Thursday, 8 July 2010

A Marxist History of the World

Neil Faulkner is writing an ambitious 'Marxist History of the World', with the first 5 installments now published on Counterfire. Neil is an archaeologist with a broad sweep of historical knowledge, as well as a knack for writing narrative history. The sections published so far are tremendously insightful and record human history up to around 3000 years ago, starting from the development of the human species, tracing the emergence of agriculture, war, religion, competition and family structures. The map (above) illustrates the development of humanity as a global species through migration. 

The disturbing image (below) of the Talheim death pit in Germany offers a glimpse of the beginnings of warfare around 7000 years ago. As Neil writes of Talheim: 'The bodies of 34 people, half of them children, had been dumped in a 3 meter-wide pit. Two of the adults had been shot in the head. Twenty others, including children, had been clubbed to death. The archaeologists were in no doubt that this was the site of a massacre.'

A particularly interesting element in Neil's history is his account of the development of work. Marx and Engels explained that changes in tools and technology - in the resources humans developed for exploiting nature - provided the basis for understanding human development. Since their time, historians and archaeologists have made huge advances in knowledge about the particularities of that development.
Neil writes: 'The economic impasse of the Early Neolithic was broken by revolutionary advances in agriculture, transport, and tool-making. Plough-based ‘agriculture’ (the tillage of fields) replaced hoe-based ‘horticulture’ (the working of garden-plots). An ox-drawn plough allows farmers to work large fields, to break up the sod, and to tap reserves of deeply-buried nutrients. Traction animals also produce manure to re-fertilise the soil.'


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