Reading can inform, inspire, emancipate, and motivate us. Down the centuries, it has brought huge educational and social benefits. It can also unleash subversion, and its spread has been accompanied by censorship and control. Belinda Jack explores the global development and impact of reading - from ancient texts to digital texts today.
Utilitarianism is one of the most important and influential secular philosophies of modern times, and has drawn considerable debate and controversy. This Very Short Introduction considers its origins, its relevance to modern moral challenges, and the arguments and discussions around utilitarian approaches.
Rob Boddice considers how perceptions of pain have varied across history, and how the treatment of pain has also changed. Beginning with the classical world, he charts the increasing distinction drawn between physical and emotional pain, and the growing modern focus on empathy and compassion towards pain in others, and in animals.
Our oceans are hugely important, as a source of food and mineral wealth, as an environment for a vast variety of wildlife, for the role they play in climate regulation, and as part of the biogeochemical cycles of carbon, nitrogen, and other elements critical to life. Dorrik Stow explores what we know about how oceans originate and are maintained.
Molecular Biology lies at the heart of all life sciences. This Very Short Introduction provides an account of the development of this important modern field, and considers its modern day applications such as the development of new drugs, genetically modified crops, and forensic science.
This Very Short Introduction describes the key threads in the history of Sikhism, from the late 15th century to the present day. It examines the development of a distinct Sikh identity, and explores Sikhism's meanings and myths, the teachings these embody, and its practices, rituals, and festivals.
Politics, economics, ideology, culture, strategy, tactics, and philosophy have all shaped war, but none of these factors has driven the evolution of warfare as much as technology. Expanding on this compelling thesis, this Very Short Introduction traces the co-evolution of technology and war from the Stone Age to the age of cyberwar and nanotechnology.
Thinking is the essence of what it means to be human and defines us more than anything else as a species. Jonathan Evans explores cognitive psychological approaches to understanding the nature of thinking and reasoning, problem solving, and decision making.
David Norman discusses some of the most fascinating and iconic creatures to walk our Earth. Introducing the different famillies of dinosaurs, he discusses how they were first discovered and interpreted, and looks at how scientific break-throughs have changed our understanding of dinosaurs over the years.
This book describes the key threads in the history of Sikhism, from the late 15th century to the present day. It examines the development of a distinct Sikh identity, and explores the meaning of Sikhism - its teachings, practices, rituals, and festivals.
In this Very Short Introduction Geoffrey Nowell-Smith defines the field of cinema, and explores its fascinating history within the cultural and aesthetic sphere. Considering the influences of the other art forms from which it arose, he looks at how technological advances have opened up new horizons for the cinema industry.
North American Indigenous literature reaches back thousands of years to when the continent's original inhabitants first circled fires and shared tales. Sean Teuton tells its story, from when oral narrative first inspired Indigenous writers in English, through their later adaptations of the novel to serve creative and political needs.
Some of our most burning questions surround consciousness: What creates our identity? Do we really have free will? Is consciousness itself an illusion? The rapid rate of developments in brain science continues to open up debate on these issues. This book clarifies the complex arguments and illuminates the major theories on consciousness.
Freemasonry is one of the oldest and most widespread voluntary organizations in the world. Andreas OEnnerfors sorts the facts from the colourful fictions surrounding this organization and outlines how the organization works, its rituals and symbols, its values, and the work it does in modern society.
India has become one of the world's emerging powers, rivaling China in terms of global influence. Yet people still know relatively little about the cultural changes unfolding in India today. Craig Jeffrey looks at the history of India, and considers the questions and challenges facing it today, informed by the everyday stories of Indian citizens.
Michael Beaney introduces analytic philosophy by exploring some of the key ideas of Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, G. E. Moore, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Susan Stebbing. He also considers how analytic philosophy has developed and spread to become the dominant philosophical tradition across the world.
Graham Priest shows that formal logic is a powerful, exciting part of modern philosophy - a tool for thinking about everything from the existence of God and the reality of time to paradoxes of probability. Explaining formal logic in simple, non-technical terms, this edition includes new sections on mathematical algorithms, axioms, and proofs.
o How do nations escape poverty and achieve economic and social progress? Ian Goldin, a former vice-president of the World Bank, explains what development means in its broadest sense - encompassing education, health, and gender equality as well as economic growth. He discusses the shift from state-led strategies, to ones driven by market forces.
Decadence: A Very Short Introduction provides an elegant overview of the culture of decadence - defined as the artistic expression of a conflicted sense of modernity - by tracing its origin in ancient Rome, development in nineteenth-century Paris and London, manifestation in early twentieth-century Vienna and Berlin, and present resonance in contemporary life.
This Very Short Introduction explores the thousand-year history of the Holy Roman Empire, from its origins in 800 as Charlemagne's Frankish kingdom, to its destruction by Napoleon. Throughout, Joachim Whaley analyses the empire's crucial impact and role in the history of European power and politics.
Fully updated to include the migrant crisis, the UK's decision to leave the Union, and the state of the Euro currency, this accessible Very Short Introduction shows how and why the EU has developed, how its institutions works, and what it does - from the single market to the Euro, and from agriculture to peace-keeping and the environment.
Marx is one of the most influential philosophers of all time, whose theories about society, economics, and politics have shaped and directed political and social thought for 150 years. In this new edition, Peter Singer discusses the legacy and impact of Marx's core theories, considering how they apply to twenty first century politics and society.
