New insights into the microbiome, epigenetics, and cognition are radically challenging our very idea of what it means to be 'human', while an explosion of neo-materialist thinking in the humanities has fostered a renewed appreciation of the formative powers of a dynamic material environment. The Matter of History brings these scientific and humanistic ideas together to develop a bold, new post-anthropocentric understanding of the past, one that reveals how powerful organisms and things help to create humans in all their dimensions, biological, social, and cultural. Timothy J. LeCain combines cutting-edge theory and detailed empirical analysis to explain the extraordinary late-nineteenth century convergence between the United States and Japan at the pivotal moment when both were emerging as global superpowers. Illustrating the power of a deeply material social and cultural history, The Matter of History argues that three powerful things - cattle, silkworms, and copper - helped to drive these previously diverse nations towards a global 'Great Convergence'.
Timothy J. LeCain is the author of the prize-winning book Mass Destruction (2009). He was a Senior Fellow at the Rachel Carson Center in Munich, Germany, and a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in Oslo, Norway. He is an Associate Professor of History at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana.
1. Fellow travelers: the non-human things that make us human; 2. We never left Eden: the religious and secular marginalization of matter; 3. Natural born humans: a neo-materialist theory and method of history; 4. The longhorn: the animal intelligence behind American open range ranching; 5. The silkworm: the innovative insects behind Japanese modernization; 6. The copper atom: conductivity and the great convergence of Japan and the West; 7. The matter of humans: beyond the Anthropocene and towards a new humanism.