the eyes of an astrobiologist! Our history was shaped profoundly by the laying down of iron beds two billion years ago, by the tectonic forces that ripped open the African rift valley, by the slow cooling of the earth that began 50 million years ago, and by the evolution of grasses! Lewis Dartnell’s absorbing new book shows, with many vivid examples, how deeply human history is embedded in the history of planet earth”

David Christian, author of ORIGIN STORY

“An original and timely way of looking at human history through the materials and natural resources that our species has employed to such effect. It should be read by everyone who ponders how long exploitation can continue on a finite planet.”

Richard Fortey

“Endlessly enthralling, Lewis Dartnell explains why the history of humanity, and of human cultures, both take dictation from the deeper history of Earth herself - from broad generalities to surprisingly specific details. An entertaining and informative essay on contingency - and worthy successor to the writing of Stephen Jay Gould.”

Ted Nield

“Origins’ strength lies in the way it manages to conjure a tight, linear narrative from what would otherwise be an overwhelming wealth of insights, a feat aided by Dartnell’s soothing, conversational writing style… a captivating and enriching read, with as much to recommend it to those with an interest in geophysics as to students of human history and civilization.”

Ian Randell, Psysicsworld

“Origins is like a well-crafted jigsaw puzzle. Each piece fits together beautifully to build up a complete picture of the deep connections we have to the blue marble we call home… a thoroughly satisfying read for anyone interested in how our planet drove our history, and how everything is connected”

Jenny Winder, BBC Sky at Night, *Book of the Month*

“Big history is back… Origins is a bravura survey that captures our global zeitgeist and emphasises the limits of short-term historical and political thinking”

Jerry Brotton, BBC History

“A thrilling slice of big history and as good as Harari”

Sunday Times, *Summer Read of 2019*

“Enthusiastic and brimful of facts… Dartnell’s great achievement is that while he crams in a great deal, the reader doesn’t feel rushed. It moves from the dawn of agriculture, to ancient Mesopotamian merchants to the coal-fields of England without a bump”

Jon Wright, Geographical


Related titles