In this Very Short Introduction Simon Yarrow explores sainthood, sanctity, and the lives of saints themselves. Explaining their social, cultural, and political roles through history, he considers them as forms of literary and artistic expression, and concludes by looking at their relevance in the modern world.
Talks about the role of evolutionary biology in transforming our view of human origins and relation to the universe, and the impact of this idea on traditional philosophy and religion. This book aims to introduce some of the important findings, concepts, and procedures of evolutionary biology.
An essay about how we study and understand history, this book begins by inviting us to think about various questions provoked by our investigation of history. It explores the ways these questions have been answered in the past. It also introduces the concepts of causation, interpretation, and periodization, through examples of how historians work.
Rene Descartes had a short working life, and his output was small, yet he made significant contributions to philosophy and science. This book shows that Descartes was, above all, an advocate and practitioner of a new mathematical approach to physics, and that he developed his metaphysics to support his programme in the sciences.
The Norman Conquest in 1066 was the last time England was successfully invaded, and was one of the most profound turning points in English history. This fascinating Very Short Introduction focuses on the differing ways the invasion was viewed by those who witnessed it, and how its legacy has been interpreted by generations since.
Ethnomusicology, an academic discipline founded in 1950, has been defined as the study of the music of others. This definition, at once whimsical and very nearly true, is incomplete. Many of its strongest threads have emerged because a person or a people have wanted to understand themselves, their history, and their identity.
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) revolutionized the way in which we think about ourselves. From its beginnings as a theory of neurosis, Freud developed psycho-analysis into a general psychology which became widely accepted as the predominant mode of discussing personality and interpersonal relationships.
In a startling reinterpretation of the evidence, Stillman Drake advances the hypothesis that Galileo's trial and condemnation by the Inquisition was caused not by his defiance of the Church, but by the hostility of contemporary philosophers.
Attempts to take readers from no knowledge about the science of human intelligence to a stage where they are able to make judgements for themselves about some of the key questions about human mental ability differences. Each chapter deals with a central issue, and is structured around a diagram, which is explained in the course of the chapter.
Few Americans and even fewer citizens of other nations understand the electoral process in the United States. The second edition of this Very Short Introduction offers an up-to-date overview of American political parties and elections, providing an insider's view of how the system actually works while shining a light on some of its flaws.
A. C. Grayling's accessible introduction to Wittgenstein's work describes both his early and later philosophy, the differences and connections between them, and gives a fresh assessment of Wittgenstein's continuing influence on contemporary thought.
This book will transform the way you think about design by showing how integral it is to our daily lives, from the spoon we use to eat our breakfast cereal to the medical equipment used to save lives. John Heskett goes beyond style and taste to look at how different cultures and individuals personalise objects.
How have the Jews survived? For millennia, they have defied odds by overcoming the travails of exile, persecution, and recurring plans for their annihilation. This book charts the long journey of the Jews through history. At the same time, it points to two unlikely factors to explain the survival of the Jews: antisemitism and assimilation.
Arguably, nationality is the most important social phenomenon in the world today. But what is the nation? Why is it so important to human beings? What is its relation to religion and commerce? Steven Grosby shows how closely linked the concept of nationalism is with being human.
John C. Maher explains why societies everywhere have become more multilingual, despite the disappearance of hundreds of the world languages. He considers our notion of language as national or cultural identities, and discusses why nations cluster and survive around particular languages even as some territories pursue autonomy or nationhood.
Law touches every aspect of our daily lives, and yet the main concepts, terms, and processes of the legal system remain obscure to many. This Very Short Introduction, in its second edition, provides a lucid, accessible guide to modern legal systems, explaining how the law works across our contemporary digital world.
Clinical psychology treats people who are facing difficulties or changes in their lives. Approaching personal distress as an unhappy outcome of certain ways of thinking, behaving and relating, often occurring within difficult circumstances, practitioners work with people to try and help them change what is distressing or concerning them.
In the wake of the Eurozone crisis and Brexit the European Union faces difficult questions about its future. In this debate, the law has a central role to play. But what exactly is EU law about? And why do its Member States respect the commitments they made when they signed the treaties so much more effectively than other treaty-based regimes?
What are the origins of the Catholic Church? How has Catholicism changed and adapted over the centuries? What challenges does the Catholic Church face in the twenty-first century? Gerald O'Collins answers these and other questions, and in this new edition considers the impact of Pope Francis' leadership of the Church since 2013.
Fundamentalism is seen as the major threat to world peace today, a conclusion impossible to ignore since the events in New York on September 11 2001. But what is fundamentalism? Malise Ruthven tackles the polemic and stereotypes surrounding this complex phenomenon - one that eludes simple definition, yet urgently needs to be understood.
Shakespeare's tragedies contain an astonishing variety of suffering, from suicides and murders to dismemberments and grief. Stanley Wells considers how the bard's tragic plays drew on the literary and theatrical conventions of his time. Discussing the individual plays, he also explores why tragedy is regarded as a fit subject for entertainment.
This Very Short Introduction examines Voltaire's (1694-1778) remarkable life and career. Exploring his most important writings, the impact his work had on our understanding of the European Enlightenment, and his status as a literary celebrity at the time, Nicholas Cronk considers his continued relevance in literature, politics, and philosophy.
Psychology influences the way we think about everything, from education and intelligence to relationships and advertising. This updated Very Short Introduction by Gillian Butler and Freda McManus provides an exploration of the leadings ideas and theories of psychology for anyone interested in understanding the human mind.