Title: Humans: A Brief History of How We F*cked It All Up
Author: Tom Phillips
Year Published: 2019
This is a book all about how humans fucked up, or for a nicer term, ‘messed up’ in the past. Each chapter tells stories about events, ideas, and forgotten people who have attempted to do something great… but failed.
Without giving away any specifics of the stories, each chapter divides the stories into categories. There’s a chapter about the brain (and weird manias in history), the environment (heard of the Aral Sea?), animals (and what the Four Pests campaign was), leaders, government, war, colonialism, diplomacy and technology/science.
I will mention one story that stuck out. As someone who’s partial to Scotland, I got really interested when the country was the subject of one of the main stories in the colonialism chapter. Long story short, in the 1600s, Scotland attempted to colonize Panama through what is known as the Darien Scheme. We don’t hear much about the Scottish in Panama, so we know that scheme didn’t exactly work. It’s estimated that about 1/6 of Scotland’s monetary wealth was put into this… and lost.
The guy behind the scheme was William Paterson. And we can’t really call him a complete failure – he’s credited as one of the founders of the Bank of England, which unlike Scottish Panama, is still in existence today.
Humans is the kind of book to pick up if you want to know random facts in a fun and entertaining way. It’s like the history textbook we all wish we had.
Really the whole book should be depressing and sad (it’s an entire book on failure), but Phillips’ storytelling ability and attempts to be funny makes this more of a lighthearted, yet educational read.
Again, I don’t want to give away any of the stories, so this quote in the introduction basically tells you what you’re in for when you pick up this book.
This is a book about humans, and our remarkable capacity for fucking things up.
Get your own copy here.
Thank you Hanover Square Press for providing an advanced copy of the book.