Some comments on David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5,000 Years

May 25, 2012

There’s a lot to like about David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5,000 Years (2011) which is essentially a history of the relationship between money and morality from the dawn of civilization in Sumeria up to the present day. However, in a work that spans so many centuries, regions, and academic disciplines (anthropology, economics, history), some minor errors are bound to crop up. I offer the following comments on Graeber’s references to ancient history in the hopes that they might be fixed in a future edition:

Territories that had never been under Roman rule – in Ireland, Wales… [Graeber, page 61]

The Romans did conquer Wales.

Nehemiah… received permission to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem that had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar more than two centuries earlier… [Graeber, page 81]

This implies that the Temple had been in ruins for two hundred years but rebuilding began in the sixth century with help from the Persian king Cyrus [see the beginning of the book of Ezra]. Perhaps Graeber meant to refer to the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls?

[Annikeris] A Libyan philosopher of the Epicurean school… [ransomed Plato] [Graeber, page 197].

Epicurus lived after Plato so this Annikeris cannot be an Epicurean philosopher.

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