One of the early inspirations for creating the Manual for Civilization was an email I received from Lewis Dartnell in London asking me for information on a book he was writing inspired by James Lovelock’s “Book for all Seasons”. The idea was a kind of reboot manual for humanity, and it coincided well with some other conversations we had been having at Long Now about making a collection of books that could do something similar.
Fast forward to 02014 and Lewis has finished his book “The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World From Scratch” which comes out today, and he was kind enough to send us a copy for our Manual for Civilization library collection. Since this is a single volume you might be wondering how much practical knowledge a book like this could actually impart. This book gives the reader a basic strategy for rebooting civilization – not every detail. For instance if you wanted to get a certain technology up and running again, which method should you employ given what we now know about modern and historical methods? Dartnell goes over the basic principle for each fundamental technology, and then discusses best options for how to rebuild it with scavenged materials (always easier), or how you might do it from scratch. He starts with the most critical and fundamental, and then builds on each of these as the book progresses. So in a way the book kind of boot straps itself from chapter to chapter. The overall goal, it seems, is to make the “hole” referred to in the graph below smaller and recover faster than the one left after the fall of Rome. (yes I know there are lots of issues with that graph but it illustrates the point of a loss of technology in civilizations)
The Knowledge is not another survival guide for gun toting doomsday “preppers”, or those excited for the zombie apocalypse, but both crowds might get something out of it. It is also not a standalone book, Lewis has published his chapter by chapter further reading list and bibliography alongside it that contains the nitty gritty details for each of the technologies discussed. You should consider The Knowledge a primer and table of contents for that larger reading list. We are happy to have The Knowledge in our collection for this reason.
Dartnell has also been following The Manual for Civilization project and has submitted his own list of books for our collection, which we include below. He considers these to be the most useful from his bibliography. You can follow updates and new information around the book via @KnowledgeCiv on Twitter. Dartnell speaks at The Interval in March 02015
- Self-sufficiency & providing the essentials
- Seymour, John, The New Complete Book of Self-sufficiency, Dorling Kindersley, 2009.
- Strawbridge, Dick and James Strawbridge, Practical Self Sufficiency: The Complete Guide to Sustainable Living, Dorling Kindersley, 2010.
- Leckie, Jim, Gil Masters, Harry Whitehouse and Lily Young, More Other Homes and Garbage: Designs for Self-sufficient Living (ATL 02–47), Sierra Club Books, 1981.
- Stoner, Carol Hupping, Stocking Up: How to Preserve the Foods you Grow, Naturally (ATL 07–292), Rodale Press, 1973.
- Boyle, Godfrey and Peter Harper, Radical Technology: Food, Shelter, Tools, Materials, Energy, Communication, Autonomy, Community (ATL 01–13), Undercurrent Books, 1976.
- Scavenging and repurposing
- Tools & construction
- Gingery, David J., The Charcoal Foundry, David J. Gingery Publishing LLC, 2000a.
- The Drill Press, David J. Gingery Publishing LLC, 2000b.
- The Metal Lathe, David J. Gingery Publishing LLC, 2000c.
- The Metal Shaper, David J. Gingery Publishing LLC, 2000d.
- The Milling Machine, David J. Gingery Publishing LLC, 2000e.
- Johnson, Carl G. and William R. Weeks, Metallurgy (ATL 04–106), 5th edn, American Technical Publishers, 1977.
- Jackson, Albert and David Day, Tools and How to Use Them: An Illustrated Encyclopedia (ATL 04–122), Alfred A. Knopf, 1978.
- Gentry, George and Edgar T. Westbury, Hardening and Tempering Engineers’ Tools (ATL 04–98), Model and Allied Publications, 1980.
- Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory, Wood Handbook: Wood as an Engineering Material (ATL 25–662), US Department of Agriculture, 1974.
- Lengen, Johan van, The Barefoot Architect: A Handbook for Green Building, Shelter, 2008.
