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Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  153 ratings  ·  36 reviews
Contrary to popular belief fostered in countless school classrooms the world over, Christopher Columbus did not discover that the earth was round. The idea of a spherical world had been widely accepted in educated circles from as early as the fourth century b.c. Yet, bizarrely, it was not until the supposedly more rational nineteenth century that the notion of a flat earth ...more
Hardcover, 436 pages
Published August 5th 2008 by Thomas Dunne Books (first published 2007)
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Average rating 3.69  · 
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Marcus Shepherd
Dec 17, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: few.
How do you know the Earth is round? No, really. Because you saw a picture? Because you own a globe? What evidence could you throw up right now to prove the globularity of the ground you stand on?

Looking through some of the other reviews, it seems like people focus on the proponents of the Flat Earth model with pity and scorn.
"At times you want to find the people it talks about and slap some sense into them, at others you just feel sorry for them. Seeing the deliberate ignorance people impose on
...more
Sharon A.
Nov 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent guide through the surprisingly complex idea of the flat earth

This is the first book I’ve ever read on the Flat Earth idea and it’s a winner - engrossing, so readable, coherent, and enlightening. It’s critical in these days of conspiracy mongering and allegations of “fake news” (real and imagined) that we see the forest for the trees. Otherwise, we’re doomed. I feel so much more well-informed on the subject as a student of science & society. Highly recommended.
...more
Tommy Carlson
So, here's the first book conforming to my 2015 "no books by white men" resolution, Flat Earth by Christine Garwood. It examines fairly recent beliefs in an actual flat Earth. It's an amusing read, in places, but drags most of the time.

It starts out with a couple chapters explaining why we as a culture thought folks back in Columbus' time even thought that the world was flat. (Actually, I didn't think they thought that, nor I suspect do many people today.) Turns out it was evil secularists, tryi
...more
Karen
Jul 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a bit long winded at times, and bogs down in retoric, but after all how many ways can you sustain a Flat Earth theory. What is amazing that against all odds (science in particular) people can still believe, and justify thier belief. It always good to look at both sides of any story, how else do we make decisions.
Darby
Dec 12, 2017 added it
In the Middle Ages people believed that the earth was flat, for which they had at least the evidence of their senses: we believe it to be round, not because as many as one per cent of us could give the physical reasons for so quaint a belief, but because modern science has convinced us that nothing that is obvious is true, and that everything that is magical, improbable, extraordinary, gigantic, microscopic, heartless, or outrageous is scientific.
- George Bernard Shaw
Hazel
Sep 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Amazing expose on the history of flat earth belief, and the complexities involved. At times you want to find the people it talks about and slap some sense into them, at others you just feel sorry for them. Seeing the deliberate ignorance people impose on themselves is both amusing, and terribly frightening.
Katie
Jul 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
This was an interesting book about the history of the flat earth idea, mainly starting in the early 1800's up to today. It is well written and poses some interesting ideas at the end about why people believe in crazy ideas.
Tom Holt
Dec 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea by Christine Garwood (2008)
Stephie Williams
Jun 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fairly interesting, except it kind of seemed like same thing over and over again. Only the names and times seemed to change
Cyle Zezotarski
Dec 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Garwood shares detailed stories of key people throughout the relatively short history of Flat Earth noise-making. She makes pertinent points throughout, and at the end of the day presents an eye opening read that makes these believers, who are so maligned by society, feel like actual, relatable human beings (though definitely eccentric ones).

Although well researched, it was sometimes my impression that the author didn't read many of her own chapters, which was evidenced by the repetition of fact
...more
Katedurie50
Apr 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
This starts long ago in history, when by no means everyone believed the world was flat, and finally comes close to the present with those who insist, through biblical literalism or some other route, that the globe is a hoax and the moon landing a worse one. The richest seam is in the Victorian period, when the notion of the professional scientist was still only half-formed. There is much measuring of canals to prove convexity or not; and even more libel. My favourite flat earther - or zetetic - ...more
Mario Sailer
May 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Good book that depicts some (the major) Flat Earth proponents in modern age starting in the 19th century. What makes the book interesting is how this theory was advocated for despite overwhelming evidence (increasing over time) that the earth is a globe and what motivated the proponents of the theory. If you abstract from the the topic, the Flat Earth, to others, not so easily refutable ones, the same patterns of advocacy become visible.
While the book provides good insight in the history of the
...more
Shiloh
Nov 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very very thorough and fair look at the various people and groups who have insisted that the Earth is flat. Occasionally the organization is a bit rough, but Garwood had a lot of material to cover, so that's understandable.
Ostilio Portillo
May 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Interesting reading about the history of the stupid belief that the earth is flat. The truth is that it is interesting reading, but what surprises me the most is the fact that in the 21st century there are a lot of people that still believe in such a nonsense.
Jenni Butler
Feb 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Well documented history behind the flat earth theory.
fuck flatearth
Feb 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
very goood book
Karem
Jul 02, 2019 rated it liked it
I believe that the Earth is flat
But i know more than what this book mentioned
Nick Sanders
Jul 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well researched. Very well researched. But a tad on the boringly so side. Interesting nonetheless, because of the apparently still alluring subject.
Zelda
Jul 22, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is more about the lives of the flat earth supporters than the actual idea of a flat earth.
Renate
The earth is a sphere. It spins on its own axis whilst revolving around the sun. Men had worked that out as far back as 2500 years ago. We know that. But there have been others, who have deliberately refuted those facts and thought otherwise.

