In this Very Short Introduction, Barry Stephenson approaches ritual from theoretical and historical perspectives, detailing the efforts to understand the nature and function of ritual, and developing a narrative of ritual's place in social and cultural life.
The Crusades were one of the most extraordinary, vivid episodes in world history. But were they motivated by spiritual reward or by greed? Were they an early experiment in European colonialism? How were they organized? This work presents a clear discussion of the Crusades.
This Very Short Introduction brings together the latest research in neuroscience and psychology - weaving in case-studies, anecdotes, literature, and philosophy - to explore and explain the science of memory - how it works, and why we can't live without it.
What is Anglicanism? How is it different from other forms of Christianity, and how did it come to have so many different versions throughout the world? This title highlights the diversity of Anglicanism by exploring its history, theology, and structure, and examines what is it that holds Anglicanism together despite the crises.
Talks about the invention of Western philosophy, and the first thinkers to explore ideas about the nature of reality, time, and the origin of the universe. This book invites readers to understand the fragmentary remains of thinkers from Thales to Pythagoras, Heraclitus, to Protagoras.
The concept of law lies at the heart of our social and political life, shaping the character of our community and underlying issues from racism and abortion to human rights and international war. The revised edition of this Very Short Introduction examines the central questions about law's relation to justice, morality, and democracy.
Earth System Science regards the Earth as an integrated system of interacting atmosphere, oceans, rocks, and biosphere. In this Very Short Introduction, Tim Lenton explores its development over 4.6 billion years, its present state, and its future.
What causes autism? Is it a genetic disorder, or due to some unknown environmental hazard? Are we facing an epidemic? What are the main symptoms, and how does it relate to Asperger syndrome? This Very Short Introduction answers the key questions and offers a clear statement on what is currently known about autism and Asperger syndrome.
This Very Short Introduction introduces the ways in which Spanish literature has been read, in and outside Spain, explaining misconceptions, outlining the insights of recent scholarship, and suggesting new readings. It explores the relationship between Spanish literature and modernity and issues of gender and sexuality.
Modern Geography has come a long way from its roots in simply mapping and naming the regions of the world. Spanning both physical and human Geography, the discipline today is unique as a subject bridging the divide between the sciences and humanities, and between the environment and our society. This Very Short Introduction reveals why.
Games are played everywhere: from economics and online auctions to social interactions, and game theory is about how to play such games in a rational way, and how to maximize their outcomes. This VSI reveals, without mathematical equations, the insights the theory can bring to everything from how to play poker optimally to the sex ratio among bees.
What is 'nothing'? What remains when you take all the matter away? Can empty space - a void - exist? This Very Short Introduction explores the science and history of the elusive void: from Aristotle's theories to black holes and quantum particles, and why the latest discoveries about the vacuum tell us extraordinary things about the cosmos.
This Very Short Introduction presents a succinct and accessible guide to the key episodes in the story of life on earth - from the very origins of life four million years ago to the extraordinary diversity of species around the globe today.
Psychoanalysis has been hailed as an indispensible starting point for understanding neuroses and psychoses. In this Very Short Introduction, Daniel Pick offers an account of the present-day practice of analysis, highlighting the benefits, whilst also shedding light on the problems, risks and failings in the long history of the movement.
From Botticelli to birdsong, Mozart, and the Turner Prize, Roger Scruton explores what it means for something to be beautiful. This thought-provoking introduction to the philosophy of beauty draws conclusions that some may find controversial, but, as Scruton shows, help us to find greater sense of meaning in the beautiful objects around us.
This Very Short Introduction explores the key themes from more than 1,000 years of Scotland's fascinating history. Covering everything from the Jacobites to devolution to the modern economy, this concise account presents a fully-integrated picture of what Scottish society, culture, politics and religion look like, and why.
The Reformation was a seismic event in European history, and one which changed the medieval world. Much which followed in European history can be traced back to this event. In this Very Short Introduction Peter Marshall seeks to explain the causes and consequences of religious and cultural division and difference in western Christianity.
