Human Web

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'* Book: The Human Web: A Bird's-Eye View of World History. by J. R. McNeill (Author, Georgetown University), William H McNeill. Norton', 2003


a history of the formation of the cosmopolitan web, the communication's technologies that allow increasing interaction and integration of human communities up to the planetary scale.



"Why did the first civilizations emerge when and where they did? How did Islam become a unifying force in the world of its birth? What enabled the West to project its goods and power around the world from the fifteenth century on? Why was agriculture invented seven times and the steam engine just once?

World-historical questions such as these, the subjects of major works by Jared Diamond, David Landes, and others, are now of great moment as global frictions increase. In a spirited and original contribution to this quickening discussion, two renowned historians, father and son, explore the webs that have drawn humans together in patterns of interaction and exchange, cooperation and competition, since earliest times. Whether small or large, loose or dense, these webs have provided the medium for the movement of ideas, goods, power, and money within and across cultures, societies, and nations. From the thin, localized webs that characterized agricultural communities twelve thousand years ago, through the denser, more interactive metropolitan webs that surrounded ancient Sumer, Athens, and Timbuktu, to the electrified global web that today envelops virtually the entire world in a maelstrom of cooperation and competition, J. R. McNeill and William H. McNeill show human webs to be a key component of world history and a revealing framework of analysis. Avoiding any determinism, environmental or cultural, the McNeills give us a synthesizing picture of the big patterns of world history in a rich, open-ended, concise account."

2. Otto Kroesen:

"A web is a collection of human relations on the basis of which information and goods are spread. This spread and the human reactions involved shape history. The motor of history is the ambition of people to change their circumstances in the light of theirideals, which in turn are shaped by the information from the web. From the beginning of time, there was a loose set of interrelations (the first “world wide web”); itsconnectedness increased in the course of history. Agriculture caused the rise of local or regional networks in the period from 12,000 years ago. Cities developed 6000 years agoand metropolitan webs connected cities and the agrarian hinterland resulted. Webs came and went, but in general webs at higher levels of integration developed. The Old Worldweb rose 2000 years ago. The modern cosmopolitan web came to being in the last 500years. 160 Year ago the telegraph introduced the electrification of the web.

Characteristics of webs are:

• Cooperation, enabled by communication, stimulates specialization leading to wealth, power and inequality. Competition stimulates communication and cooperation. • Communication and cooperation has survival value. Consequently, groups increase in size. Metropolitan networks also grew: members profited (economic and militarily benefits from specialization), leaders strived after expansion (weapons), improvement of communication and transport (printing, sailing ships). • Webs grew in importance, through faster circulation of more and more information and goods.