What can we learn from the last 1000 of history for confronting the challenges of our age, from the climate crisis to the risks of artificial intelligence? This is the subject of my new book, History for Tomorrow: Inspiration from the Past for the Future of Humanity, which will be published in the UK on July 4. I realise that’s quite a long way off, but after having been buried in my Oxford garden study for the last three years writing, I’m itching to start talking about the book!
History for Tomorrow argues that in order to move forwards, we need to look backwards and draw on the generation upon generation of wisdom bequeathed by our forebears. The tyranny of the now governs public life – our politicians are mostly responding to the latest headlines, and social media traps us in the present moment. At the same time, the tech gurus keep telling us that technology will come to our civilisational rescue: who needs history when you’ve got carbon capture, synthetic biology and AI algorithms? In contrast, I’m very much inspired by Goethe, who wrote, ‘He who cannot draw on three thousand years is living from hand to mouth’.
The book explores the insights and inspiration we can find in the past for ten urgent issues facing humanity in the 21st century, from bridging the inequality gap and reducing the risks of genetic engineering, to reviving our faith in democracy and avoiding ecological collapse. It asks intriguing questions like: What can the history of slave revolts teach us about the power of rebellion to tackle the climate crisis? How might understanding the origins of capitalism spark ideas for bringing AI under control? What could we learn from eighteenth century Japan for creating regenerative economies today, or from the coffee houses of Georgian London for taming social media?
HIstory for Tomorrow reveals how time and again, people around the world have risen up together, often against the odds, to tackle challenges and overcome crises. History offers a vision of radical hope that could turn out to be our most vital tool for surviving and thriving in the turbulent decades ahead.
If you would like to find out more:
- You can pre-order a copy via the links on my website
- Come along to one of the events I’ll be doing, which include a launch event in Oxford on July 3 where I’ll be in conversation with historian Michael Wood and economist Kate Raworth
- If you would like me to give a talk or do a podcast, please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
- For general media inquiries please contact Laura Nicol at LNicol@penguinrandomhouse.co.uk
With best wishes