Out of Our Minds

Pages: 496
Subject: History
Imprint: Oneworld

Out of Our Minds

What We Think and How We Came to Think It

Felipe Fernández-Armesto

An extraordinary journey through the history of the human imagination, from the dawn of civilization to the present day

The Book

To imagine - to see that which is not there - is the startling ability that has fuelled human development and innovation through the centuries. As a species we stand alone in our remarkable capacity to refashion the world after the pictures in our minds.

Traversing the realms of science, politics, religion, culture, philosophy and history, Felipe Fernández-Armesto reveals the thrilling and disquieting tales of our imaginative leaps - from the first Homo sapiens to the present day. Through groundbreaking insights in cognitive science, he explores how and why we have ideas in the first place, providing a tantalising glimpse into who we are and what we might yet accomplish. Fernández-Armesto shows that bad ideas are often more influential than good ones; that the oldest recoverable thoughts include some of the best; that ideas of Western origin often issued from exchanges with the wider world; and that the pace of innovative thinking is under threat.

Additional Information

Subject History
Pages 496
Imprint Oneworld


About the Author

Felipe Fernández-Armesto is the editor of The Oxford Illustrated History of the World. He is the author of many critically acclaimed books, including the award-winning Pathfinders and Food: A History. He lives in Indiana and occupies the William P. Reynolds Chair in the history department at the University of Notre Dame.


‘…a triumph. Preternaturally erudite, always intelligible, often witty, Out of Our Minds should be essential reading not just for historians of ideas, but for all readers interested in the human past.'

- Niall Ferguson, Milbank Family Senior Fellow, the Hoover Institution, Stanford

‘A sparkling account of how imagination and ideas have shaped the strange history of Homo sapiens over more than two hundred thousand years.'

- David Christian, author of Origin Story

‘Brilliant and profound, Out of Our Minds is a masterly survey of humanity's unique imaginative leaps, from hominid cannibalism to our current global convergence. Fernández-Armesto is the leading practitioner of big history, and here he takes on no less than the entire span of human history. Gone are the great men, replaced instead by the ideas - good and bad - that have made us human. Written with his trademark panache and wry humour, this book challenges every assumption you've ever had about who we are and where we came from.'

- Jerry Brotton, Professor of Renaissance Studies, Queen Mary University of London, and author of A History of the World in 12 Maps

‘With its majestic sweep, this refreshing book covers a great many subjects with considerable authority. Felipe Fernández-Armesto is a gifted writer, guiding the reader through subtleties without failing to illustrate his complex ideas with a telling example.'

- Daniel Lord Smail, Frank B. Baird, Jr. Professor of History, Harvard University

Also by this author