Some of the problems with history, however, are that it tends to start with Ancient Egypt or at least the arrival of humankind, that too much of it is presented through national eyes rather than in world terms, and that so much is offered as the actions of great men with too little emphasis on underlying forces.
Many of those hugely influential forces are to do with the life sciences – cosmology, geology, biology, climatology, and geography – and the availability of natural resources such as water, arable land, seeds, spices, metals and fuels.
For instance, did you know that:
■ The human body has changed more in the past 100 years than in the previous 50,000. Adults are 50% heavier and four inches taller.
■ 100,000 years ago, there were barely enough people on Earth to fill a football stadium.
■ Ancient Rome was eight times more densely populated than New York today.
■ When Columbus “discovered” the New World, there were already 90 million people in the Americas, a third of the world’s population.