Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States - James C. Scott

The first states appeared 6,000 years ago. The use of fire appeared at least 400,000 years ago. World’s population in 10,000 BCE was roughly 4 million. Five thousand years later it had risen only to 5 million.

People think the move to a sedentary lifestyle, from being a hunter gatherer, was an improvement in the human condition. The book argues this was not the case. A lot more time is needed to keep the grains alive, there are weeds and pests, bad weather, diseases, and to harvest them. A reason why the labour intensive work moved to be done by slaves. A good share of the population in Greece and Roman Italy were slaves. The well-known code of Hammurabi contains punishments for aiding or abetting the escape of slaves. Grains are deficient in many essential nutrients.

The state preferred to have people cultivating grains. Grains are easily taxes and transported. The grains have to be harvested, potatoes can stay in the ground for 1-2 years until they are required. Raiding a grainary is easier than to have enemy soldiers dig up potatoes. A reason why the prussian Frederic the Great told his subject to plant potatoes. Sedentary folks are easier taxed than nomads. Nomads are always on the move. The goal is to hold the population in place by walls or passports. Resources directed to wall building at a time when the population was not much above the subsitence level. There was no state that did not rest on a grainfarming population.

Reengineering the landscape turns ungovernable wetlands into taxable grain fields.

Around the states where the barbarian tribes.

The term “barbarian” was originally applied by the Greeks to all non-Greek speakers. “Ba-ba” is a parody of the sounde of non-Greek speech. They may often have been freer and healthier than the nonelites inside of the cities. The great walls of china were built to keep them out and their taxpayers in. It was soon better to pay the barbarians for protection than to have them attempt raids. They also supplied slaves to the state, fellow barbarians. The barbarians obsoleted themselves by doing this.

We have, for the past eight thousand years, been selecting among sheep for tractability - slaughtering first the aggressive ones who broke out of the corral.

The history of the nomads is written by the settled

Barbarian societies can […] be quite hierarchical, but their hierarchy is generally not based on inherited property and is typically flatter than the hierarchy found in agrarian kingdoms.

State armies might be effective against fixed objectives and sedentary communities but were largely helpless campaigning against acephalous bands with no central authority with whom to negotiate or to defeat in battle.