Past Vulnerability: Vulcanic eruptions and human vulnerability in traditional societies past and present edited by Felix Riede, an associate professor in the Department of Archaeology at Aarhus University, is a collection of academic essays on the link between geological and human activity, free for a limited time courtesy of the Aarhus University Press in Denmark.
This collection of essays explores past volcanic events from 10,000s of years ago to relatively recent times, and their effects on the local cultures surrounding, via a combination of geological and archaeological and literature studies approaches to examine their physical and social impacts.
There are some pretty nifty ones which do things like look through old Icelandic literature (and the Bible and Quran) for reports on tales of eruptions handed down through various means before being recorded into an official historical document, and how people coped with the after effects (and maybe an explanation for the fabled Fimbulwinter of Norse mynthology), as well as directly examining the remains of archaeological evidence from hunter-gatherers several thousands of years BCE.
Offered worldwide through May, available from the university’s website as their featured English-language Free Book of the Month selection.
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Elephants Are Not Picked From Trees: Animal Biographies in the Gothenburg Natural History Museum by Liv Emma Thorsen, a professor emerita at the University of Oslo in Norway, is her natural museum exhibit micro-history book, free for a limited time courtesy of publisher Aarhus University Press in Denmark.
This is an accessibly-written academic history showcasing the origins of four of the subtitular Swedish natural history museum’s preserved animal exhibits. This is really very nifty, not only lavishly illustrated with period and modern photographs, but also with plenty of info explaining the historical cultural background surrounding the fad for taxidermied animal acquisition in past centuries, as well as quotes from original documents about the acquisition process and subsequent treatment and setup of the exhibits and their ensuing reception by the public. (Sadly, the notorious Gripsholm Lion, made memetically infamous as perhaps the worst ever historically taxidermied lion put on display, does not appear to be mentioned anywhere in its pages.)
Offered through the month of January, available worldwide DRM-free.
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Romantikkens verden: Natur, menneske, samfund, kunst og kultur (The World of Romanticism: Nature, man, society, art and culture) edited by Ole Høiris & Thomas Ledet is a volume in their Verdensboger (World Books) series of Danish-language self-contained titles which provide a comprehensive introductory overview to cultural and historical periods, free for a limited time courtesy of publisher Aarhus University Press in Denmark.
This Danish-language series is fully equivalent in style and content to the Oxford University Press’ The Oxford Illustrated History of… or Routledge’s The World of… English series. This volume contains a thorough introduction to the history and culture and mindset of the world surrounding the 18th-19th century Romantic Era which followed the Age of Enlightenment, which had previously been dominant during the 18th century. Included are essays about art, literature, philosophy, etc. about both the Nordic regions and the wider world, lavishly illustrated with period paintings and photographs of documents and other artifacts.
Offered through the month of January, available worldwide DRM-free.
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Hope on Earth: A Conversation by biologist Paul R. Ehrlich, who happens to be Bing Professor of Population Studies in the department of Biological Sciences at Stanford University, & Michael Charles Tobias, an ecologist and filmmaker, is a collection of their conversations on various topics related to ecology and environmental science, also touching upon related politics and current affairs, free for a limited time courtesy of publisher University of Chicago Press.
This is presented mainly in the form of transcripts of rather chatty conversations of varying lengths between the two, with occasional contributions by University of California professor John Harte. The topics are very wide-ranging, mainly focusing on science and nature subjects but digressing into chickens and culture, among other things. There are also some informational backgrounders, tips on helping to make the world a better place, and illustrative nature photos.
Offered worldwide, available directly from the publisher throughout September, as their Free Book of the Month selection.
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Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend by Joshua Blu Buhs, who has a PhD in the history and sociology of science, is his quasi-academic cryptozoology pop culture examination book, free for a limited time courtesy of the the University of Chicago Press.
This is an accessibly-written pop-cultural historiography and sociology book from an open-minded skeptic, examining vintage and modern accounts of Bigfoot and related legendary creatures from around the world such as sasquatch and yeti, as well as assessing their impact and changing popularity in media depictions over time.
Offered through the month of July, available worldwide.
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*Coast Lines: How Mapmakers Frame the World and Chart Environmental Change** by Mark Monmonier, a Distinguished Professor of Geology at Syracuse University, is an overview of how cartography aids with geology, free for a limited time courtesy of the the University of Chicago Press.
This is a layperson-accessible read, using both historical accounts and modern anecdotes to explain the tools and techniques that mapmakers use to measure and record assorted geographical data with an eye to turning it into maps, thus enabling scientists to chart change over time. Offered through the month of June, available worldwide DRM-free.
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