• Sonal Patade

Sapiens : A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari (Review)

Harari, a renowned historian depicts in his book evolution of sapiens from foraging era to 21st century. In the book author states- though biology sets limitations on activities and conduct of humans, it is mostly the cultural and social establishments that largely contribute to what sapiens are today. The uniqueness of this book is the linkage author provides between historical and biological development. Though the book has been divided in four distinctive parts- the cognitive revolution, the agricultural revolution, unification of humankind and the scientific revolution, where the author suggests how societal progress shaped sapiens in noticeable way, he also remarks his philosophical views. Harari, a historian specialized in World History has researched on the relation between history and biology; this book can be seen as the result of his study but sometimes his philosophical views in the book appear vague.

One of the many interesting claims of Harari in this book is that the "humans could dominate the world because of their ability to cooperate in large numbers". He further argues that this ability of cooperating lies in the capacity of humans to believe in completely imaginative things such as gods, nations, religions and even the money. Harari’s thoughts on how mythology has played its part in mass cooperation are stimulating. Overall, Harari has fascinatingly explained these topics in undoubtedly intelligent way where one can sense a bit of exaggeration to make his arguments look accurate.

One of the most striking argument Harari makes is that the Agricultural revolution was a trap’. He states that the hunter gatherers had a peaceful life than that of humans in agricultural era. Hunter gatherers had more free time and less things to worry about like their crops and domestic animals. Harari also says in his book that Wheat domesticated humans and not the other way around. It is doubtful and uncertain, how a stage in entire development process can be unnecessary or misleading, when development is a continuous process, where each previous stage determines the next and ultimately the fate of entire humankind.

The author’s opinion of natural and unnatural is quite confusing. According to him, nothing is unnatural from biological perspective, and whatever is possible is also natural’. Harari states that our concepts of natural and unnatural are taken from Christian theology. At a point when he says myth or imaginative things break the boundaries set by biology for human development, one must also accept the possible shortcomings of such things.

This book of Harari was originally written and published in Hebrew (2011) and then translated in English (2014). He has succeeded in presenting the book in descriptive and depictive way, portraying pictures wherever possible and needed. The lucid way of explaining chain of historical and simultaneously biological events sometimes feel broken because of amount of jargons used.

To sum this all up, the book is intriguing. The way the author has linked the events in history giving biological reasoning is simply breath-taking. We have learnt history and biological evolution of humans as two distinctive subjects but when Harari presents the combined and inter-linked view of history and biology it gives rise to many possibilities and answers to many unresolved queries. Magnificent is the only word that can exactly express my feelings about this book in a single word.

I would like to know about your favorite book, please comment and let me know. Thanks for reading!

- Sonal Patade

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