"Health and the Rise of Civilization" by Mark Nathan          Cohen

Health and the Rise of Civilization Mark Nathan Cohen

Format:
Paperback
Publication date:
24 Jul 1991
ISBN:
9780300050233
Imprint:
Yale University Press
Dimensions:
296 pages: 235 x 156mm

Civilized nations popularly assume that “primitive” societies are poor, ill, and malnourished and that progress through civilization automatically implies improved health.  In this provocative book, Mark Nathan Cohen challenges this belief.  Using findings from epidemiology, anthropology, and archaeology, Cohen provides fascinating evidence about the actual effects of civilization on health, suggesting that some aspects of “progress” create as many health problems as they prevent or cure. 
“[This book] is certain to become a classic—a prominent and respected source on this subject for years into the future…. If you want to read something that will make you think, reflect, and reconsider, Cohen’s Health and the Rise of Civilization is for you.”—S. Boyd Eaton, Los Angeles Times Book Review
“A major accomplishment.  Cohen is a broad and original thinker who states his views in direct and accessible prose…. This is a book that should be read by everyone interested in disease, civilization, and the human condition.”—David Courtwright, Journal of the History of Medicine
“Cohen has done his homework extraordinarily well, and the coverage of the biomedical, nutritional, demographic, and ethnographic literature about foragers and low energy agriculturalists is excellent…. The book deserves a wide readership and a central place in our professional libraries.  As a scholarly summary it is without parallel.”—Henry Harpending, American Ethnologist
“Deserves to be read by anthropologists concerned with health, medical personnel responsible for communities, and any medical anthropologists…. Indeed, it could provide great profit and entertainment to the general reader.”—George T. Nurse, Current Anthropology
 

"Those who endeavor to understand the patterns of health in Pacific societies, past, present, and future, can both draw on and react to the ideas on the evolution of health that Cohen presents."?Nancy J. Pollock, Contemporary Pacific 


"The author challenges the traditional belief that only through improved health can `primitive' societies progress to civilisation. He explores the links between behaviour and health and between civilisation and patterns of behaviour, arguing that some aspects of so called `progress' create as many health problems as they cure. . . . Very readable."?Journal of the Institute of Health Education 


"Mark Nathan Cohen has written a book that explores the relation between cultural evolution and human health. He has also written a social document that challenges contemporary society to scrutinize its delivery of health care. . . . An important and readable book."?Joan W. Chase, American Antiquity


"Chapter Three, on the evolution of human society, is particularly well done, and the book as a whole can be strongly recommended."?C. R. Hallpike, Anthropologica 


"A fascinating exploration of a question that haunts all environmentalists: Did the human species give up something better when it became 'civilized,' by turning to farming and sedentary life as the fundamental way of living? . . . Cohen's book is well written and abundantly documented. . . . This book is an important contribution to understanding humanity's relationship with the environment in a broad context."?John H. Perkins, Environment 


"This work, which will appeal to both social scientists and scientists who are in search of a thought-provoking book, is recommended for both public and academic libraries."?Susan Kroll, Science Books and Films 


"It is not the least virtue of [the author's] revaluation of the 'diseases of civilisation' question that he does not push a simple solution. He offers a qualified pessimism about the past, and a question-mark for the future."?Roy Porter, London Review of Books 


"Neither the busy scholar nor the general reader could ask for a better introduction to the enormous subject of the consonances and dissonances of civilization and the anatomies and physiologies we inherited from our hunter and gatherer ancestors."?Alfred W. Crosby, Medical History  


"Densely  argued and heavily documented."?Meredith Turshen,  Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 


"An impressive compendium of anthropological, osteological, demographic, nutritional, and medical information on the health and adaptive stance of small-scale, traditional societies, particularly those of the prehistoric era. . . . The number of new studies, techniques, and significant changes in perceptions about health and population-related issues serve as eloquent testimony for the importance of human skeletons for addressing issues of concern to us all. This book is especially timely given the current pressure to rebury prehistoric skeletons, which jeopardizes museum collections in the United States and elsewhere. Cohen's volume is highly recommended for its broad coverage and succinct portrayal of the principal findings about the health and demographic characteristics of the kinds of societies that all humans lived in until comparatively recent times."?George R. Milner, American Journal of Archaeology 


"The comparative data provided in this book show that by most measures the rise to civilization did not result in improvement in quality of life. This is a very important point, because it casts doubt on any notion that civilization was marked by progress in the human condition, at least before the present century. . . . [Cohen] offers much material for discussion for years to come."?Clark Spencer Larsen, American Anthropologist


"This book is written by an anthropologist in a style suitable for, and well received by, anthropologists and other social scientists. The subject matter is relevant to dietetics and nutrition, and the book is suitable as a library reference for advanced undergraduate courses or graduate courses that contain subject matter in the history and ecology of human diets. . . . Presents interesting theories and trends in the history of infectious disease and how it relates to settlement patterns and food resources. . . . Nutrition is only one subject of discussion in the book. . . . This is a useful book to give multidisciplinary perspectives on human diet as well as historical and cross-cultural nutritional status."?New in Print/Media/Software


"This volume is a superb example of excellence in academic scholarship. It is distinguished by the author?s capacity to amalgamate extensive scope with relevant factual detail. This characteristic is enhanced by the structure of the book in which an erudite and engaging narrative is keyed to extensive notes. A comprehensive bibliography is also included."?Choice


"[An] illuminating and closely argued case."?Andrew Wear, Times Literary Supplement


"Health and the Rise of Civilization is a major accomplishment. Cohen is a broad and original thinker who states his views in direct and accessible prose. . . . This is a book that should be read by everyone interested in disease, civilization, and the human condition."?David Courtwright, Journal of the History of Medicine


"Deserves to be read by anthropologists concerned with health, medical personnel responsible for communities, and any medical anthropologists whose minds are not too case-hardened. Indeed, it could provide great profit and entertainment to the general reader."?George T. Nurse, Current Anthropology


"This book . . . is a useful introduction to the anthropologic history of disease. Cohen has done archeological research on the Neolithic Revolution?the dramatic changes in social life that occurred around the time of (but not necessarily in response to) the introduction of agriculture. It is counterintuitive, but now convincingly demonstrated, that this transition did not entail an improvement in health, and in most places entailed a decline."?New England Journal of Medicine

 


"The writing is clear and attractive, helped by extensive endnotes for the technical details. The second chapter, on cultural evolution, is the best short summary of the topic that I have ever seen. Cohen has done his homework extraordinarily well, and the coverage of the biomedical, nutritional, demographic, and ethnographic literature about foragers and low energy agriculturists is excellent. The subject of culture and health is near the core of a lot of areas of archaeology and ethnology as well as demography, development economics, and so on. The book deserves a wide readership and a central place in our professional libraries. As a scholarly summary it is without parallel."?Henry Harpending, American Ethnologist


"The author has brewed up out of a varied and copious literature an absorbing study of the course of these measures of the human condition since earliest times."?Scientific American


"In my opinion, Health and the Rise of Civilization is certain to become a classic?a prominent and respected source on this subject for years into the future. It should be of value for historians, anthropologists, and physicians interested in epidemiology or preventive medicine. . . . A well-written, scrupulously documented, finely reasoned treatise that will shake up prejudices, blast icons and broaden horizons. If you want to read something that will make you think, reflect and reconsider, Cohen?s Health and the Rise of Civilization is for you."?S. Boyd Eaton, Los Angeles Times Book Review