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Fifty Animals That Changed the Course of History

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  169 ratings  ·  29 reviews

The fascinating stories of the animals that changed civilizations.

Fifty Animals that Changed the Course of History is a beautifully presented guide to the animals that have had the greatest impact on human civilization. Entries are organized by scientific name, except for Homo sapiens, which is featured last.

The 50 animals include the horse, dog, rat, whale, reindeer, be

Hardcover, 223 pages
Published August 11th 2011 by Firefly Books
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Average rating 3.49  · 
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 ·  169 ratings  ·  29 reviews

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Dec 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2012
I would have gone 1.5 stars if I could have. I really, really, really wanted to like this book. There were some gems of information here & there, but I found the inconsistent writing tone & style of the author to be distracting, and the poor overall organization extremely frustrating.

Each animal is categorized as being either EDIBLE, MEDICINAL, COMMERCIAL, or PRACTICAL (often more than one), but the book itself is not organized around these categories. Or chronologically, geographically
This book is essentially a collection of encyclopedia entries, which is what I wanted it to be. I liked the selection, especially that it included animals like the mosquito, honeybee, and cochineal, who have arguably had greater affect on human history than any of the large mammals.

Where this book lost me a little was the editorializing. The writing was a little weak and a few phrases were repeated more than once. Also, recommending a creationist web site is not something I have come to expect
Kirsten Rodning
Jan 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a fun little book, but there is nothing especially profound in it. The author did a small bit of research on each of the fifty subjects in this book -- enough research to write approximately two pages on each animal and its impact on humanity. Though the book doesn't seem to be aimed at children, this is the sort of book that I would have loved when I was a kid. I would have carried the book around and I would have hand-written word-for-word each chapter into my "research" notebook (when ...more
Mi Camino Blanco
Aug 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviews
"Acepta que unos dias eres paloma y otros te toca ser estatua" Dilbert, de Scott Adams
Jun 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
I liked it. The entries are all 2, 4, or 6 pages long, except for humans who rate 8 pages. All the other entries are in alphabetical order by Latin name, except for humans, who are put in last, so he starts with the mosquito (Anopheles gambiae) and ends with the Oriental rat flea (Xenopsylla cheopsis). It covers all the expected animals such as horse, cow, pig, sheep, camel, goat, cat & dog, but also includes Iguanadon (for the dinosaurs), the dodo (for human-created extinction), earthworm, ...more
Jul 06, 2017 rated it liked it
I thought this book had a very fun concept, which was the main reason I had for picking it up. I was a bit disappointed at the facts about each animal; to me it felt very basic and I didn't gain much new knowledge. Still, I thought it was quite fun to reflect upon the impact of animals in our history. Also, I feel like it is a great conversation starter; which animals do YOU think has changed the course of history?
Edward Sullivan
An informative and interesting collection of essays on fifty mammals, reptiles, fish, fowl, and insects that had profound impacts upon civilization. Good for browsing. Attractively designed with lots of color illustration.
Clare Rhoden
Jun 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Confession: I wasn't expecting this book to be so interesting! Actually it's very well done, insofar as the information is intriguing and objective, and modern in its outlook - it takes into account the effects of our interactions with ohter animals. The illustrations could be higher quality, but I guess that would mean a much more expensive book. I imagined myself ducking in and out of this book to check on specific entries of interest, but instead I read it from cover to cover. Congratulations ...more
Seema Rao
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
Not quite a coffee table book and not quite a popular science book. It offers some interesting takes on common animals and the way that they shaped existence. Nice in that it isn't totally human-centered, but not easy to read cover to cover.
Yan L
Jun 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
The choice of the animals is very interesting and the informations in this books are curent.
But at the end of the book it seem to me that the author take a lower level of vocabulary, is was to familiar to be a good documentary text.
Charlotte Stevenson
Aug 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Beautifully written and illustrated. An excellent collection of information and stories to show why animals and plants alike are so important to our world and human existence. It makes me wish I were a whale even more though!
Pettymys. Tässä esiteltiin lajeja ei yksittäisiä eläin yksilöitä. (Jotain Laikan tyyppistä siis)
Johan Dahlbäck
Upplägget är roligt och artiklarna innehåller intressant fakta. Lite uppslagsbokskänsla om man läser flera efter varandra när alla artiklarna är upplagd på samma sätt.

