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In Against the Grain, James Scott has produced an admirably broad and sweeping account of state origins. He takes humans’ first use of fire as his starting point and works his way toward states by way of the transition to settled agricultural life in the Neolithic. The intended audience would seem to be primarily the general public, for whom Scott's goals are ‘condensing the best knowledge we have … and then suggesting what it implies’ (p. xii). It is clearly, however, an audience more professionally concerned with state origins that he has in mind when he says ‘…these implications … are meant to be provocations … intended to stimulate further reflection and research’ (p. xiii), and his book provides plenty of fuel for such stimulation.