It’s been said that, after 9/11, the 2008 financial crash and the Covid-19 pandemic, we’re a more fearful society than ever before. Yet fear, and the panic it produces, have long been driving forces - perhaps the driving force - of world history: fear of God, of famine, war, disease, poverty, and other people. In Fear: An Alternative History of the World, Robert Peckham considers the impact of fear in history, as both a coercive tool of power and as a catalyst for social change.
Beginning with the Black Death in the fourteenth century, Peckham traces a shadow history of fear. He takes us through the French Revolution and the social movements of the nineteenth century to modern market crashes, Cold War paranoia and the AIDS pandemic, into a digital culture increasingly marked by uniquely twenty-first-century fears.
What did fear mean to us in the past, and how can a better understanding of it equip us to face the future? As Peckham demonstrates, fear can challenge as well as cement authority. Some crises have destroyed societies; others have been the making of them. Through the stories of the people and the moments that changed history, Fear: An Alternative History of the World reveals how fear and panic made us who we are.