In this Very Short Introduction to the gene Jonathan Slack explores the discovery, nature, and role of genes in evolution and development. Looking at how genes are understood as a concept, the nature of genetic variation, and how their mutation can lead to disease, this is an ideal guide for anyone curious about what genes are and how they work.
Computers form a vital part of most people's lives. But what is the nature of the computer? How does it work? What will the next generations of computers look like? Darrel Ince looks at the basic concepts behind all computers; the range of their uses, the effects of computers in the workplace, and novel forms such as quantum computers.
Everyone has an opinion about the core issues of medical law; from clinical negligence and organ transplantation to abortion, confidentiality, and euthanasia - it deals with matters of life and death. Using case studies to explore the key principles, Charles Foster presents a fascinating Very Short Introduction to medical law.
This book tells the story of modern drama through its seminal, groundbreaking plays and performances, and the artistic diversity that these represent. Exploring the new note of artistic hostility between dramatists and their audience, Shepherd-Barr draws on a range of theories and performances to reveal what makes modern drama "modern".
What do we mean by 'tragedy' now? When we turn on the news, does a report of the latest atrocity have any connection with Sophocles and Shakespeare? Addressing questions about belief, blame, revenge, pain, witnessing and ending, this book demonstrates the enduring significance of attempts to understand terrible suffering.
Thomas Hobbes, the first great English political philosopher, has had the reputation of being a pessimistic atheist. This study evaluates Hobbes's philosophy, describing him to have been passionately concerned with the refutation of scepticism, and to have developed a theory of knowledge, which rivalled that of Descartes in its importance.
In this Very Short Introduction, Ritchie Robertson provides the newcomer with an up-to-date and accessible examination of this fascinating author. Beginning with an examination of Kafka's life, he then goes on to discuss some of the major themes that emerge in Kafka's work, using his short story Metamorphosis as a recurring example.
In its heyday in the late 1990s, neoliberalism emerged as the world's dominant economic paradigm. But the global financial crisis of 2008-9 fundamentally shocked a globalized economy built on neoliberal assumptions. This VSI examines the origins, core claims, and considerable variations of neoliberalism with examples from around the world.
In this Very Short Introduction Jonathan A. Brown presents both the Muslim version of Muhammad's life, as well as the efforts of Western scholars to uncover the historical Muhammad. He considers the prominent roles that Muhammad's persona has played in the lives of Muslims throughout history, looking at his life and legacy.
English Literature: A Very Short Introduction discusses why literature matters, how narrative works, and what is distinctly English about English literature. Jonathan Bate considers how we determine the content of the field, and looks at the three major kinds of imaginative literature - English poetry, English drama and The English novel.
Jesus Christ is undoubtedly the best-known and most influential human person in world history. Richard Bauckham explores the life of the historical Jesus, using the four Gospels to reconstruct his character, showing how their differences provide us with an insight into more than one angle of a complex historical figure.
Jennifer Roberts introduces the background and writing of the 5th century Greek thinker and researcher Herodotus of Halicarnassus, who invented the genre of historical investigation. She discusses all aspects of his work, including his fascination with his origins; his travels; his interest in seeing the world; and the recurring themes of his work.
Risk is everywhere - from genetically modified crops, dams, and stem-cell therapy to heartbreak, online predators, inflation, and robbery. This Very Short Introduction examines what science has learned about how people deal with risks, what we can learn through decision theory, and how we can evaluate risk in our own lives.
Civil engineering produces the structures of all human settlements worldwide. In this Very Short Introduction, David Muir Wood demonstrates the nature and importance of civil engineering; not only in the history of civilization and urbanization, but its range of facets today, and its challenges for the future.
Engineering is part of almost everything we do - from the water we drink and the food we eat, to the buildings we live in and the roads and railways we travel on. In this Very Short Introduction, David Blockley explores the nature and practice of engineering, its history, its scope, and its relationship with art, science, and technology.
In this Very Short Introduction, Terence Allen and Graham Cowling describe the nature of cells - their basic structure, their varying forms, their division, their differentiation, their signalling, and programmed death. Cells are the basic constituent of life, and understanding cells and how they work is central to all biology and medicine.
