MAN: An Autobiography

Once again, George R. Stewart invented a new type of literature – the pre-history and history of humankind as autobiography.  His subject, Man, explains that he considers all those listings of kings and caesars and pharaohs,  of wars and kingdoms, and of endless dates, as trivial gossip.  So Man tells his story in general terms, emphasizing major changes and trends rather than Ozymandias-istic minutiae.

The book was published in 1946 – only a year after Names On The Land – which gives some idea of how prolific and hard-working Stewart was.  In this case, both books were new types of literature, in which he had to do unprecedented research, and then create a precise, readable work based on that research.

The book was a best-seller.  But it was the first of Stewart’s books to bring about a major controversy.  Many fundamentalist readers were upset about Man’s description of his evolution.  The book received more negative letters than anything Stewart had written until that time.

The book gets little attention today – Stewart was apparently trying to find a general pattern to human history separate from specific dates, names, and events.  Since he wrote it for a general literate audience, that search for pattern seems to be somewhat lost in the story.  The idea is sound, and worth more exploration, and the book deserves more attention.

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