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9781421443454
9781421443447
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9.00 Inches (US)
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$65.00 USD, £48.00 GBP
v2.1 Reference

World of Patterns

A Global History of Knowledge

By Rens Bod
Translated by Leston Buell

A comprehensive account of the methods of knowledge production throughout human history and across the globe.

The idea that the world can be understood through patterns and the principles that govern them is one of the most important human insights—it may also be our greatest survival strategy. Our search for patterns and principles began 40,000 years ago, when striped patterns were engraved on mammoths' bones to keep track of the moon's phases. What routes did human knowledge take to grow from these humble beginnings through many detours and dead ends into modern understandings of nature and culture? In this work of unprecedented scope, Rens Bod removes the Western natural sciences from their often-central role to bring us the first global history of human knowledge.

Having sketched the history of the humanities in his ground-breaking A New History of the Humanities, Bod now adopts a broader perspective, stepping beyond classical antiquity back to the Stone Age to answer the question: Where did our knowledge of the world today begin and how did it develop? Drawing on developments from all five continents of the inhabited world, World of Patterns offers startling connections. Focusing on a dozen fields—ranging from astronomy, philology, medicine, law, and mathematics to history, botany, and musicology—Bod examines to what degree their progressions can be considered interwoven and to what degree we can speak of global trends.

In this pioneering work, Bod aims to fulfill what he sees as the historian's responsibility: to grant access to history's goldmine of ideas. Bod discusses how inoculation was invented in China rather than Europe; how many of the fundamental aspects of modern mathematics and astronomy were first discovered by the Indian Kerala school; and how the study of law provided fundamental models for astronomy and linguistics from Roman to Ottoman times. The book flies across continents and eras. The result is an enlightening symphony, a stirring chorus of human inquisitiveness extending through the ages.

About the Authors

Rens Bod is a professor of digital humanities at the University of Amsterdam and the president of the Society for the History of the Humanities. He is the author of A New History of the Humanities: The Search for Principles and Patterns from Antiquity to the Present.

Endorsements

"Bod has written a sweeping history of the search for patterns and the generalizations and principles devised and discovered to explain and legitimate these perceived patterns. By tracing this search across different cultures and times, he has also written a history of the all-too-human desire to know. This book is even more ambitious and imaginative than Bod's last one."

- Chad Wellmon, University of Virginia, author of Permanent Crisis: The Humanities in a Disenchanted Age

"In the writing of history, overviews are as necessary as detailed research. Rens Bod offers such an overview, a 'Big History' of human knowledge from the Stone Age to the present. He makes effective use of organizing concepts such as 'patterns' and 'principles,' especially in his analysis of select intellectual disciplines."

- Peter Burke, Emmanuel College Cambridge, author of Eyewitnessing: The Uses of Images as Historical Evidence

"With a minimum of learned clutter and a maximum of clarity and curiosity, Rens Bod surveys the human search for patterns and the principles that underlie them over millennia and across continents, from Babylonian linguistics to Roman jurisprudence, ancient Greek astronomy to medieval music theory, Chinese logic to Micronesian navigation. This panoramic and insightful survey is the closest thing we have to a history of knowledge without borders."

- Lorraine Daston, Director Emerita, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, author of Against Nature

"This book is a tour de force. I cannot think of another work that attempts what this book does. The author has done us—across nearly all fields of scholarship and regions of the world—a huge service with his argument and synthesis of a huge amount of material in a single volume; and making it so readable."

- Shamil Jeppie, University of Cape Town, South Africa

"In this pathbreaking book, Rens Bod tears down the walls that past historiographies have erected between fields of knowledge and between places of knowledge. Focusing on patterns and principles is the highly original choice that allows Bod to weave together threads that have usually been followed separately. A thought-provoking essay!"

- Karine Chemla, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique

"This book is an eye-opener and a must-read for everyone interested in how a global perspective changes our understanding of knowledge. Based on a reevaluation of historical sources and using methods from the digital humanities, Rens Bod provides a unique survey of the global history of knowledge with an emphasis on patterns and principles. Combining this clear focus with a breathtaking scope that includes many hitherto neglected facets of the history of knowledge, Bod offers a much needed new narrative challenging traditional Western-centric views."

- Jürgen Renn, director at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, Germany
Johns Hopkins University Press
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9781421443447 : world-of-patterns-bod-buell
Hardback
May 10, 2022
$65.00 USD
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