In this Very Short Introduction Jamie Woodward examines the environmental shifts that took place during the Great Ice Age of the Quaternary Period. Looking at evidence from the continents, the oceans, and the ice core records, he explores the evolution of ideas about our geological past, the great debates, and the human stories behind it all.
Spanning the divide between Europe and Asia, Russia is a multi-ethnic empire with a huge territory. In this Very Short Introduction, Geoffrey Hosking discusses all aspects of Russian history, from the struggle by the state to control society, Russia's relationship with the West/Europe, the Soviet experience, and the post-Soviet era.
The Devil has fascinated writers and theologians since the time of the New Testament, and inspired many dramatic and haunting works of art. Today he remains a potent image in popular culture. The Devil: A Very Short Introduction presents an introduction to the Christian Devil through the history of ideas and the lives of real people.
In this authoritative Very Short Introduction to The Periodic Table, Eric Scerri presents a modern and fresh exploration of this fundamental topic in the physical sciences, considering the deeper implications of the arrangements of the table to atomic physics and quantum mechanics.
For over a hundred years 'the avant-garde' has been the most influential concept in modern art; its impact on the history of modern culture has been profound. In this Very Short Introduction, David Cottington explores why the avant-garde carries so much authority, and places it within the context of western modernity and capitalist culture.
Magna Carta has long been considered the foundation stone of the British Constitution, yet few people today understand either its contents or its context. With a full English translation of the 1215 charter, Nicholas Vincent introduces the document to a modern audience; explaining its origins and tracing the significance of its role in our history.
Despite secular trends in many western countries, religion continues to be a powerful force globally. The Pentecostal movement began early in the 20th century and there are now almost 450 million supporters around the world. Despite this, it is riddled with prejudice and misinformation. William K. Kay reveals the truth about Pentecostalism.
What is agnosticism? Is it a belief, or just the absence of belief? What is the 'agnostic' principle? Robin Le Poidevin takes a philosophical approach to the issue of agnosticism, challenging some of the common assumptions, arguing in favour of the agnostic attitude, and considering its place in society and education.
In this Very Short Introduction Peter M. Higgins presents an overview of the number types featured in modern science and mathematics. Providing a non-technical account, he explores the evolution of the modern number system, examines the fascinating role of primes, and explains their role in contemporary cryptography.
Where does our conscience come from, and how reliable is it? Exploring its deep historical roots, Paul Strohm considers what conscience has meant to successive generations. Using examples from popular culture and contemporary politics he demonstrates that conscience is as important today as it has ever been.
What is leadership? Are leaders born or bred? How do leaders lead? In this Very Short Introduction, Keith Grint considers these questions, prompting the reader to rethink their understanding of what leadership is. He examines the way leadership has evolved over time and explores how it is perceived, and used, in society today.
The weather affects everyone on Earth, influencing both our day-to-day decisions and long term plans for leisure and work. But the Earth's weather systems are extremely complex, and conditions and events may have an effect 'half a world away'. Storm Dunlop explores the processes at work behind our daily weather.
Among the many laws of science, there are four laws that direct and constrain everything that happens in the Universe. From the sudden expansion of a cloud of gas to the unfurling of a leaf they help us understand the course of life itself. In this Very Short Introduction Peter Atkins' explains what the four laws are and how they work.
There are many debates about utopia - What constitutes a utopia? Are utopias benign or dangerous? The idea of utopia has become commonplace in social and political thought, both negatively and positively. This Very Short Introduction explores utopianism, its history, and its role in modern debates.
This Very Short Introduction discusses the nature of planets and gas giants, and their rings and moons. It also looks beyond Pluto, in the Kuiper Belt, at the knowledge we have about planets around other stars. With many striking photos to illustrate the details, it demonstrates the unique world of every planet.
Dictionaries are far more than works which list the words and meanings of a language. In this Very Short Introduction Lynda Mugglestone takes a look at how dictionaries are made, considering how they reflect the dominant social and cultural assumptions of the time in which they were written.
Known as the 'father' of electrical engineering, Michael Faraday is one of the best known scientific figures of all time. In this Very Short Introduction, Frank A.J.L James looks at Faraday's life and works, examining the institutional context in which he lived and worked, his scientific research, and his continuing legacy in science today.
