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The Time Before History: 5 Million Years of Human Impact
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The Time Before History: 5 Million Years of Human Impact

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  94 ratings  ·  17 reviews
In The Time Before History, award-winning science writer Colin Tudge tells the fascinating story of one of the most turbulent and colorful periods in the evolution of the planet, when human beings progressed from simians to hominids and laid the foundations of modern life. Line drawings.
Hardcover, 366 pages
Published January 1st 1996 by Scribner Book Company (first published January 1st 1995)
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I wasn't impressed with the writing in the first Tudge book I read, Trees. The subject matter turned out to be fascinating; I learned a great deal about trees, their impact on the environment, and their importance to the biosphere but the booked dragged on and on.

This was not the case with The Time Before History, a terribly interesting look at human evolution and how it's impacted our environment and how it might impact it in the future.

The first half of the book sets the stage, discussing how
A few weeks ago during a lunch conversation a colleague mentioned something about Neanderthals having lived in Africa. I was horrified by his getting such a simple fact wrong, but it then occurred to me that people have better things to do than reading about evolutionary anthropology. However, if you don’t want to make silly mistakes about the history of our species, this is the kind of book you should read.

Tudge starts and ends the book by emphasizing that a true unit of time for history should
This was not what I expected; I thought it would be focused entirely on prehistoric humans, but humans didn't really make an appearance until halfway through the book. But it was so entertaining and informative, I didn't mind at all. Mr Tudge, I wish you lived nearby so I could take you out for drinks and a nice long chat. Instead, I will read all of your books.
This book deals mostly with climate, climatic changes and human response to those changes over prehistory. The author’s goal is lofty, but he wishes to give the reader a deeper understanding through a widened perspective. He also makes the point repeatedly that humans have outcompeted many of the other species on the planet, concluding that wherever we humans have gone, animals species–especially large land animal–have disappeared.

According to the jacket blurb, author Colin Tudge has a degree in
I have mixed feelings about this book. One on hand, I very much enjoy Tudge's personality, sympathize with many of his opinions and his authorial predilections (he has no qualms about speculating in areas in which he lacks technical expertise), and find the material very interesting. On the other hand, I often felt like the book failed to live up to my expectations of it, that Tudge was simply doing a bland and mediocre job of telling the stories. I feel that his tendency to organize things in l ...more
This book is interesting in both topic and scope. The main thrust is to examine the Earth, and our earliest ancestors, through their long, slow climb out of the mud. While we consider the Greeks, or the Assyrians to be "ancient" people, this book shows that even they rose on the backs of a much larger stage.

Overall, this is a good "all-inclusive" book meant to bring the scope of many scientific disciplines into a public eye. It is sweeping in its coverage of the development of the Earth; from co
This is easily the best summary of evolution, ecology, and classification that I have encountered. Tudge presents a balanced view by presenting all of the competing theories regarding such matters as continental drift, the evolution of various species, and the history of man during the millions of years previous to "history." He then synthesizes the various elements and brings out the implications on our current course (as we will repeat ancient history too). The last part of his book comes as s ...more
I tried this book after talking to my girlfriend's dad one day, about whether he thought people had much to do with global warming. I am interested in educated opinions about this, because I always thought it was weird how they teach us in school that there are ice age and warming / Milankovitch cycles, and that they are a natural part of the world - and one the other hand, we are always getting people screaming the ice is falling at the top of their lungs, and telling me it is my fault because ...more
Jessica Mccarthy
This book is amazing. Colin Tudge's ability to educate laypeople (laypersons?) about the elements that make up the universe, the processes that developed life on our planet, life science in general-- is so welcome in my world!

The most useful thing I learned from this book was how to concretely understand time in terms of millions and billions of years. It has given me a framework for many conversations with my son.

The Time Before History came to me from a random source. I was swimming with my
A book about humans in prehistoric times. Naturally, a lot of it was speculation, but educated speculation. The parts I found the most interesting were about agriculture and how it did not, in all likelihood, suddenly get "discovered" 10,000 years ago and then boom, nobody ever went back to hunting and gathering ever again. Instead, agriculture was probably practice small-scale and in concert with hunting/gathering for a long time before it made sense to actually settle down and stay in one plac ...more
Elaine Pawlak
This book speaks of the most dramatic periods in the 4 billion-year-long history of
The author describes the period from 5 million years past to the birth of civilization
l0,000 years ago. He describes the many ice ages, the clash of continents and of the diversity of mammals, birds, and modern reptiles to which the turbulence gave rise. He also describes the period in which our human ancestors started as a group of undistinguished neo-apes occupying a small slice of Africa and ending up as peopl
Mar 08, 2009 Pam rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who are curious about the word about them.
This non-fiction book is an easy read about the evolutions of humans and other life forms in the period of the Plio/Pleistocene (5 million years ago)to the birth of civilization around 10,000 years ago.

This book is not a yawn!!! If you travel, you will see geography, animals, and a country's history with new eyes after reading this book.

I found it fascinating and a quick read.
David Sneed
Very good. It covers everything from Co2 and the Tibetan Plateau to the eventual extinction of man. I guess that's not a very descriptive range. It covers everything you never thought to ask about the existence of life on Earth.
Elaine Pawlak
The human race is merely l.5 to 2.0 millions years old. Considering the dinosaurs
became extinct 65 millions years ago, we are very new to our planet and I hope we
can survive as long as the dinosaurs.
This is a neat book -- it gives you a good sense of the many amazing animals that came and went in the 5 million years before we showed up.
intriguing, well considered look at another version of history. could have lived without the environmentalist sidesteps...
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Colin Tudge was educated at Dulwich College, 1954-61; and read zoology at Peterhouse, Cambridge, 1962-65.

Ever since then he has earned a living by spasmodic broadcasting and a lot of writing—mainly books these days, but with occasional articles. He has a special interest in natural history in general, evolution and genetics, food and agriculture, and spends a great deal of time on philosophy (esp
More about Colin Tudge...
The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live & Why They Matter The Link: Uncovering Our Earliest Ancestor The Bird: A Natural History of Who Birds Are, Where They Came From & How They Live The Variety of Life: A Survey and a Celebration of All the Creatures that Have Ever Lived Neanderthals, Bandits and Farmers: How Agriculture Really Began

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