> Skip to content

A captivating journey of discovery and a quickstart guide to rebuilding our world after the apocalypse.

If the world as we know it ended tomorrow, how would you survive?
A nuclear war, viral pandemic or asteroid strike. The world as we know it has ended. You and the other survivors must start again. What knowledge would you need to start rebuilding civilisation from scratch?
How do you grow food, generate power, prepare medicines, or get metal out of rocks? Could you avert another Dark Ages, or take shortcuts to accelerate redevelopment? Living in the modern world, we have become disconnected from the basic processes and key fundamentals of science that sustain our lives.

Ingenious and groundbreaking, The Knowledge explains everything you need to know about everything, revolutionising your understanding of the world.

‘A glorious compendium of the knowledge we have lost in the living…the most inspiring book I’ve read in a long time’ Independent
‘A terrifically engrossing history of science and technology’ Guardian



As the scouts say – be prepared! Say your prayers that you never need this book

Bear Grylls

A glorious compendium of the knowledge we have lost in the living… This is the most inspiring book I’ve read in a long time

Peter Forbes, Independent

An extraordinary achievement... It is a great read even if civilisation does not collapse. If it does, it will be the sacred text of the new world — Dartnell that world’s first great prophet

The Times

The ultimate do-it-yourself guide to ‘rebooting’ human civilization


A terrifically engrossing history of science and technology

Steven Poole, Guardian

Impeccably researched and beautifully written, The Knowledge makes me proud of all we humans have achieved - and dismayed at how much we have to lose. You need to read this book

Stephen Baxter

Dartnell makes the technology and science of everyday life in our civilization fascinating and understandable. This book may or may not save your life but it'll certainly make it more interesting. This the book we all wish we'd been given at school: The Knowledge that makes everything else make sense

Ken MacLeod, author of Descent

A marvelously astounding work: In one graceful swoop, Lewis Dartnell takes our multi-layered, interconnected modern world, shows how fragile its scaffolding is, and then lays out a how-to guide for starting over from scratch. Imagine Zombieland told by Neil deGrasse Tyson and you'll get some sense of what a delight The Knowledge is to read

Seth Mnookin, New York Times bestselling author of The Panic Virus and associate director of MIT's Graduate Program in Science Writing

A remarkable and panoramic view of how civilization actually works

Roger Highfield of the Science Museum

This book is useful if civilization collapses, and entertaining if it doesn't. After the cometary impact it may save your life, and if it doesn't at least you'll know why you perished

S. M. Stirling

Even if you don't believe the end is nigh, it's a completely fascinating manual of practical knowledge most of us woefully lack. I might keep the proof to hand, just in case


It’s the end of the world, and you feel fine. It’s what comes next that should worry you… The Knowledge will ensure you and your fellow survivors have the know-how to reboot civilization from scratch

Science Uncovered

An amazing book with all the information you need to rebuild society after a major catastrophe. It's not a daft survival manual but a highly intelligent description of all that makes our lives normal. Every household should have a copy


A breezy how-to guide to the rebuilding of civilisation... Admirable

Bryan Appleyard, Sunday Times

A whistle-stop tour of the history of science and technology… Full of those "oh!" moments when you think, "well, I never thought of that before"… Fascinating

Tom Chivers, Daily Telegraph

Replete with tips and illustrations and fascinating factoids

Patrick Freyne, Irish Times

This book is an extraordinary achievement... It is a great read even if civilisation does not collapse. If it does, it will be the sacred text of the new world – Dartnell that world's first great prophet

Tom Whipple, The Times

Armed with Lewis Dartnell's new book, I should be able to stride confidently into a post-apocalyptic future... Dartnell's guide to surviving the apocalypse is as breezy and engaging as it is informative

John Preston, Daily Mail

Engaging, thought-provoking and (mostly) accessible… Readers will certainly come away better informed, more knowledgeable about, and hopefully more interested in the fundamental science and technology necessary to rebuild a civilised society

Alison Stokes, Times Higher Education

A fascinating and fun read

UK Press Syndication

The Knowledge impresses as a condensed history of scientific progress, and will pique curiosity among readers who regret daydreaming throughout school chemistry lessons. Like this reviewer, some will be troubled by their ignorance of the basics, and how useless that could render them if the lights do go out

Iain Morris, Observer

A hymn to human ingenuity… Essential reading

Michael Brooks, New Statesman

If the world ends with a bang or a whimper make sure you have a copy of this book to hand, or you won’t have a clue how to survive or kick-start the new civilisation

Good Book Guide

An engaging and wide-ranging discussion of the scientific discoveries and technological innovations that underpin our lives… Littered with fascinating facts and an infectious enthusiasm for science and technology shines through in the accessible and lively writing… An absorbing thought experiment which celebrates the insight and ingenuity which has made this habitable planet into a civilized world

Olivia Johnson, BBC Sky at Night Magazine

There is no better guide to the basic science and engineering that underlies our everyday life than this clear and fascinating book

Lord Martin Rees

A great idea for a book… Excellent and intriguing

William Leith, Evening Standard

The conceit that this is a handbook for rebooting modern civilization is really just a cute way of framing what turns out to be a terrifically engrossing history of science and technology

Steven Poole, Guardian

There is great depth and insight in The Knowledge, which is brilliantly imaginative and thorough in its study of science and technology

Antonia Charlesworth, Big Issue

This book should be on everyone’s bookshelf, just in case the worst happens… The one guide you need to rebuild civilisation

Sally Hewitt, UK Press Syndication

an eye-opening dose of fantastical reality

Roisin Kiberd, Totally Dublin

Read More

Formats & editions

  • Paperback


    March 15, 2015


    352 pages

    RRP $27.99

    Online retailers

    • Mighty Ape
    • Paper Plus
    • The Warehouse
    • Whitcoulls
    • Fishpond
    • The Nile

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.co.nz

  • EBook


    April 3, 2014

    Vintage Digital

    352 pages

    Online retailers

    • Amazon Kindle NZ
    • iBooks NZ
    • Google Play EBook NZ
    • Kobo Ebook
    • Booktopia NZ

Also by Lewis Dartnell