• The Invention of Yesterday

  • A 50,000-Year History of Human Culture, Conflict, and Connection
  • By: Tamim Ansary
  • Narrated by: Tamim Ansary
  • Length: 17 hrs and 4 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (213 ratings)

1 title per month from Audible’s entire catalog of best sellers, and new releases.
Access a growing selection of included Audible Originals, audiobooks and podcasts.
You will get an email reminder before your trial ends.
Your Premium Plus plan is $14.95 a month after 30 day trial. Cancel anytime.
Buy for $29.65

Buy for $29.65

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

Publisher's Summary

From language to culture to cultural collision: the story of how humans invented history, from the Stone Age to the Virtual Age

Traveling across millennia, weaving the experiences and world views of cultures both extinct and extant, The Invention of Yesterday shows that the engine of history is not so much heroic (battles won), geographic (farmers thrive), or anthropogenic (humans change the planet) as it is narrative.

Many thousands of years ago, when we existed only as countless small autonomous bands of hunter-gatherers widely distributed through the wilderness, we began inventing stories - to organize for survival, to find purpose and meaning, to explain the unfathomable. Ultimately these became the basis for empires, civilizations, and cultures. And when various narratives began to collide and overlap, the encounters produced everything from confusion, chaos, and war to cultural efflorescence, religious awakenings, and intellectual breakthroughs.

Through vivid stories studded with insights, Tamim Ansary illuminates the world-historical consequences of the unique human capacity to invent and communicate abstract ideas. In doing so, he also explains our ever-more-intertwined present: the narratives now shaping us, the reasons we still battle one another, and the future we may yet create.

©2019 Tamim Ansary (P)2019 PublicAffairs
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about The Invention of Yesterday

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    175
  • 4 Stars
    28
  • 3 Stars
    6
  • 2 Stars
    2
  • 1 Stars
    2
Performance
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    157
  • 4 Stars
    20
  • 3 Stars
    5
  • 2 Stars
    3
  • 1 Stars
    1
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    146
  • 4 Stars
    30
  • 3 Stars
    4
  • 2 Stars
    3
  • 1 Stars
    1

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Relaxed but packed with insight

Tamim Ansary has written something I didn't think was possible: a relaxed (and relaxing) survey of global history. He pulls this off by concentrating not so much on the details of each civilization as on the ways the civilizations interacted with each other. He shows, to use one of his own favorite examples, how the building of the Great Wall of China contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire.

This is not to say the interesting details are not here. Ansary includes just about everything you would expect to find in a survey. The early river civilizations are here, along with the empires of the Middle East and Greece and Rome. Charlemagne is here; so is Pope Gregory; so is Attila the Hun and Torquemada. And the scope is truly global: he explores developments in sub-Saharan Africa, in meso-America, and in Central Asia. It's one of the most balanced surveys of its kind I've read.

For Ansary, the great hinge of world history is the European conquest of the Americas. At that point all continents and all peoples on the globe were joined in a network of cause and effect. (For the natives of the American continents, the immediate effect was devastating: 90% of the population died from imported European diseases.)

There are a few inaccuracies in the book. For instance, Ansary says that one outcome of the Third Crusade was ceding Jerusalem back to the Muslims. Not so: the point of the Third Crusade was to recapture Jerusalem from Saladin, who had already taken it. The Crusade failed, and Jerusalem remained in Muslim hands. There are other minor glitches here and there: the date of Constantinople’s fall is given as 1452 rather than 1453. One point in the book’s favor is that Ansary at least mentions the Crusades; not all surveys of World History at this level do. (I'm thinking particularly of the one by Andrew Marr.)

Over and over again, Ansary furnishes details that exceed the usual expectations of a survey. He describes the rise of the East India Tea Company and its devastation of India. He talks about the balance of the silver trade between China and Great Britain and the role it played in the Opium Wars. He goes into a fair amount of detail about the Taiping Revolt. He describes the Iran-Iraq war, the renascence of Vietnam, and the rise of the World Trade Organization.

