Institute of Archaeology


The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity on Orwell Prize shortlist

18 May 2022

The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity co-authored by David Wengrow (UCL Institute of Archaeology) has been shortlisted for The Orwell Prize for Political Writing 2022.

Prof David Wengrow, UCL Institute of Archaeology (Image credit: Tom Jamieson)

David's new volume, co-authored with the late David Graeber, and published by Penguin, is one of the finalists for this year's Orwell Prize for Political Writing, the UK’s most prestigious prize in this area.

The Dawn of Everything by David Graeber and David Wengrow (Penguin, 2021)

An ambitious new world history, the book brings together the latest scholarship and archaeological evidence to tell a new story about the last 30,000 years, fundamentally transforming our understanding of the human past. 

The volume overturns assumptions about the origins of inequality, showing how history contains many more hopeful moments than we’ve previously been led to believe and offers a path toward imagining new forms of freedom, new ways of organising society.

It has already been praised in media reviews (see selected links below) and debuted on the New York Times Best Seller list.

The Orwell Prize for Political Writing (previously, Orwell Prize for Books) is awarded by The Orwell Foundation, a charity which exists to perpetuate the achievements of the political writer George Orwell. The Orwell Prize for Political Writing is for a work of non-fiction, whether a book or pamphlet, first published in the UK or Ireland. ‘Political’ is defined in the broadest sense, including (but not limited to) entries addressing political, social, cultural, moral and historical subjects and can include pamphlets, books published by think tanks, diaries, memoirs, letters and essays. Winners will be announced at the Orwell Festival of Political Writing in July 2022.

David Wengrow, Professor of Comparative Archaeology at the UCL Institute of Archaeology, is the author of three books, including What Makes Civilization? and is the recipient of a number of awards, including the Distinguished Visitor Award for 2019 by the University of Auckland, New Zealand. He conducts archaeological fieldwork in various parts of Africa and the Middle East and is currently leading collaborative AHRC-funded research on radical death and early state formation.

The first of two special events at UCL will take place on 15 June, 6-7.30pmPolitical futures from the deep past: thinking through the Dawn of Everything. Reflecting the book’s interests, this panel discussion event will bring together specialists in North American archaeology, Amazonian anthropology, race and racism, and African history to discuss the book’s implications with David Wengrow. It will be chaired by Alpa Shah, a colleague of the late David Graeber.

The second event will take place on 16 June, 5-6pmThe Nutmeg’s Curse and The Dawn of Everything: a discussion with Amitav Ghosh and David Wengrow

Read more

Update: selected media links