Most of us spend our lives striving for happiness. But what is it? How important is it? How can we (and should we) pursue it? In this Very Short Introduction Dan Haybron provides a comprehensive look at the nature of happiness. By using examples, Haybron considers how we measure happiness, what makes us happy, and considers its subjective nature.
The Napoleonic Wars left their mark on European and world societies in a variety of ways, not least from the radical social and political change they evoked in many countries. Examining the social, political, and institutional aspects of warfare in the Napoleonic era, Mike Rapport considers their significance and the legacy they leave today.
Molecular biology has revolutionized our understanding of animals and their evolution. In this Very Short Introduction, Peter Holland provides an authoritative summary of the modern view of animal life, its origins, and the new classification resulting from DNA studies.
Genius is highly individual and unique yet it shares a compelling quality. In this intriguing introduction Andrew Robinson uses the life and work of familiar geniuses - and some less familiar - to consider what their achievements have in common; whether its heredity, education, hard work, intelligence or just plain luck.
Here, David Gwynn reflects on the remarkable legacy of the Roman Republic. The rise and fall of the Republic holds a special place in the history of Western civilization; it has been presented as a model, a source of inspiration, but also a warning. Placing the events in their wider context, he provides a fascinating history of culture and society.
The gap between the rich and the poor can be vast. Robert C. Allen considers the main factors that contribute to this gap, looking at the interconnections between economic growth, culture, technology, and income distribution. Exploring the historical processes that have created the unequal world of today, he takes a global look at wealth worldwide.
In this Very Short Introduction, Jacqueline Stedall explores the rich historical and cultural diversity of mathematical endeavour from the distant past to the present day, using illustrative case studies drawn from a range of times and places; including early imperial China, the medieval Islamic world, and nineteenth-century Britain.
The development of a single fertilized egg into a fly, an elephant, or a human baby is one the most remarkable near-miracles achieved by nature. This Very Short Introduction, written by the distinguished developmental biologist Lewis Wolpert, gives a concise account of, and explores, one of the liveliest areas of scientific research.
What is that strange and mysterious force that pulls one magnet towards another, yet seems to operate through empty space? This is the elusive force of magnetism. In this Very Short Introduction Stephen J. Blundell considers early theories of magnetism, the discovery that Earth is a magnet, and the importance of magnetism in modern technology.
A highly stimulating Very Short Introduction to the history of Ancient Greek civilization, from the first documented use of the Greek language in about 1400 BCE, through the glories of the Classical and Hellenistic periods, to the foundation of the Byzantine empire in about CE 330.
With a broad scope across the millennia, from high literature to popular culture, between page and stage and screen, this Very Short Introduction considers comedy not only as a literary genre, but also as a broader impulse at work in many other historical and contemporary forms of satire, parody, and play.
Stars are a constant source of fascination. In this Very Short Introduction Andrew King introduces us to the science of stars; how they are born, how they live, and how they die. He shows how understanding the stars is the key to understanding the galaxies they inhabit, and how they provide us with clues to the existence of planets like our own.
There is much public interest in stem cells, but also much confusion and misinformation. In this Very Short Introduction, developmental biologist Jonathan Slack explains the biology behind stem cells; what they are, what scientists do with them, what stem cell therapies are available today, and what can be expected to happen in the future.
The British Empire influenced many aspects of the world we live in today. The international system remains heavily marked by British imperialism, and the borders, nations, and federations it created. This Very Short Introduction introduces and defines the British Empire, reviewing how it evolved into such a force, and the legacy it left behind.
Generally referring to all forms of social coordination and patterns of rule, the term 'governance' is used in many different contexts. In this Very Short Introduction, Mark Bevir explores the main theories of governance and considers their impact on ideas of governance in the corporate, public, and global arenas.
In this accessible and authoritative Very Short Introduction, Richard English considers what modern warfare is and what it achieves. Addressing our assumptions about war in the modern period, and drawing upon direct accounts of warfare, he considers its impact on society, culture, economics, as well its future.
