It's been said that, after 9/11, the 2008 financial crash and the Covid-19 pandemic, we're a more fearful society than ever before. Yet fear, and the panic it produces, have long been driving forces - perhaps the driving force - of world history: fear of God, of famine, war, disease, poverty, and other people. In Fear: An Alternative History of the World, Robert Peckham considers the impact of fear in history, as both a coercive tool of power and as a catalyst for social change.
Beginning with the Black Death in the fourteenth century, Peckham traces a shadow history of fear. He takes us through the French Revolution and the social movements of the nineteenth century to modern market crashes, Cold War paranoia and the AIDS pandemic, into a digital culture increasingly marked by uniquely twenty-first-century fears.
What did fear mean to us in the past, and how can a better understanding of it equip us to face the future? As Peckham demonstrates, fear can challenge as well as cement authority. Some crises have destroyed societies; others have been the making of them. Through the stories of the people and the moments that changed history, Fear: An Alternative History of the World reveals how fear and panic made us who we are.
Publisher: Profile Books Ltd
Number of pages: 448
Weight: 920 g
Dimensions: 61 x 234 x 38 mm
An ambitious deep dive into history
Clear and engaging ... readers keen to grasp a better understanding of the history of the world will be entranced by Peckham's ability to communicate complex political, religious, economic, artistic, medical, military, technological and cultural trends
Brilliant and breathtakingly wide-ranging ... As Peckham shows in gripping and beautifully written detail, fear isn't just the stock in trade of wicked despots; in some circumstances it can be turned to positive effect. Could it, now, be that fear is our friend? Read Peckham and judge for yourself.
Extraordinary. This exceptional and thought-provoking book sheds light on the intricate position fear occupies in the unavoidable realities of politics and our spiritual existence.
We all know what fear is, but who amongst us have considered its history? Peckham is fear's astute historian-translator in this big, brave, honest, and learned book. He moves us back and forth across time and place, from fourteenth-century century plague to bombs in Afghanistan, in a profoundly human history of the politics of one emotion. It's gripping as well as uncomfortable reading, that shows us the stakes when fear and freedom are twinned
Robert Peckham's deeply informed and lucidly staged anatomy of fear is a remarkable achievement. Peckham shapes a fundamentally transformative account of the sociology of fear - and of fear as a constitutive element of modern sociality itself. A groundbreaking study.
Fascinating, compelling and erudite. I have written quite a lot about fear and the brain, but learned so much about fear itself from this book.