This Very Short Introduction presents Martin Luther as historians now see him. Instead of singling him out as a modern hero, the book emphasizes the context in which Luther worked, the colleagues who supported him, and the opponents who adamantly opposed his agenda for change.
Cancer is a problem that touches virtually everyone either directly or indirectly. As one of the biggest killers in the Western world it is feared by many people. In this Very Short Introduction, Nick James examines the trends and treatment of cancer, looking at efforts to develop treatments, research into cures, and the future of cancer care.
In this lively discussion Kim Reynolds looks at what children's literature is, why it is interesting, how it contributes to culture, and how it is studied as literature. Providing examples from across history and various types of children's literature, she introduces the key debates, developments, and people involved.
Lawrence M. Principe takes a fresh approach to the story of the scientific revolution, emphasising the historical context of the society and its world view at the time. From astronomy to alchemy and medicine to geology, he tells this fascinating story from the perspective of the historical characters involved.
Writing is a defining marker of civilisation; without it there could be no accumulation of knowledge. Andrew Robinson tells the fascinating story of the history of writing, considering its development, and examining the enormous variety of writing and scripts we use today.
In this Very Short Introduction D. Stephen Long examines the sources, history and contemporary theorists involved in the study of Christian ethics. Using examples of specific practical matters such as sex, money, and power, Long argues that Christian ethics are the cultivation of practical wisdom that comes from many diverse sources.
What is innovation? How can it be used? Why is failure so common in the process of innovation? This Very Short Introduction looks at what innovation is, what it has done for us, and why it has been so important in the last 150 years.
Michael Ferber considers Romanticism in its time of growth in Western Europe, examining various types of Romantic literature, music, painting, religion, and philosophy. He provides examples and quotations throughout to demonstrate the diverse nature of the movement.
Advertising is riddled with myths and misunderstandings. It is believed to be both immensely powerful yet immensely wasteful, to increase economic prosperity and to be morally questionable. Neither its historic origins nor its modern operations are well understood. This Very Short Introduction will tell the truth about how advertising works.
German philosophy remains the core of modern philosophy. This Very Short Introduction discusses the idea that German philosophy forms one of the most revealing responses to the problems of modernity. Including many significant German philosophers, and other more neglected thinkers, he provides an insight into German philosophical traditions.
In this fresh and clear history of Protestantism, Mark A. Noll looks at the era from Martin Luther to the present day. Focussing on developments worldwide and including a range of well-known figures including Luther, John Calvin, and F.D.E Schleiermacher, he considers the recent decline of Protestantism in the West and its expansion elsewhere.
In this Very Short Introduction Nick Middleton tells the story of the desert, demonstrating its beautiful landscapes and remarkable climates. He challenges the common notion that they are dry and barren and uncovers fascinating life-forms, a rich biodiversity, and a long history of human habitation.
Landscapes are all around us, but most of us know very little about how they have developed, what goes on in them, and how they react to changing climates, tectonics, and human activities. This Very Short Introduction discusses the key ideas and methods used to study and examine landscapes, and their importance in cultural terms.
Newton's contributions to an understanding of the heavens and the earth are considered to be unparalleled. This very short introduction explains his scientific theories, and uses Newton's unpublished writings to paint a picture of an extremely complex man whose beliefs had a huge impact on Europe's political, intellectual, and religious landscape.
What does U.S. history look like with women at the center of the story? From Pocahantas to military women serving in the Iraqi war, this Very Short Introduction chronicles the contributions that women have made to the American experience from a multicultural perspective that emphasizes how gender shapes women's-and men's-lives.
In this Very Short Introduction, leading historian of science Owen Gingerich offers a fascinating portrait of Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543), who developed the concept of a heliocentric universe and is a pivotal figure in the birth of modern science.
This Very Short Introduction offers an overview of the Harlem Renaissance, a cultural awakening among African Americans between the two world wars. Cheryl A. Wall brings readers to the Harlem of 1920s to identify the cultural themes and issues that engaged writers, musicians, and visual artists alike.