The World Until Yesterday

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The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?
Front cover of The World Until Yesterday
US first edition, hardback cover
AuthorJared Diamond
CountryUnited States
SubjectTraditional societies
PublisherViking Press
Publication date
31 December 2012
Media typePrint
Preceded byCollapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed 
Followed byUpheaval: How Nations Cope with Crisis and Change 

The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? is a 2012 popular science book by Jared Diamond. It explores what people living in the Western world can learn from traditional societies, including differing approaches to conflict resolution, treatment of the elderly, childcare, the benefits of multilingualism and a lower salt intake.


The World Until Yesterday has had a mixed reception. Abby O'Reilly of The Independent called it "essential reading" that "cements [Diamond's] position as the most considered, courageous and sensitive teller of the human story writing today."[1] In The New York Times, David Brooks' review was mostly positive; but he lamented the lack of individual indigenous voices in the book, calling it "curiously impersonal."[2]

Anthropologists' reception of the book was less positive. Ethnobotanist Wade Davis said both the scope of the "lessons" drawn and the range of ethnographic evidence used to support them was limited, characterising it as "a book of great promise [that] reads as a compendium of the obvious, ethnology by anecdote."[3] Indigenous leaders in West Papua[4] and indigenous rights organisation Survival International[5] objected to Diamond's characterisation of tribal societies as violent.


  1. ^ O'Reilly, Abby (20 January 2013). "Review: The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?". The Independent. Archived from the original on 2022-05-07. Retrieved 7 February 2013.
  2. ^ Brooks, David (10 January 2013). "Tribal Lessons 'The World Until Yesterday,' by Jared Diamond". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 February 2013.
  3. ^ Davis, Wade (9 January 2013). "The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 February 2013.
  4. ^ "Angry Papuan leaders demand Jared Diamond apologizes". Survival International. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
  5. ^ Helmore, Edward (3 February 2013). "Jared Diamond in row over claim tribal peoples live in 'state of constant war'". The Observer. Retrieved 5 February 2013.

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