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.
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, 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.
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.
Humour is a universal feature of human life. In this Very Short Introduction Noel Carroll considers the nature and value of humour, from its leading theories and its relation to emotion and cognition, to ethical questions of its morality and its significance in shaping society.
Thomas Aquinas, one of the most famous and highly thought of Christian thinkers, was a controversial figure who was exposed and engaged in conflict. This Very Short Introduction looks at Aquinas in a historical context, and explores the Church and culture into which Aquinas was born. It also ask why Aquinas matters now.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Networks are involved in many aspects of everyday life, from food webs in ecology and the spread of pandemics to social networking and public transport. This Very Short Introduction explores the basics of network theory to understand the science of complexity and its importance, using examples from nature, technology, and society, and history.
Making good decisions under conditions of uncertainty requires an appreciation of the way random chance works. In this Very Short Introduction, John Haigh provides a brief account of probability theory; explaining the philosophical approaches, discussing probability distributions, and looking its applications in science and economics.
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.
'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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Presenting an introduction to ethics, this work tackles the moral questions surrounding birth, death, happiness, desire, and freedom. It also shows us how we should think about the meaning of life, and how we should mistrust the soundbite-sized absolutes that often dominate moral debates.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Outlines both Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi's major philosophical insights and the limitations of his thought. This very short introduction looks at Gandhi's cosmocentric anthropology, his spiritual view of politics, his unique form of liberal communitarianism, and his theories of oppression, non-violent action, and active citizenship.
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.
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.
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.
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.