Cambridge Rivers


Educational Books


Encouraged by the reception of Letters to Lily ( 2005 ), Alan Macfarlane FBA decided to write a set of letters to her younger sister – Reflections for Rosa. He was then asked by other friends to write short books for their children.  In each he tries to explore some aspect of How We Understand the World based on his experience as an anthropologist and historian at the University of Cambridge. He has tried to put into simple words a lifetime’s learning about discovery, creativity and methods to understand our complex world. The Chinese version of the series is published by San Lian Press (est.1948, SDX Joint Publishing Company - one of the top two respected publishers in China).  Click here to learn more about the author.


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How to Discover the World  Reflections for Rosa by Alan Macfarlane

‘Make things as simple as possible - but not simpler. It is better to be roughly right than precisely wrong. Write first; think later’ 

Alan Macfarlane has spent sixty years trying to understand the world. He has studied for two doctorates at Oxford and London and traveled through Nepal, Japan and China. In Reflections for Rosa he tells us what he has found out about asking questions, guessing, testing, assembling evidence, creative writing and the conditions of creativity. The book complements his Letters to Lily.


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On How To Investigate Mysteries  Secrets for Sam by Alan Macfarlane

This book explains the methods used by two of the greatest detectives in history to solve mysteries: Auguste Dupin, Edgar Allen Poe’s detective who solved the problems of the Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Purloined Letter, and Sherlock Holmes, who solved many cases including The Speckled Band and The Hound of the Baskervilles. Alan Macfarlane, a retired Professor of Anthropology, has found the method very useful in approaching the largest questions in anthropology and history, an equivalent in the arts and social sciences to the methodological rules laid down by the French philosopher and mathematician Descartes. 


How Do We Know  Advice for April by Alan Macfarlane

All our knowledge is shaped by world views (paradigms, epistemes, weltanschauung) of which we are seldom aware. These systems of thought change in a dramatic way over time as a result of technological, political and intellectual revolutions. This book analyses the major paradigms in world history since Hunter-Gatherers up to the present. It examines oral, literate, axial, Renaissance, scientific, Enlightenment, evolutionary, modern and post-modern world views. It describes their major features and how the development of writing, printing, industrialism, imperialism and the Internet, among other great changes, have shaped the way we know - epistemology - over the last fifty thousand years. 


How To Understand Each Other  Notes for Nina by Alan Macfarlane

All our knowledge is shaped by world views (paradigms, epistemes, weltanschauung) of which we are seldom aware. These systems of thought change in a dramatic way over time as a result of technological, political and intellectual revolutions. This book analyses the major paradigms in world history since Hunter-Gatherers up to the present. It examines oral, literate, axial, Renaissance, scientific, Enlightenment, evolutionary, modern and post-modern world views. It describes their major features and how the development of writing, printing, industrialism, imperialism and the Internet, among other great changes, have shaped the way we know - epistemology - over the last fifty thousand years


A Modern Education  Advice for Ariston by Alan Macfarlane

British education is designed to teach about society and power, play and performance, the head and the heart, the spirit and character. It is a preparation for a certain kind of ‘modernity.’ This book explains how education can make us modern and the ways in which such an education is different from that of Europe and China. 


The Survival Manual Thoughts for Taras by Alan Macfarlane

We live in a confused and confusing world. Population growth, rapidly changing technologies, large migrations of peoples and ideas are changing everything faster and faster.  This is a brief historical overview of eight of the major problems we face, and some radical ways of thinking about them. These include robots and work, computers and the internet, the increase in life and health, the challenge to democracy, multiculturalism, educational changes, war and peace.


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Suggestions for Shuo by Alan Macfarlane

Dear Shuo, we have travelled round China together and begun to explore how it works and differs from the West. Here I explain three ways in which we learn about our world - through participation, conversation and by absorbing creative works. I look at how this experience is worked upon, reshaped and communicated through our imagination and writing. Finally I look at how our interpretations are influenced by the wider cultural context. 

 

Alan Macfarlane is an Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at Cambridge University and a Life Fellow of King's College. This book complement his Letters to Lily.


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Conversations with Gerry by Alan Macfarlane

 

The development of modern computers and Artificial Intelligence since the middle of the twentieth century is the greatest technological revolution since the invention of writing. 

 

This book explains how it happened, why it happened and what are the likely consequences of an exponential growth in the power of computer and robots - and how we can come to terms with this.

 

Alan Macfarlane is an Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at Cambridge University and a Life Fellow of King's College. This book complement his Letters to Lily.


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And We in Dreams by

 

Iris Macfarlane

Iris Macfarlane (1922-2007) was a poet, novelist, children's story writer, translator, historian, philosopher and painter. In this book of forty essays, which she wrote mainly under the heading 'Hebridean Diary', for the Scotsman newspaper between 1969 and 1977, she condenses all of the above qualities into a unique account of moving into a croft on the island of North Uist in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. With her husband Donald she explored a new world and found rest and beauty after a lifetime of travel and stress in India and England (briefly described in her Daughters of the Empire: A memoir of life and Times in the British Raj, re-published by Cambridge Rivers Press in 2017).

The book is filled with longing, loss, peace and humour. It describes the moment when an older Celtic, pre-electric, crofting way of life was suddenly transformed and records the impressions of a sensitive southerner and her Scottish husband to these changes. And it summarises a life of searching.

The collection, which contains some of the sketches of Iris's daughter, Fiona, who still lives on the croft, is edited and introduced by her son Alan Macfarlane, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at Cambridge University, and Life Fellow of King's College, Cambridge.


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Daughters of the Empire by Iris Macfarlane

Iris Macfarlane was born in 1922 and married Donald Macfarlane in 1940. She spent more than twenty years in India as a tea-planter's wife. A Keen linguist, Iris learned Assamese and Gaelic. Among her books are, The Children of Bird God Hill (1968), The Mouth of the Night: Gaelic Stories (1973), The Black Hole: Or the Makings of a Legend (1975) and Green Gold: The Empire of Tea (with Alan Macfarlane, 2003). She also wrote for The Scotsman, the BBC and History Today. She died in 2007.


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Exploring the Anxiety of Being Japanese by Takeo Funabiki

The Nature of Nihronjinron lies in its attempt to explain who the Japanese are and thereby remove the anxiety associated with the identity of the modern Japanese. The existence of this anxiety stems from the fact that in modern times Japan occupied a peculiar historical position, namely, it was not a society that belonged to the Western history that produced "the modern age". Since Japan being an outsider in the so-called "Western" modern era is a historical given that cannot be changed retroactively, the anxiety arises again and again. When the "anxiety" rises, Nihronjinron is written, making interpretations in line with the features of that anxiety. However, as this anxiety over identity is ingrained and unsurpassable, a new form of "anxiety" always emerges and every time this happens a new work of Nihronjinron becomes a bestseller. Yet, by no means does this "anxiety" only increase in the event of crises involving "Japan"; it arises equally when the future of the country looks favourable, as its people do not feel certain about its success. Thus, the anxiety and the Nihronjinron as a response to it appear both when the country's power strengthens and when it fades.


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Love's Legacy, selected poems by

 

Iris Macfarlane

A selection of poems, written by Iris Macfarlane.