House of Anansi Press
December 17, 2005
Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? These are three simple yet profound questions – most famously posed on a vast panoramic campus by the French artist Paul Gauguin while in Tahiti – are at the heart of the story in Ronald Wright’s acclaimed 2004 Massey Lectures. In this richly illustrated edition of the Libris award-winning bestseller, striking images across time and space illuminate Wright’s powerful and cautionary tale.
Each time history repeats itself, so it’s said, the price goes up. The twentieth century was a time of runaway growth in human population, consumption, and technology, placing a colossal load on all natural systems, especially earth, air, and water – the very elements of life. The great question of the twenty-first century is how, or whether, this can go on.
In An Illustrated Short History of Progress, Wright uses both words and images to show how our modern predicament is as old as civilization, a 10,000-year experiment we unleashed but have seldom controlled. Only by understanding the patterns of progress and disaster that humanity has repeated around the world since the Stone Age can we recognize the experiment’s inherent dangers and, with luck and wisdom, shape its outcome.
Ronald Wright is an acclaimed novelist, historian, and essayist who has won awards in all three genres and is published in more than a dozen languages. His nonfiction books include the bestsellers time among the Maya and Stolen Continents, a history of the Americas that won the Gordon Montador Award and was chosen a book of the year by the Independent and the Sunday Times. His first novel, A Scientific Romance, won Britain’s David Higham Prize for Fiction and was chosen a book of the year by the Globe and Mail, the Sunday Times, and the New York Times. Ronald Wright lives in British Columbia.
The Massey Lectures are cosponsored by CBC Radio, House of Anansi Press, and Massey College in the University of Toronto. The series was created in honour of the Right Honourable Vincent Massey, former governor general of Canada, and was inaugurated in 1961 to provide a forum on radio where major contemporary thinkers could address important issues of our time. The 2004 Massey Lectures, “A Short History of Progress,” were first broadcast in November 2004 as part of CBC Radio’s Ideas series. The producer of the series was Philip Coulter; the executive producer was Bernie Lucht.