Madness is something that frightens and fascinates us all. It is a word with which we are universally familiar, and a condition that haunts the human imagination. In this Very Short Introduction, Andrew Scull examines the social, historical and culturally variable responses to madness over the centuries.
In this Very Short Introduction, Mark Maslin looks at all aspects of climate, from the physical and chemical factors that drive it and how climate differs from weather, to how climate has affected human settlements and the cyclic features of it. He ends with a look at climate change and our current approaches to solving it.
In this Very Short Introduction, Michael Freeden explores the concept of liberalism, one of the longest-standing and central political theories and ideologies. Combining a variety of approaches, he distinguishes between liberalism as a political movement, as a system of ideas, and as a series of ethical and philosophical principles.
What is entrepreneurship? Is it important? What do entrepreneurs actually do? These are a few of the key questions considered in this Very Short Introduction. Paul Westhead and Mike Wright provide a clear guide to all aspects of the process of entrepreneurship, including the diversity of the people involved and the benefits it brings to society.
Teeth are a vital component of vertebrate anatomy and a fundamental part of the fossil record. It was the evolution of teeth, associated with predation, that drove the evolution of the wide array of fish, amphibians, reptiles, and then mammals. Peter S. Ungar looks at how, without teeth, none of these developments could have occurred.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) represents the social accountability a company holds for society. This Very Short Introductions looks at how and why it developed, how it is implemented in practice, and the benefits and controversies it raises for companies, governments, and society worldwide.
Using examples from around the world, including the Shard in London and jumbo jets like the A380, David Blockley explores the world of structural engineering. This Very Short Introduction considers the crucial role structural engineering has on issues such as cost and energy efficiency to long-term sustainability and safety.
This Very Short Introduction discusses the necessity of welfare states in modern capitalist societies. Situating social policy in an historical, sociological, and comparative perspective, David Garland brings a new understanding to familiar debates, policies, and institutions.
In this Very Short Introduction, Christopher Hall shows how material science combines physics, chemistry, and biology with engineering to understand and exploit materials and create new ones, often with extraordinary optical and electrical properties.
Since the mid-19th century crime fiction has been one of the most popular sub-genres of the novel. In this Very Short Introduction, Richard Bradford explores its origins and the features that define its varied style. He considers its role in popular culture around the world and considers why its classification as 'literature' is still ambiguous.
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, John Holland presents an introduction to the science of complexity. Using examples from biology and economics, he shows how complexity science models the behaviour of complex systems.
In this book John Marenbon discusses the extraordinary breadth of medieval philosophy as written by Christians in Greek and Latin, Muslims in Arabic and by Jews in Hebrew, from c. 500 to c. 1550. He considers important factors such as where and when it took place, its social setting and its links with religion.
Do we love someone for their virtue, their beauty, or their moral or other qualities? Are love's characteristic desires altruistic or selfish? Are there duties of love? What do the sciences tell us about love? In this Very Short Introduction, Ronald de Sousa explores the different kinds of love, from affections to romantic love.
William Allan's Very Short Introduction provides a concise and lively guide to the major authors, genres, and periods of classical literature. Drawing upon a wealth of material, he reveals just what makes the 'classics' such masterpieces and why they continue to influence and fascinate today.
Looking at literature from Medieval Britain and Ireland, including Anglo-Latin and Anglo-Norman poetry, prose and drama, this Very Short Introduction covers the earliest beginnings of print culture, and considers major themes of these works, such as sin and salvation, kingship and authority, myth and the monstrous.
In this Very Short Introduction Ali Ansari provides a radical reinterpretation of Iranian history and politics, placing the Islamic Revolution in the context of a century of political change and social transformation, to gain a fuller understanding of Iran's identity, culture, and politics.
