Viking acquires 'apocalyptically relevant' book from Cambridge academic

Viking acquires 'apocalyptically relevant' book from Cambridge academic

Penguin General's Viking imprint will publish Downfall: The Eight Forces that End Civilisations by Dr Luke Kemp, a research associate at the University of Cambridge.

World rights (all languages) were acquired by editorial director Tom Killingbeck directly from the author. Downfall will be published in spring 2023. 

In Downfall, Kemp will explore humankind's deep past to help readers understand the fundamental forces at play in the downfall of societies, and discern lessons for our uncertain future. He will conduct a wide-ranging historical autopsy using the ‘Rise and Fall Database’, a unique research asset which provides an estimate of over 400 societal lifespans over the past five millennia, from Susa II in 3,800 BCE to the modern-day United Kingdom. 

Killingbeck said: "I read Luke’s article 'Are We on the Road to Civilisational Collapse?' for BBC Future and was immediately fascinated by his framework of ‘civilisational boundaries’ and the work of CSER. When he delivered a masterly proposal, full of incredible stories and research but also a hugely compelling argument for how we can create a ‘safe operating system’ for society, we couldn’t have moved quicker to make him a Viking author. Luke is an academic with an impressively cross-disciplinary outlook, and while this book feels apocalyptically relevant to our current situation, its message is ultimately one of hope. I couldn’t be more excited about publishing it."

Kemp commented: "There is increasing awareness that our globalised world is deceptively fragile. Building resilience depends on understanding the forces that have driven collapse and downfall in the past. The topic of my book may appear dark but the underlying message is a bright one: that avoiding collapse and calamity comes hand-in-hand with building a just, equal world."

Kemp is a research associate at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge.