Єврейський університет в Єрусалимі. Курс: Коротка історія людства

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A Brief History of Humankind
Dr. Yuval Noah Harari

The course surveys the entire length of human history, from the evolution of various human species in the Stone Age up to the political and technological revolutions of the twenty-first century.
Workload: 2-4 hours/week

About the Course

About 2 million years ago our human ancestors were insignificant animals living in a corner of Africa. Their impact on the world was no greater than that of gorillas, zebras, or chickens. Today humans are spread all over the world, and they are the most important animal around. The very future of life on Earth depends on the ideas and behavior of our species.
This course will explain how we humans have conquered planet Earth, and how we have changed our environment, our societies, and our own bodies and minds. The aim of the course is to give students a brief but complete overview of history, and to answer some basic historical questions such as:
What is religion?
What is an empire?
What is money?
What is science?
What is capitalism?
Why did almost all societies believe that women are inferior to men?
Does history have a direction?
Did people become happier as history progressed?
And what is the likely future of humankind?
Course Syllabus
Part I: The Cognitive Revolution
Lecture 1: An Animal of No Significance
One hundred thousand years ago, at least six different species of humans inhabited planet Earth. Who were they? Where did they come from? Why is there today only one species of humans—Homo sapiens—and what happened to all the others?
Lecture 2: The Tree of Knowledge
The Cognitive Revolution, about 70,000 years ago, enabled Homo sapiens to conquer the world and drive all other human species to extinction. Homo sapiensdeveloped new cognitive abilities, which manifested in the appearance of “modern language.” How was this language different from the languages of earlier human species and of other animals? Why can we consider the appearance of this new type of language as the beginning of history? How is history different from biology?
Lecture 3: A Day in the Life of Adam and Eve
What was life like for the people who lived between the Cognitive Revolution (c. 70,000 years ago) and the Agricultural Revolution (c. 10,000 years ago)? What did they do when they woke up in the morning? What were their societies like? Did they have monogamous relationships and nuclear families? Did they have religions, revolutions, and wars?
Lecture 4: The Flood
Following the Cognitive Revolution, Homo sapiens spread all over the planet. While doing this, it drove numerous other species into extinction. In Australia, up to 95% of all large animal species vanished. In America, 84 of 107 large mammal species likewise disappeared. Altogether, about half of the large terrestrial mammal species that populated Earth became extinct. How could a few million individuals who possessed no more than stone-age technology have wrought such devastation?

Part II: The Agricultural Revolution
Lecture 5: History’s Biggest Fraud
About 10,000 years ago, people in the Middle East, China, and Central America began domesticating plants and animals. In the process, Homo sapiens, too, was domesticated, abandoning a life of hunting and gathering for the pleasures and discomforts of permanent settlements. For most people, the discomforts outweighed the pleasures. The Agricultural Revolution made the life of the average person harder and grimmer. Why, then, did it occur?
Lecture 6: Building Pyramids
For millions of years, humans lived in intimate bands of no more than a few dozen individuals. Our biological instincts evolved as an adaptation to this way of life. Humans were therefore ill-equipped to cooperate with large numbers of strangers. This hasn’t changed much. Yet within a few millennia after the onset of the Agricultural Revolution, humans established cities, kingdoms, and empires. How did people manage to organize stable societies based on intensive cooperation between millions of strangers when our biological makeup seems to preclude such arrangements?
Lecture 7: A Revolution in Data-Processing
One of the critical factors that enabled millions of strangers to cooperate successfully was the invention of writing. How was writing invented, and what was its historical significance?
Lecture 8: There is No Justice in History
Another critical factor in the formation of complex societies was the division of the population into a hierarchy of groups. Agricultural and industrial societies have been built on hierarchies of class, race, ethnicity, or gender. Why was it impossible to create a just and equal society? What is the deep root of prejudice and injustice? In particular, why have almost all known societies over the past 10,000 years believed that men are superior to women?

Part III: The Unification of Humankind
Lecture 9: The Arrow of History
In the millennia following the Agricultural Revolution, humans created many different cultures. How did these cultures relate to one another? Are there universal patterns governing the interaction between them?
Lecture 10: The Scent of Money
Commerce has played a crucial role in connecting and merging cultures. Of particular importance was the invention—and spread—of money. Money is a system of mutual trust. It is in fact the most universal, most open-minded, and most successful system of mutual trust ever devised. How did it happen that people who believe in different gods and obey different rulers nevertheless trust the same money?
Lecture 11: Imperial Visions
The idea of empire is seen today in a very negative light, but empires have played such a central role in human history that it’s hard to regard them as solidly evil. What exactly is an empire? How have empires succeeded in uniting under their aegis different ecological regions, ethnic groups, and religious communities? How can we balance the positive contribution of empires with their record of violence and oppression? And what is the future of the imperial ideal? Is the world destined to be ruled by a new global empire?
Lecture 12: The Law of Religion
The role of religion in history is extremely controversial. Some see religion as the root of all evil, while for others it is the primary source of happiness, empathy, and progress. Can we arrive at a balanced judgment? What were the main landmarks in the religious history of the world? In what ways did different cultures understand the universe, distinguish good from evil, and grapple with the ubiquitous presence of suffering?
Lecture 13: The Secret of Success
Why did some religions spread like wildfire while others disappeared? Why did some empires last for centuries, yet others were as ephemeral as sand castles? Can we identify the secret of historical success, and will it help us to predict the future course of history?

Part IV. The Scientific Revolution
Lecture 14: The Discovery of Ignorance
During the last 500 years there has been an explosive and exponential growth in the power of humankind, due, above all, to the formation of the modern scientific tradition and its ideal of “progress.” Humankind has become increasingly convinced that the only thing that limits its power is its own ignorance, and that the discovery of new knowledge can enable it to do almost anything. How is the modern scientific tradition different from all previous traditions of knowledge? What accounts for its sudden rise and for its unparalleled achievements?
Lecture 15: The Marriage of Science and Empire
The modern scientific tradition developed in symbiosis with the modern imperial tradition. For many of their practitioners, science and imperialism were almost indistinguishable. The conquest of new knowledge depended upon and made possible the conquest of new territories. Why did all of this begin in Europe of all places, an area that previously had played no important role in world history? How did science help build empires, and how did empire-builders repay the scientists?
Lecture 16: The Capitalist Creed
The close relationship of science and imperialism was in fact just one part of a ménage-à-trois. The third crucial member of this trio was modern capitalism, which financed both science and empire, and which orchestrated an unprecedented growth in the world economy. How does a capitalist economy function? How is it different from traditional economies? Is capitalism natural, or is it really a modern religion?
Lecture 17: The Wheels of Industry
During the last 200 years, the combination of science, imperialism and capitalism gave humankind control of enormous new energy resources that revolutionized human production. How did this change the global ecology, daily life, and human psychology?
Lecture 18: A Permanent Revolution
The industrial revolution unhinged the world, opening an era of permanent revolution. The late modern socio-political order is in constant flux, never settling into any stable pattern. The pillars of human order—most notably, the family and the intimate community—are crumbling around us. How do humans deal with the resulting vacuum and chaos? How do society and politics function without stability? Is the world becoming more violent and dangerous, or is it actually more peaceful and secure than ever before?
Lecture 19: And They Lived Happily Ever After
Have 500 years of unimaginable discoveries, developments, and revolutions made people happier? If not, what was the point of all these changes? Most history books ignore these issues, yet these are the most important questions we can ask about history. New insights from biology, economics, and psychology are offering fascinating paths of inquiry into the history of human happiness.
Lecture 20: The End of Homo Sapiens
Over the last few decades humans have began to bend and break the laws of natural selection—laws that have governed life on Earth for the past four billion years. Genetic engineering, cyborg engineering, and the engineering of completely non-organic life promise to dislodge natural selection—in favor of intelligent design—as the supreme principle of life. We are acquiring unprecedented abilities to design not only the world around us, but also our own bodies, our personalities, and our desires. How will this influence society and culture? Does anybody know where we are heading? What exactly do we want to become?
Recommended Background
There are no entry requirements. The course is intended both to people who have never studied history seriously, and wish to gain an overview of the human past, and to people who have studied history before, but who would like to get a fresh and challenging perspective on it.
Suggested Readings
Participating in the course does not require any reading.
Course Format
The course includes 20 lectures. Each is 60-120 minutes long, divided into 6-12 short segments.
Students can watch each lecture in one go, or break it up into several segments.

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