In the latter part of the book, Ansary begins a series of chapters that treat events by topic. He traces the technological changes that transformed the world: steam, railroads, electricity, the telegraph and telephone, the universe of steel, the rise of electronic networks, the possibility of the Singularity. He discusses the rise of nation states and the related concept of race (a characteristic that, as he points out, has no actual biological existence). And he describes the way national sovereignty has deteriorated in our own time, when one nation can arrest and jail the leader of another, or the leader of one can sentence a citizen of another — one who has never lived in the first country — to execution. (In case you're wondering, the first refers to Manuel Noriega, and the second to Salmon Rushdie.)

The final two chapters describe the human destruction of its own nest and the need for a more global perspective in general. Ansary doesn't bear down too hard on the rising risk of fascism in our time, but it's there in the margins, and in fact his whole book, with its wide-ranging exploration of the various forms human society has taken and the interconnections between them, could be considered a plea for open-mindedness and balance.

Ansary narrates his own book. Normally I think that's a bad idea, but he makes his writing sound like a pleasant after-dinner chat. He has a kind of breathless delivery that is disarming at the same time it impresses with its conviction. It's a fun book to listen to. How many world histories can you say that about?

14 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Better than Homo Deus

I have no idea why this book isn't more popular than it is. For an all-encompassing history of human culture, it far surpasses best sellers like Homo Deus and Guns, Germs, and Steel. The writing is detailed, yet flows with the smoothness of an expert storyteller.

If you liked Homo Deus, you'll love this. Narration is excellent as well.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A spectacular book on human history

Brilliantly combines vast range and depth with clear expression of fundamental truths about human life. We build our worlds and traditions in language, blending, merging and evolving across the arc of history, and into the future. A brilliant read and highly recommended. (Great narration by the author brings his enjoyable writing style even more to life.)

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

History of the world.

This is a great primer into world history. Professor Ansary does a great job of telling the history of the different theaters of history and how they are interconnected. He was educated in the West but is also from the east and takes care not to interject the west's Eurocentric world view westerners have grown up with in our history lessons in primary, secondary, and undergraduate education. Highly recommend this to anyone interested in world history.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Highly recommend!

A Fascinating view of the rise and fall of human cultures and their interaction. It is helping me to look at our current situation in a different light.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Many interesting insights and plenty of details

Are you a big picture person or a detail person? Each type tends to bore the other and writing a book to please both types is probably an impossible task. I would suggest that this book has enough of each to please as well as mildly frustrate both types. My main complaint with histories is that they often get bogged down in detail and ignore the main reason for studying the details in the first place, understanding the big picture. In other words, they can’t see the forest for the trees (clichés are clichés for a reason). I suppose this is done to avoid controversy but it also makes history boring which is even worse.

If you are a big picture person, be patient, the insights are there. The main difficulty is concentrating so you don’t miss them when they come along. If you are a detail person, there is plenty of that to read as well; although, I confess that I don’t understand why attending to detail is intrinsically rewarding to many.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Interesting Book but strong left bias

You know the book has some leftist anti-religious bent when it suggests that Jesus was executed for being a rebel against the Roman world despite Pilate wanting to free Him.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

The best "world history" book yet

If you are looking for a book the "explains it all" I'm regards to human history and culture, this is your best bet. Taking reads and narrates with a lightness that makes allnera feel familiar and understandable.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Hills and Valleys missed from space

many theories throughout the book are presented as fact. setting up false narrative as if someone was there to observe and had written down the order of the universe. many unknown factors presented as known quantities.

It was interesting to see trade (commerce) as the correlation, the driver being the connecting agent of culture change.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • RF
  • 05-03-22

Thoughtful appraisal while dissecting nuances

A fully enjoyable book. The nuances reviewed and Dissected and its integration into thought and history enabled a great deal more thought and awareness of our history while respecting the overlap of events.