- Stanford, Geoffrey, Short Rotation Forestry: As a Solar Energy Transducer and Storage System (ATL 08–301), Greenhills Foundation, 1976.
- House, David, The Biogas Handbook (ATL 24–568), Peace Press, 1978. Revised edition published by House Press in 2006.
- Stassen, Hubert E., Small-Scale Biomass Gasifiers for Heat and Power: A Global Review, Energy Series, World Bank Technical Paper Number 296, 1995.
- LaFontaine, H. and F. P. Zimmerman, Construction of a Simplified Wood Gas Generator for Fueling Internal Combustion Engines in a Petroleum Emergency, Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1989.
- Hygiene and Medicine
- Huisman, L. and W. E. Wood, Slow Sand Filtration (ATL 16–376), World Health Organisation, 1974.
- Conant, Jeff, Sanitation and Cleanliness for a Healthy Environment, Hesperian Foundation, 2005.
- Mann, Henry Thomas and David Williamson, Water Treatment and Sanitation: Simple Methods for Rural Areas (ATL 16–381) (revised edition), Intermediate Technology Publications, 1982.
- Gotaas, Harold B., Composting: Sanitary Disposal and Reclamation of Organic Wastes (ATL 05–166), World Health Organization, 1976. First published 1956.
- Werner, David, Where There Is No Doctor: A Village Healthcare Handbook, Hesperian Health Guides, 2011.
- Cook, John, Balu Sankaran and Ambrose E. O. Wasunna (eds), General Surgery at the District Hospital (ATL 27–721), World Health Organization, 1988.
- Dobson, Michael B., Anaesthesia at the District Hospital (ATL 27–720), World Health Organisation, 1988.
- Porter, Roy, Blood and Guts: A Short History of Medicine, Penguin, 2002.
- Power and mechanisms
- Brown, Henry T., 507 Mechanical Movements: Mechanisms and Devices, 18th edn, BN Publishing, 2008. First published 1868.
- Hiscox, Gardner Dexter, 1800 Mechanical Movements, Devices and Appliances, Dover Publications, 2007.
- Bureau of Naval Personnel, Basic Machines and How They Work (ATL 04–81), Dover Publications, 1971.
- Hillier, V. A. W. and F. Pittuck, Fundamentals of Motor Vehicle Technology, 3rd edn, Hutchinson, 1981.
- Substances and chemistry
- William B. Dick, Dick’s Encyclopedia of Practical Receipts and Processes
- Alan P. Dalton, Chemicals from Biological Resources
- Dunn, Kevin M., Caveman Chemistry: 28 Projects, from the Creation of Fire to the Production of Plastics, Universal Publishers, 2003.
- Dumesny, P. and J. Noyer, Wood Products: Distillates and Extracts, Scott Greenwood & Son, 1908.
- Wingate, Michael, Small-scale Lime-burning: A practical introduction (ATL 25–675), Practical Action, 1985.
- Abdel-Aal, H. K., K. M. Zohdy and M. Abdel Kareem, ‘Hydrogen Production Using Sea Water Electrolysis’, The Open Fuel Cells Journal, 3:1–7, 2010.
- Science and technological progress
- Patricia Fara, Science: A Four Thousand Year History
- Shapin, Steven, The Scientific Revolution, The University of Chicago Press, 1996.
- Thomas Crump, A Brief History of Science: As seen throughout the development of scientific instruments.
- Hasok Chang, Inventing Temperature: Measurement and Scientific Progress, Oxford University Press, 2004.
- Macfarlane, Alan and Gerry Martin, The Glass Bathyscaphe: How Glass Changed the World, Profile Books, 2002.
- Abbott Payson Usher, A History of Mechanical Inventions.
- George Basalla, The Evolution of Technology.
- Mokyr, Joel, The Lever of Riches: Technological Creativity and Economic Progress, Oxford University Press, 1990.
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