Theatre is one of the longest-standing art forms of modern civilization. Taking a global look at how various forms of theatre - including puppetry, dance, and mime - have been interpreted and enjoyed, this Very Short Introduction explores all aspects of the theatre, including its relationship with religion, literature, and its value worldwide.
From the contours of coastlines to the outlines of clouds, fractal shapes can be found regularly in nature. This Very Short Introduction explains the basic concepts, presents the 'new geometry' of fractals, explores its wide range of applications, and shows the central place fractals have gained in mathematics and science in recent years.
Landscape architecture, which includes the planning of parks and gardens and the design and siting of buildings and roads, plays an important role in shaping the world around us. In this Very Short Introduction, Ian Thompson uses real-life examples from around the world to examine its impact throughout history and in contemporary society.
There is much conflicting information about diet and health; with issues such as obesity and food allergies increasing worldwide despite healthy eating campaigns such as 'five-a-day'. In this Very Short Introduction, David Bender provides a simple but authoritative guide to the main principles of human nutrition and a healthy diet.
Coral reefs are among the most biodiverse of ecosystems. In this Very Short Introduction, Charles Sheppard tells the fascinating story of how and where coral reefs are formed and the diversity of marine life they support. He also highlights the threats they face due to exploitation and the conservation efforts in place to tackle these issues.
In this Very Short Introduction Christina Riggs explores the visual arts produced in Egypt over a span of some 4,000 years. Describing the context and stories behind the objects that fill our museums and galleries, from sculpture and magical implements to whole buildings, Riggs explores the relationship between the ancient world and our own.
The Earth contains a vast array of minerals, many with highly complex arrangements of atoms of several elements. In this Very Short Introduction David Vaughan explores the structure of minerals, the conditions under which they form and transform, their properties, and their interaction with microbes, as well as their importance in human health.
In this Very Short Introduction, Peter Adamson sheds light on the philosophical ideas that emerged in the Islamic world. From the beginnings of the tradition to the twenty first century, he traces the history of philosophy among those living in Islamic lands, highlighting its key themes and ongoing relevance to contemporary concerns.
In this Very Short Introduction Peter Atkins inspires us to look at chemistry through new eyes. Considering the remarkable achievements chemistry has made, he presents a fascinating, clear, and rigorous exploration of the world of chemistry - its structure, core concepts, and contributions to the material comfort and culture of the modern world.
Accounting: A Very Short Introduction introduces terms like 'debits', 'pre-tax income' and 'goodwill'. Christopher Nobes covers all of the basic concepts of accounting and examines the main areas of accounting work, such as bookkeeping, financial reporting, auditing, and management accounting.
Without cause and effect, there would be no science or technology, no moral responsibility, and no system of law. Causation is therefore the most fundamental connection in the universe and a core topic of philosophical thought. This Very Short Introduction introduces all of the main theories of causation and its key debates.
This Very Short Introduction examines all the major aspects of Dante's work, emphasizing the features that have made him such an important point of reference for modern writers and their readers. Exploring and explaining The Divine Comedy, they also discuss his life and poetry as well as issues of truth, humanity, politics, and religion.
We have all wondered about the meaning of life. Is there an answer? Is it up to us? Or is the question a bogus one? Terry Eagleton takes a witty, stimulating look at this most compelling of questions - and proposes his own answer.
Biographies are one of the most popular and best-selling of the literary genres. Why do people like them? What does a biography do and how does it work? This Very Short Introduction examines different types of biographies, why certain people and historical events arouse so much interest, and how they are compared with history and fiction.
Superconductivity is one of the most exciting areas of research in physics today. Outlining the history of its discovery, and the race to understand its many mysterious phenomena, this Very Short Introduction also explores the deep implications of the theory, and its potential to revolutionize the physics and technology of the future.
Fashion is a global industry, and plays a role in our economic, political, cultural, and social lives. However, fashion is often denigrated as trivial and superficial, a sign of vanity and narcissism. This Very Short Introduction will give a clear understanding of how fashion has developed while addressing these divergent views.