The Pursuit of Power

By William H. McNeill,

Book cover of The Pursuit of Power: Technology, Armed Force, and Society since A.D. 1000

Book description

In this magnificent synthesis of military, technological, and social history, William H. McNeill explores a whole millennium of human upheaval and traces the path by which we have arrived at the frightening dilemmas that now confront us. McNeill moves with equal mastery from the crossbow-banned by the Church in 1139…

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Why read it?

1 author picked The Pursuit of Power as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

The author presents a reasoned rational explanation of historical events: Agents act rationally from self-interest. History makes sense.

As I read the book, I was challenged to ask: how rational is human behavior? What does rationality mean in a world that we hardly understand because it is fraught with uncertainty?

Uncertainty and surprise are important in history: What will be the next revolutionary invention? Who will be the next charismatic leader? What new ideology will sweep away conventions? Does history really make sense? Can we really make rational decisions when we face deep uncertainty about the world?

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