Journal of World History 24.2 (2003) 243-245
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Agricultural and Pastoral Societies in Ancient and Classical History. Edited by Michael Adas, American Historical Association. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2001. 363 pp. $74.50 (cloth); $24.95 (paper).
This book covers a series of issues dealing with agriculture, nomadology, gender, and trade in a global context. These are the topics that are dealt with in the first of the two parts that divide the book. The first essay gives an overview of historians and theoretical apparatus in regard to world history. In his article, J. H. Bentley provides a great service to historians interested in world history. He reviews the way in which historians such as Oswald Spengler viewed the world by classifying civilization in an interesting and bizarre manner (Appollinian, Magian, and Faustian), through Arnold J. Toynbee's monumental and copious A Study of History, which was written through a European philosophical historical imagination, reaching into classical Greece. He states that in this Eurocentric view, Asia was misunderstood. He goes on to discuss the theories used to understand world history in the twentieth century, from modernization theory to world systems analysis. He proceeds by looking at the journals and books that are seminal for world historians, beginning with McNeill's The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community, which, it should be mentioned, came under scrutiny by the great Islamic historian Marshall G. Hodgson.1 Bentley further proceeds with the work of economic and social historians, concluding with new directions in world history, making the essay essential as an introduction for those who study and teach upper-division world history. It includes an excellent bibliography. [End Page 243]
J. A. Mears discusses the development and origins of agriculture from a comparative global perspective and theories about when, where, and how the "Agricultural Reason" took place. However, southwest Asia, specifically the Near East, appears to be the earliest region to begin the domestication of animals as well as agriculture. Certainly, Mesopotamia and the Persian Gulf region deserve special consideration and they do receive a good amount of attention, along with Anatolia and the Mediterranean. Mears, however, also pays attention to other regions such as Mesoamerica, which, as he mentions, because of the lack of herd animals to domesticate and lack of a great river valley retarded the development and emergence of farming. Maize, the major food source in the region, became agriculturally feasible only by 2500 B.C.E. to provide sufficient food to support settled life in Mesoamerica.
P. B. Golden discusses the nomadic and sedentary societies in Medieval Eurasia. Here, the focus of Golden is Iran and Central Asia, a much-neglected area in world history that has only begun to be considered through such works as Bentley and Zeigler's Traditions and Encounters textbook. He juxtaposes the sedentary (Iranian) and the nomadic (Turkic) people and their relation on the eastern border of Iran. He then regresses into the history of the Iranians, where he shows his keen understanding of the nomadic and sedentary Iranian tribes and their portrayal in Persian literature (here I would include the Avesta as an example). The Sogdians in this scheme are presented as the intermediary between the nomadic and settled population. The rest of the essay deals with the Turkic nomads and their role in the region, followed by a discussion of their religion. Here, Golden previews the diversity of religions and the eclectic religious world of Central Asia where Zoroastrianism, Manichaeaism, Buddhism, Nestorian Christianity, and Islam were practiced. The author then discusses the development of states by these nomads and the early steppe people of western Eurasia and Central Asia. He would have benefited much by the recent work of R. N. Frye on Central Asia before the Turkic migration,2 but still gives us a full picture of the people living there. This is a fantastic essay in its depth and breadth.
S. S. Hughes and B. Hughes discuss women in ancient civilizations, beginning with the issue of gender in prehistory using Gerda Lerner's...