Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834) was an English cleric whose ideas on population and political economy have had a profound influence on modern economic thought. In this Very Short Introduction, Donald Winch considers the context in which Malthus wrote, examines why his work matters, and why it remains so controversial.
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.
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.
Drawing on a mixture of science and history, Prof Lord John Krebs looks at the development of food and the four great transitions that affected the way we eat. From issues such as the obesity crisis and sustainable agriculture to food scares and the role of new technologies, Krebs provides a fascinating exploration of the history of human food.
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.
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.
From the schools of ancient times to the present day, Gary Thomas looks at how and why education evolved as it has. By exploring some of the big questions, he examines the ways in which schools work, considers the differences around the world, and concludes by considering the future of education worldwide.
This Very Short Introduction tracks child development from birth to early adolescence. Exploring the process of attachment and psychological relationships, as well as methods of active learning, including language and reasoning, Usha Goshwami explains how children develop as they do and how we can understand developmental differences.
Symmetry is an immensely important concept in mathematics and throughout the sciences. In this Very Short Introduction, Ian Stewart highlights the deep implications of symmetry and its important scientific applications across the entire subject.
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.
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.
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.
There are many interpretations of the word 'Gothic'. Nick Groom explores the rich history and chronology of the term, bringing together various underlying and disparate elements to clarify its meaning. By examining its history, he argues that we can better interpret and understand society today.
How many languages are there? What differentiates one language from another? Are new languages still being discovered? Why are so many languages disappearing? These are some of the questions considered in this Very Short Introduction. By examining the science of languages, we find that the answers are not as simple as we might expect.
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 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.
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.
Organization happens in the act of working with others to accomplish a desired future state. It can happen through intentionally designed activity, spontaneous improvisation, or some combination of the two, but it always requires coordinated effort. This Very Short Introduction provides a lively and thought provoking introduction to the topic.
Martyrdom is a controversial topic, with a long history of provoking fierce debate. In this Very Short Introduction Jolyon Mitchell provides a historical analysis to understand the contemporary debates surrounding martyrdom. Using examples from a variety of contexts around the world, he explores how it has evolved, and what it means today.
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.
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.
John Maynard Keynes was one of the most influential economists of the twentieth century. His ideas have had a central influence on many of areas of economics used today, both in theory and practice. In this Very Short Introduction Lord Robert Skidelsky looks at Keynes's life, his philosophy, his theories, and the legacy he left behind.
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.
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.
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.
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 Very Short Introduction, Paul Slack explores the historical impact of plague over the centuries. Looking at the ways in which it has been interpreted, and the powerful images it has left behind in art and literature, he considers how it was fought and controlled, and the impact it had on our modern notions of public health.
This Very Short Introduction explores the history of the 18th-century Enlightenment movement. Considering its intellectual commitments, Robertson then turns to their impact on society, and the ways in which Enlightenment thinkers sought to further the goal of human betterment, by promoting economic improvement and civil and political justice.
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.
In this Very Short Introduction, Katherine Blundell looks at the seemingly paradoxical, mysterious, and intriguing phenomena of astrophysical black holes. Outlining what a black hole actually is and how they are characterised, she separates the scientific fact from science fiction, and demonstrates the interesting role they play in the cosmos.
'What is real?' has been one of the key questions of philosophy since its beginning in antiquity. But it is not just a question that philosophers ask. This Very Short Introduction discusses what reality is by looking at a variety of arguments, theories, and thought-experiments from philosophy, physics, and cognitive science.
Objectivity is both an essential and elusive philosophical concept. This Very Short Introduction explores the theoretical and practical problems raised by objectivity, and also deals with the way in which particular understandings of objectivity impinge on social research, science, and art.
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.
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.
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.
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 conflict between Palestine and Israel is one of the most highly publicized and bitter struggles in history. In this accessible and stimulating Very Short Introduction, Martin Bunton clearly explains the history of the problem, reducing it to its very essence - a modern territorial contest between two nations and one geographical territory.
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.
In this lively Very Short Introduction, Tim Bayne looks at the nature of thought. Exploring questions such as 'What are thoughts?' and 'How is thought realized in the brain?', he draws on research in philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and anthropology to look at what we know - and don't know - about the capacity for thought.
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.
The modern concept of peace has broadened from the mere absence of violence to something much more sophisticated, incorporating terms such as 'peacemaking' and 'conflict resolution'. In this Very Short Introduction, Oliver Richmond explores the evolution of peace in practice and in theory, considering our modern assumptions about peace.
In this Very Short Introduction, John Hendry provides a lively introduction to the nature and principles of management. Tracing its development over the past century, Hendry looks not only at the jobs managers do today and their place in the culture of work, but also provides an insight into modern management theory.
In this easy-to-understand introduction, Stephen Mumford explores one of the four main branches of philosophy: metaphysics. Using practical examples to explore the main issues, he presents the ideas in a clear and simple way, helping to clarify and unravel the basic questions of this complex and abstract concept.