Keeping Together in Time: Dance and Drill in Human History and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

Keeping Together in Time: Dance and Drill in Human History Hardcover – September 22, 1995


See all 3 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle
"Please retry"
Hardcover
"Please retry"
$29.99 $7.57

NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE

Best Books of the Year
Best Books of 2014
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for 2014's Best Books of the Year in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (September 22, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674502299
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674502291
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #741,690 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

No small themes for William McNeill, a writer of big, sweeping books, from The Rise of the West and Plagues and Peoples to the modestly titled--and wonderful--History of the World. Here McNeill turns his attention to the role of synchronized movement in human societies, whether in mass political rallies, the muscular bonding of military drills, or dances staged in ballrooms or mosh pits. Such motions, McNeill tells us, are "far older than language, and critically important in human history." Ranging from the Paleolithic to modern times, McNeill turns up unusual nuggets from the past: the Christian Church's abandonment of sacred dances in the 4th century, dances that survive now in the sign of the cross; and Adolf Hitler borrowing fight songs from American universities to solidify the nascent National Socialist movement.

Review

In his imaginative and provocative book...William H. McNeill develops an unconventional notion that, he observes, is 'simplicity itself.' He maintains that people who move together to the same beat tend to bond and thus that communal dance and drill alter human feelings. (John Mueller New York Times Book Review)

Every now and then, a slender, graceful, unassuming little volume modestly proposes a radical rethinking of human history. Such a book is Keeping Together in Time...Important, witty, and thoroughly approachable, [it] could, perhaps, only be written by a scholar in retirement with a lifetime's interdisciplinary reading to ponder, the imagination to conceive unanswerable questions, and the courage, in this age of over-speculation, to speculate in areas where certainty is impossible. Its vision of dance as a shaper of evolution, a perpetually sustainable and sustaining resource, would crown anyone's career. (Penelope Reed Doob Toronto Globe and Mail)

McNeill is one of our greatest living historians...As usual with McNeill, Keeping Together in Time contains a wonderfully broad survey of practices in other times and places. There are the Greeks, who invented the flute-accompanied phalanx, and the Romans, who invented calling cadence while marching. There are the Shakers, who combined worship and dancing, and the Mormons, who carefully separated the functions but who prospered at least as much on the strength of their dancing as their Sunday morning worship. (David Warsh Boston Sunday Globe)

[A] wide-ranging and thought-provoking book...A mind-stretching exploration of the thesis that `keeping together in time'--army drill, village dances, and the like--consolidates group solidarity by making us feel good about ourselves and the group and thus was critical for social cohesion and group survival in the past. (Virginia Quarterly Review)

[This book is] nothing less than a survey of the historical impact of shared rhythmic motion from the paleolithic to the present, an impact that [McNeill] finds surprisingly significant...McNeill moves beyond Durkheim in noting that in complex societies divided by social class muscular bonding may be the medium through which discontented and oppressed groups can gain the solidarity necessary for challenging the existing social order. (Robert N. Bellah Commonweal)

The title of this fascinating essay contains a pun that sums up its thesis" keeping together in time, or coordinated rhythmic movement and the shared feelings it evokes, has kept human groups together throughout history. Most of McNeill's pioneering study is devoted to the history of communal dancing...[This] volume will appeal equally to scholars and to the general reader. (Doyne Dawson Military History)

As with so many themes [like this one], whether in science or in symphonies, one wonders (in retrospect) why it has not been invented before...[T]he book is fascinating. (K. Kortmulder Acta Biotheoretica (The Netherlands))

This scholarly and creative exploration of the largely unresearched phenomenon of shared euphoria aroused by unison movement moves across the disciplines of dance, history, sociology, and psychology...Highly recommended. (Choice)

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
5 star
3
4 star
0
3 star
1
2 star
0
1 star
0
See all 4 customer reviews
Share your thoughts with other customers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 8, 1999
Format: Hardcover
If you are one of those people who reads in terms of things subversive or hegemonic, you will not like this book, because it so completely accepts the sort of mechanized vision of the universe so common to our age. However, if one should happen to be free of that particular affliction, then this is a fairly interesting book, for not only is it readable, rare for an academic book, but it also has something to say about human history. Mr. McNeill's thesis is that the interaction between music and dancing has had a very much greater impact on human history than has heretofore been realized, and many of his speculations are well worth pondering. For students of dance, and what is perhaps now becoming a legitimate line of academic query, a subject that may someday become known as "kinesthetics," this book is a must-read. A recent book from France about the French use of church bells appears to echo many of the themes developed here, which is to say that this book may well be looked back upon as an important first step. Of course, to a politically-minded critic, such work is utterly reactionary, and perhaps it is an escape into a fantasy of other times and places, and certainly the almost uncritical way in which McNeill accepts the current Darwinistic world view is disturbing, yet nevertheless there is much to be gained here. The long analysis of the impact of close order drill on European armies is alone work of the first water, of interest to anyone working on not just European political history, but also students of European imperialism. If this book is understood aright, much of our current thought is going to have to be revised.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By guy wilcox on December 14, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It distresses me that I have not heard of this book until recently and have not heard of any impact it may have had or may currently be having, either in the academy or in politics, national or international. His insights appear to have been developed during an impressively thorough historical study of dance and drill. His conclusions are consistent with my own intuitions and experience. The people apt to benefit most from it are likely not to get through the first chapter without scoffing or feeling uncomfortable. If I had one book to suggest be read (and thoroughly discussed) by the world, I think this would be the one.
1 Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
By Janet Jaffe on July 27, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like the topic. I was expecting a little more.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Milo Jones on October 14, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This absorbing work exposes an immense gap in the literature about and our understanding of the past, and offers a huge canvas for further speculation. Highly recommended!
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?