In this Very Short Introduction to Italian Literature, Peter Hainsworth and David Robey examine Italian literature from the Middle Ages up to the present day, looking at themes and issues which have recurred throughout its history and continue to be of importance today.
How important is free speech? Should it be defended at any cost? Or should we set limits on what can and cannot be said? This Very Short Introduction offers a lively and thought-provoking guide to these questions, exploring both the traditional philosophical arguments as well as the practical issues and controversies facing society today.
Statistics has evolved into an exciting discipline which uses deep theory and powerful software to shed light on the world around us: from clinical trials in medicine, to economics, sociology, and countless other subjects vital to understanding modern life. This Very Short Introduction explores and explains how statistics works today.
Galaxies are the building blocks of the Universe: standing like islands in space, they are where the stars are born and where many extraordinary and little-understood phenomena can be observed. Here, renowned science writer John Gribbin explores what we have learnt about the cosmos through studying both our own galaxy and our distant neighbours.
From its origins to the present day, Owen Davies explores ideas about paganism that have existed over the last two millennia. He takes a chronological look at changing attitudes towards its beliefs, its practices, and its relationship with the Church.
Japan is an icon of the modern world, and yet it remains an enigma to many, who see it as a confusing montage of the alien and the familiar, the ancient and modern. The aim of this Very Short Introduction is to explode the myths and explore the reality of modern Japan - by taking a concise look at its history, economy, politics, and culture.
From the fourth to the fifteenth century AD the Byzantine Empire flourished as a powerful economic, cultural, and military force, whose influence stretched from Spain to Egypt. Peter Sarris explores the fusion of Greek and Roman civilization at the heart of the Byzantine Empire, and charts its struggle for survival against external challenges.
Einstein's theory of relativity shattered the world of physics - replacing Newtonian ideas of space and time with bizarre and counterintuitive conclusions: a world of slowing clocks and stretched space, black holes and curved space-time. This Very Short Introduction explores and explains the theory in an accessible and understandable way.
This Very Short Introduction offers a clear and concise account of the apocryphal gospels. Exploring their origins, discovery and interpretation, and examining controversies and case-studies, Paul Foster shows how the texts can offer us an important window on the vibrant and multi-faceted face of early Christianity.
Throughout history, to the present day, witchcraft raises questions about the distinction between reality and fantasy, faith and proof. This Very Short Introduction explores witchcraft, both as a contemporary phenomenon and a historical subject. It looks at witch-beliefs and accusations around the world, from pre-history to the present.
The Soviet Union: A Very Short Introduction blends political history with an investigation into the society and culture at the time. Stephen Lovell examines aspects of patriotism, political violence, poverty, and ideology; and provides answers to some of the big questions about the Soviet experience.
International law lies at the heart of our interaction with the global community. It protects rights, imposes duties, and establishes a framework for the conduct of almost every social, political, and economic activity. Vaughan Lowe explains the basic structural principles of international law, and looks at its potential and its limitations.
For the last century, the tastes and preferences of readers of fiction have been reflected in the American and British bestseller lists, and this Very Short Introduction takes an engaging look through the lists to reveal what we have been reading - and why.
Darwin's theory that our ancestors were apes caused a furore in the scientific world and outside it when The Origin of Species was published in 1859. Analysing Darwin's major insights and arguments, this work reasserts the importance of his work for the development of modern biology.
By the time the First World War ended in 1918, eight million people had died in what had been perhaps the most apocalyptic episode the world had known. This Very Short Introduction provides a concise and insightful history of 'the Great War', focusing on why it happened, how it was fought, and why it had the consequences it did.
German writers, be it Goethe, Nietzsche, Marx, Brecht or Mann, have had a profound influence on the modern world. This Very Short Introduction illuminates the particular character and power of German literature, and examines its impact on the wider cultural world.
Aristocracies dominated the social, economic, and institutional history of all European countries until only a few generations ago. William Doyle strips away the myths and beliefs which have always surrounded them, looking at how these very distinctive governing elites held onto power, and analyses when, how, and why they eventually lost it.
