James Poskett, a historian of science and technology, is no fool. His new book, Horizons, is superb ... Horizons is global not only in its geographical scope but also in its narrative technique. Poskett uses concrete examples to reveal connections and similarities between parts of the world that are usually studied separately ... But Horizons is not just a collection of global biographies. These are embedded in a grand narrative about the last 600 years of world history ... Poskett links these geopolitical developments to intellectual ones, and much of his book’s originality lies in these linkages ... Indigenous knowledge is a major part of the book, but Poskett is no relativist. He does not say that science is just one form of knowledge among many other forms of knowledge ... Poskett is not afraid to praise the canon. He writes in terms of discoveries, breakthroughs, ingenious instruments, and keen scientific minds. He does not shy away from comparative judgments ... This is a celebration of science as well as a critique of empire.
Criss-crossing four periods of profound historical change, the book challenges the prevailing Eurocentric scientific narrative and emphasises the idea of sustained arcs of progress elsewhere in the world instead of fleeting 'golden ages' ... Poskett deftly blends the achievements of little-known figures into the wider history of science. Chapter summaries and introductions can feel overly signposted, veering at times towards a lecturing style for sleepy undergraduates, but the book brims with clarity as a result. This is crucial in such a fundamental retelling of the story of science—especially one in which political context is always pertinent.
In this exhaustively researched and sometimes exhausting book, he sets out to show that the whole scientific revolution was a global endeavour, and the West has unfairly taken the credit ... What Poskett ends up showing is not that the scientific revolution happened everywhere, but that science progresses when different ideas come together—and that process is not always fair or pretty. The communications revolution means it now, truly, is a global project, and better for it ... You’re left wondering if all this squabbling over who discovered what misses the point of science itself. The truths it finds are universal. Gravity, evolution—they are the same for us all, and surely they are grand enough to show petty culture wars for the irrelevance they are.
The history of science is global. Poskett delivers a necessary and welcome corrective to our understanding, highlighting how many of the achievements and influences of people across the non-Western world shaped modern science.