Short History of
Copyright © 2003 by Bill Bryson
All rights reserved under International
and Pan-American Copyright Conventions.
Published in the United States of America by
andom House Large Print in association with
Broadway Books, New York and simultaneously
in Canada by Random House of
Canada Limited, Toronto.
Distributed by Random House, Inc., New York.
The Library of Congress has established a
Cataloging-in-Publication record for this title.
As I sit here, in early 2003, I have before me several pages of manuscript bearing majestically
encouraging and tactful notes from Ian Tattersal of the American Museum of Natural History
pointing out, inter alia, that Perigueux is not a wineproducing region, that it is inventive but a
touch unorthodox of me to italicize taxonomic divisions above the level of genus and species,
that I have persistently misspelled Olorgesaille, a place that I recently visited, and so on in
similar vein through two chapters of text covering his area of expertise, early humans.
Goodness knows how many other inky embarrassments may lurk in these pages yet, but it
is thanks to Dr. Tattersall and all of those whom I am about to mention that there aren't many
hundreds more. I cannot begin to thank adequately those who helped me in the preparation of
this book. I am especially indebted to the following, who were uniformly generous and kindly
and showed the most heroic reserves of patience in answering one simple, endlessly repeated
question: "I'm sorry, but can you explain that again?"
In the United States: Ian Tattersall of the American Museum of Natural History in New
York; John Thorstensen, Mary K. Hudson, and David Blanchflower of Dartmouth College in
Hanover, New Hampshire; Dr. William Abdu and Dr. Bryan Marsh of Dartmouth-Hitchcock
Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire; Ray Anderson and Brian Witzke of the Iowa
Department of Natural Resources, Iowa city; Mike Voorhies of the University of Nebraska
and Ashfall Fossil Beds State Park near Orchard, Nebraska; Chuck Offenburger of Buena
Vista University, Storm Lake, Iowa; Ken Rancourt, director of research, Mount Washington
Observatory, Gorham, New Hampshire; Paul Doss, geologist of Yellowstone National Park,
and his wife, Heidi, also of the National Park; Frank Asara of the University of California at
Berkeley; Oliver Payne and Lynn Addison of the National Geographic Society; James O.
Farlow, IndianaPurdue University; Roger L. Larson, professor of marine geophysics,
University of Rhode Island; Jeff Guinn of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram news
paper; Jerry Kasten of Dallas, Texas; and the staff of the Iowa Historical Society in Des
In England: David Caplin of Imperial College, London; Richard Fortey, Les Ellis, and Kathy
Way of the Natural History Museum; Martin Raff of University College, London; Rosalind
Harding of the Institute of Biological Anthropology in Oxford; Dr. Laurence Smaje, formerly
of the Wellcome Institute; and Keith Blackmore of The Times.
In Australia: the Reverend Robert Evans of Hazelbrook, New South Wales; Alan Thorne
and Victoria Bennett of the Australian National University in Canberra; Louise Burke and
John Hawley of Canberra; Anne Milne of the Sydney Morning Herald; Ian Nowak, formerly
of the Geological Society of Western Australia; Thomas H. Rich of Museum Victoria; Tim
Flannery, director of the South Australian Museum in Adelaide; and the very helpful staff of
the State Library of New South Wales in Sydney.
And elsewhere: Sue Superville, information center manager at the Museum of New Zealand
in Wellington, and Dr. Emma Mbua, Dr. Koen Maes, and Jillani Ngalla of the Kenya National
Museum in Nairobi.
I am also deeply and variously indebted to Patrick Janson-Smith, Gerald Howard, Marianne
Velmans, Alison Tulett, Larry Finlay, Steve Rubin, Jed Mattes, Carol Heaton, Charles Elliott,
David Bryson, Felicity Bryson, Dan McLean, Nick Southern, Patrick Gallagher, Larry
Ashmead, and the staff of the peerless and ever-cheery Howe Library in Hanover, New
Above all, and as always, my profoundest thanks to my dear wife, Cynthia.