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Europe: A History by Norman Davies

Europe: A History (1996)

by Norman Davies

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This is a voluminous but interesting survey of European history covering the scope of a World History or Western Civilization course. It reminds me of the expansive Will and Ariel Durant series on civilization although here it is confined to Europe alone. He posits numerous fault lines of history, religion, and culture while initially introducing the text and simply, but intriguingly, shifts the graphic illustrations throughout the work to shift the readers perspective from the traditional North-South-East-West European continuum to one that displays maps demonstrating Europe as one huge sub-continent. In this effort, he includes Eastern European evidence that is usually not included in standard European histories. I would fault Davies for being too critical of religion and he suspiciously reports religious history, and he may be too sympathetic for internationalist sympathies in his presentation of what constitutes "Europeanness."

One of the other limitations of the work is his use of odd capsules which are presented in boldface throughout the text of the work. The reader is then expected to dip into the highlighted sections as they can. In some instances the capsules bear little relation to the narrative, and in other cases they are quite revealing. However, by arranging the text in this way the reader is sometimes interrupted with irrelevant material, or in other instances, you may miss critical information. You never know which. I would have preferred that Davies would have followed a more typical, standard approach and performed the work of integrating his ideas more coherently to fit the narrative. Likewise, the appendices, which are often quite revealing, are not integrated into the work and they remain abstracted from the text at the end of the text. On the other hand, the material is valuable, as are the helpful and consistent mapping of Europe as viewed from the East with Great Britain at the top of the maps. In this way, Davies is expressing a basic motif developed throughout the text that he is including generally overlooked areas and material from Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, and lesser examined regions of Europe.

None of the limitations detracts unduly from the work and Davies is to be commended for writing an interesting narrative and fresh approach for a generalist work on Europe.
1 vote gmicksmith | Jun 18, 2012 |
This is a comprehensive book on the history of Europe from prehistory through the present. The book contains extensive notes, maps and appendices which service to bring credibility to the subject. Author Norman Davies tries to counteract the bias of ‘Eurocentrism’ and ‘Western civilization’ throughout his book. Very useful for anyone studying or interested in this topic. ( )
  DebbieMcCauley | Jun 11, 2011 |
The theme that I found the most intriguing is that Europe, being a terminal peninsula at the edge of the massively bulky land-mass that is Eurasia, had hordes of raiders constantly spilling out from the core towards the edge over the centuries. Of course knowledge of Genghis Khan and others like him is not new to the fraternity of readers of history, but to me, this amount of detail was new.
It is amazing how rotating a map of Europe 90 degrees clockwise, so that Europe is on the top and Russia and the rest of Asia on the bottom, completely changes one's perspective. How I used to think of the Scandanavian countries to be the outlying nether regions from the perspective of the central and southern European nations, is the same as how all of Europe is an outlying nether region to all of the people to the east.

(I originally posted this in Group: History Fans
Topic: What are your favorite history books? Hope this is alright.)
2 vote libraryhermit | May 17, 2011 |
Excellent, beautifully written overview. Davies delivers a broad, sweeping history. One caveat: it passes quickly over detail, occasionally vaguely. Overall this is a masterpiece. ( )
  johnnyryan | Nov 30, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060974680, Paperback)

No historian in his or her right mind would tackle such a gargantuan hunk of history as the whole of European politics, society, culture, and war since the beginning of time, write a book about it, and entitle it Europe: A History. This is not to say Norman Davies is not in his right mind. It's just that his effort here is less a magnum opus than a rush through the quirks of the ever-influential amalgamation of countries called Europe. There's plenty on which to seize, and Davies does so with a flair for style and an eye for the peculiar rarely exhibited by those who normally concern themselves with recording history.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:39 -0400)

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From the ice age to the Cold War, from Reykjavik to the Volga, from Minos to Margaret Thatcher, Norman Davies here tells the entire history of Europe in one single volume. The narrative zooms in from the distant focus of Chapter One, which explores the first five million years of the continent's development, to the close focus of the last two chapters, which cover the twentieth century at roughly one page per year. In between, Norman Davies presents a vast canvas packed with startling detail and thoughtful analysis. Alongside Europe's better-known stories - human, national and international - he examines subjects often spurned or neglected - Europe's stateless nations, for example, as well as the nation-states and great powers, and the minority groups from heretics and lepers to Romanies, Jews, and Muslims. He reveals not only the rich diversity of Europe's past but also the numerous prisms through which it can be viewed.… (more)

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