Astrophysics is said to have been born when Isaac Newton saw an apple drop in his orchard and had the electrifying insight that the Moon falls just like that apple. James Binney shows how the application of physical laws derived on Earth allows us to understand objects that exist on the far side of the Universe.
This Very Short Introduction addresses the themes, developments, and controversies that have shaped Modern China. Covering a range of social issues, Rana Mitter provides a contemporary view of the world's most populous nation, with a new acknowledgement of China's changing foreign policy, and its unique engagement with the internet.
In this Very Short Introduction Jon Balserak explores major ideas and issues associated with the Calvinist system of thought. He looks at how Calvinist ideas and practices spread and took root, helping shape societies today. Much of contemporary thought - especially western thought - on everything from civil government to money, suicide, and divorce has been influenced by Calvinism. Balserak also combats common misconceptions about Calvinism, and explores
the relationship between Calvinism and the modern world.
Despite the fact that international migration continues to rise higher and higher on the political agenda, the issue is often either misunderstood or misrepresented by the media. In this Very Short Introduction, Khalid Koser provides an objective and accessible global overview of migration and its impacts.
Behavioural economics blends insights from economics and psychology to explain how people make everyday decisions. Analysing the forces that drive everyone's behaviour it helps us understand what people are motivated by, our impulse purchases, why we struggle to save, and how supermarkets can manipulate what and how much we buy.
Ian Stewart considers the concept of infinity and the profound role it plays in mathematics, logic, physics, cosmology, and philosophy. He shows that working with infinity is not just an abstract, intellectual exercise, and analyses its important practical everyday applications.
Organic chemistry concerns the properties and synthesis of carbon-based molecules. Carbon atoms can concatenate into long chains and cyclic compounds, bonding with a variety of other elements, so the possible structures are almost limitless. Graham Patrick explores the world of organic chemistry and its wide applications.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are one of the most important finds in biblical archaeology, and have profound implications for our understanding of Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity. Timothy Lim discusses the leading interpretations of the scrolls, and how they have changed the way we understand the emergence of the Old Testament.
'Globalization' is one of the defining buzzwords of our time, describing a variety of accelerating economic, political, and cultural processes that constantly change our experience of the world. The fourth edition of this Very Short Introduction provides an exploration of both the causes and effects of the phenomenon.
This Very Short Introduction describes the new field of cognitive neuroscience - the study of what happens in the brain when we perceive, think, reason, remember, and act. Focusing on the human brain, Passingham looks at the most recent research in the field, the modern brain imaging technologies, and what the images can and can't tell us.
The Habsburg Empire reached at various times across most of Europe and the New World. At all the critical moments of European history it is there - confronting Luther, launching the Thirty Years War, repelling the Ottomans, and taking on Napoleon. Martin Rady introduces the fascinating and colourful history of the Habsburgs.
The Mexican Revolution was a 'great' revolution, decisive for Mexico, important within Latin America, and comparable to the other major revolutions of modern history. Alan Knight offers a succinct account of the period, from the initial uprising against Porfirio Diaz and the ensuing decade of civil war, to the enduring legacy of the Revolution.
In this second edition, Les Iversen presents an introductory account of what drugs are, how they work, and the advances made over the past 100 years in the field of pharmacology. Looking at pharmaceutical drugs and both legal and illegal recreational drugs, Iversen reflects on how twentieth-century drugs have changed our lives.
Branding is possibly the most powerful commercial and cultural force on the planet. Robert Jones discusses the vast variety of brands, and why we still fall for them even as we are becoming more brand-aware. Looking at the philosophy and story behind brands, he considers how they work their magic, and what the future for brands might be.
In this Very Short introduction Paul Palmer looks at the structure and basic physics and chemistry of the Earth's atmosphere, comparing it to the atmospheres of other planets, particularly our neighbours, Venus and Mars. Palmer looks at the effects of pollutants and climate change, and what may happen to our atmosphere in the future.