Pan Macmillan has landed The Briefest History of Human Life by anthropologist and broadcaster Mary-Ann Ochota.
Robin Harvie, non-fiction publisher, commissioned and acquired world rights to the project from Antony Topping at Greene & Heaton. Pan Macmillan will publish in spring 2023.
The synopsis states: “Two-hundred-thousand years ago, an onlooker would have struggled to point to the small bands of tailless, two-legged homo sapiens apes on the savannah and confidently peg them for world domination. And yet, that’s exactly what’s happened. Our species has been so wildly successful, we’ve inadvertently transformed the planet, both for ourselves and all other life on Earth. So how did humans do it? Was it inevitable? And what might the journey so far tell us about the road ahead? This compelling, accessible and entertaining book will boil down the latest evidence from ancient DNA, fossil analysis and anthropological research. Four million years digested into one afternoon of reading.”
Harvie said: “Telling the history of the most complex animal on the planet in a couple of hundred pages is the perfect challenge for a writer like Mary-Ann, and we are absolutely thrilled to have acquired her book. As a storyteller by profession with a front row seat on the science that is uncovering our past, Mary-Ann is perfectly placed to take us on the strange journey that brought us to every corner of the globe, through the secrets of our success—and our possible downfall. It’s the greatest story ever told.”
Ochota has presented documentaries for the BBC, Discovery, National Geographic and Smithsonian Channel. She has written and presented radio documentaries for BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service, and hosted the World Service’s award-winning anthropology series “The Why Factor”. Her previous books Secret Britain (2020) and Hidden Histories (2016), both for Frances Lincoln, revealed the significance of British archaeology for a wide readership.
She said: “I’m excited to be writing this science of ourselves. It’s a journey that starts with clever but otherwise quite ordinary apes migrating out of Africa and leads ultimately to the technological revolutions driven by the dominant species on the planet. I want to ask the questions that come up over dinner tables, the ones that intrigue us, that explain why humans do some of the things we do, and perhaps even help us understand where we’re headed too.
“When did humans first evolve language? What were Neanderthals like? Was the invention of agriculture inevitable? Have we stopped evolving? And will we really become bionic trans-humans in the future?! This story belongs to all of us. I hope readers will come away buzzing with facts, and a newfound appreciation of their species, and the scientists who have helped us peer inside ourselves.”