If you see yourself as someone with an open mind, this book will surely test you and make you grit your teeth as you work yourself through this very detailed, thorough account of every charlatan, fraudster, crackpot, zealot and attention seeker who campaigne
...more
Bridget
Jul 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012
When i saw this book at the library I found myself fascinated by the concept. It took me a little bit to get in the swing of it... but it was certainly worth it.

Christine Garwood has done an immaculate job in her research. The book's subject matter lies somewhere between religion and science, following the life of the theory by the people who tried to spread the word. I also learnt a whole lot about the history of science and how people think!

My favourite part was the chapter about the Flat Ear
...more
Susan Wight
The Idea of a spherical world had been widely accepted in educated circles from as early as the fourth century BC. Yet, bizarrely, it was not until the supposedly more rational nineteenth century that the notion of the flat earth really took hold. This book traces the history of the Flat Earth idea.
It has taken me quite a long time to read this book as it is fascinating in parts but the very nature of denialist arguments render it repetitive as different manifestations of the Flat Earth Society
...more
Guy Robinson
A book about people believing in a Flat Earth from ancient times to the 1970s. It corrects the most fundamental errors and documents the most excessive proponents, who often had a most challenging time.

It covers modern misconceptions, the western progression towards the provable shape of the Earth, a Victorian showman, Parallax, his varied disciples, an American religious city that fell under the control of a Flat Earth Bible literalist, the Flat Earth Society that operated during the Apollo spa
...more
Suzy Plows
Feb 23, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was really looking forward to reading this book. However, after the first 10 pages I knew I wouldn't be able to finish it. There are many inaccuracies in the author's attempt to place things into historical context. Bizarrely, for a history book, ideas and people are described using very emotional, petty language, which was off-putting and made it very difficult to take her seriously. It was also a red flag for me that early on I needed to fact check some things that I had doubts on (On a side ...more
Bonnie Samuel
From anti-vaxxers to climate change deniers to anti-evolutionists, the capacity of human beings to hold onto incorrect beliefs despite mountains of evidence proving them wrong is pretty astonishing. Although I found this book to be pretty dry, the characters highlighted demonstrate that when a person desperately wants to believe that something is true, any attempt to change their mind is futile, since they'll always find a way to discredit the evidence either by decrying it as fake, manipulated, ...more
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
Nov 30, 2008 marked it as decided-not-to-read
After the introduction, this book, well, went into more detail than I was interested in. Honestly I'm more interested in how this came to be accepted as history than in every crank who has thought the earth was flat. As an aside, though, the book mentions an early example of viral marketing/pseudo-advertising (false missing person notices in newspapers) involving a Washington Irving book. I wonder if this was the first instance.
Ari
Apr 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Aristotle knew the world was round, as did the vast bulk of ancient and medieval writers in Europe. The flat-earth movement as we know it is a 19th century creature. It started in Victorian England as a strange mix of religious fundamentalism and postmodern skepticism. This book explains how the movemement got started and where it went. Much food for thought in terms of how cults or wacky beliefs can grow even in educated countries.
Eric
Dec 26, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Nonfiction book about various flat earth societies and believers throughout the last several hundred years. The book also spends the first few chapters debunking the idea that ancient (i.e. pre-medieval) people believed the earth was flat.

It's okay.
Alvin
Jul 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Unfortunately, this book tries to be a comprehensive history of its subject instead of an entertaining overview. Boring, unecessary details abound and are – unforgivably – repeated. Give it a skim if, like me, you are fascinated by misguided eccentrics, but don't plan on reading every word.
Aaron Gladki
Apr 13, 2012 rated it did not like it
This was a hard, hard slog and only pigheadedness kept me at it much past page 70. Reads like a PHD thesis, and as for the cover quote about the book being an entertaining an often hilarious read, well, I'm not sure what book they were writing about. It sure wasn't this one....
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