Innehåller tyvärr en del blinkningar till pseudovetenskap och kreationism. Som om författaren känt sig "tvungen" att ha med kommentarerna för att en för "vetenskaplig" inte skulle sålt tillräckligt bra. Dock lätt att hoppa över de styckena.

Sammanfattningsvis riktigt kul att läsa en artikel då och då.
Feb 01, 2015 rated it liked it

Most entries contain a short biological description, followed by the animal's impact on human civilization. The impact is material, abstract, or both. There are quite a few mythical stories, which illustrated in some respect the importance of the animal in people's lives. Of course, as each entry is only 4-6 pages long, there cannot be any details, and there aren't, but there are interesting tidbits of information and also pictures (I loved the "Leeches" container)! The entries I liked the most:
While this is an interesting read it should be noted that there is a heavy emphasis on how each of the animals have affected people, so the title should be 'Fifty Animals That Changed the Course of Human History' (and yes I do think there is a history outside of what humanity gets up to). Each of the animals chosen has been selected for their importance to man from their edible or medicinal uses to their role in mythology and science (Darwin's Finches have their own entry). Each entry is fairly ...more
Apr 05, 2012 rated it liked it
Lots of fun and interesting blurbs! Sadly, I have found I don't like reading an entire book of blurbs. I liked skimming it and picking out an essay here and there, but I had this for six weeks and wasn't able to finish, so I just returned it to the library.
Even so, it's a fun book and in my imagination, I would love to use it as a companion text in a 5th-grade world history class (or whatever they have, now, that substitutes for world history). I felt the book has the potential to engage s
Am Y
Apr 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Like other reviewers, the first thing that struck me about this book was the poor editing and writing style. The writing and research is subpar for quite a few chapters.

Under the chapter on "mosquitoes" for instance, no mention at all is made of dengue fever, which has killed - and is still killing - people in Southeast Asia mainly. Instead, the author keeps going on about the West Nile virus. And no mention at all is made of the Culex and Aedes mosquitoes, which are major vectors.

Despite lowe
May 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
I quite enjoyed this book, as it was a break from my usual fictional reading. I enjoyed finding out facts about fifty different animals, historical references and the impact the animals have had on the world. There was old information I had forgotten, and new facts that will stay with me now (I especially enjoyed reading about bees) This would be a good book if you were still at school and had a project or assignment as even though the entries are short, they are fact filled and seem to be based ...more
Jun 22, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nature
Great illustrations and book design. 50 seems to be a rather arbitrary number though, it could easily have been 20, or 100, and my own inclination would be for the former, a more thorough review of each species rather than the passing glimpse offered in this book. And why Humans??? DUH. History is a manmade concept and only exists in relation to humans. Its like saying you are one of the people who influenced your own destiny.
Oct 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, animals, history
Great information, and soooo interesting! Beware, if you are around me any time in the near future I am sure to share an amazing animal fact with you.

On the downside, I felt some disagreement with the author in certain areas, but do not have enough animal knowledge to truly argue my thoughts. Also, the illustrations weren't would've been interesting to understand them better.
Tapani Aulu
Alkuun vähän tylsän ja tyhjän oloinen. Joistakin eläimistä ei ollut saatu edes kahta sivua mielenkiintoista asiaa ilman isoja kuvia ja tietosanakirjadetaljeja. Onneksi joukossa oli myös hyviä artikkeleita, joissa oli jotain arvoa.
T. Strange
Jul 14, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: review
The frequent typos are extremely distracting, and the title, while dramatic, has little to do with the content--it is mostly a book about animals, which is good and interesting, but it hardly gives evidence of how these animals 'changed the course of history'.
Allison Suzanne Riendeau
Eh. Most information I already knew. Some of the writing was a bit clumsy too.
Jun 16, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Interesting. There are many that did not make the list, and some of these I wouldn't have put on the list as well. I guess everyone has an opinions of their own on this subject.....
Dec 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating how all these animals have benefited us all these years!
Oct 31, 2016 rated it liked it
I would have enjoyed it better if I was younger.
Amy Derwae
Aug 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Animal lovers, history buffs
A fun read! Plenty of surprises, too...
rated it it was amazing
Feb 02, 2019
Laure Valiquette-Talbot
rated it it was amazing
Jul 14, 2018
Omari Gregory
rated it really liked it
May 17, 2019
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Eric Chaline is a journalist and writer specializing in history, philosophy and religion. He graduated from Cambridge and is the author of several books. Lives in London.