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Europe Between the Oceans: 9000 BC-AD 1000 (original 2008; edition 2011)

by Barry Cunliffe

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294738,184 (3.94)37
Member:michnijs
Title:Europe Between the Oceans: 9000 BC-AD 1000
Authors:Barry Cunliffe
Info:Yale University Press (2011), Paperback, 480 pagina's
Collections:Heidendom, Archeologie, Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:None

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Europe Between the Oceans: 9000 BC-AD 1000 by Barry Cunliffe (2008)

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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
This is a fantastic book. Cunliffe places the history of Europe (and the Mediterranean) in perspective, and his perspective is the very long view, from 9000 BC to 1000 AD.

This book is worth reading for three different purposes. First, if you want a framework for classical and European history, read the first chapter (on the geography of Europe) and the opening and closing sections of each chapter, and you have an instant framework on which to hang anything else.

Second, if you want to understand the history of this part of the world as driven by economic, geographic, and demographic factors, this is perfect. Repeatedly, Cunliffe acknowledges that ancient (and modern) historians have discussed the visions and choices of individual great leaders - but Cunliffe argues that, for the most part, these figures were borne along on the tides of demographic and cultural evolution well beyond their control. But better than simply arguing that, he makes it comprehensible, drawing on up to date archeological information as well as the scarce written records we have from the last two millennia of the ten he covers.

Finally, these ten thousand years are filled with fascinating cultures with a wide variety of diets, settlement patterns, social structures, religious systems, natural resources, and interactions with one another. Reading the book is like looking through a kaleidoscope, watching patterns form, fall apart, and reassemble - but with the added benefit that the annotated bibliography, and the keywords supplied in the text, serve as excellent jumping off points to explore whichever cultures or locations catch your attention in more detail. I found the maps very helpful as well - there are lots of them, and they are well labelled.

It took me a year to get all the way through this book (interrupted with other books along the way), and it was so worth it. ( )
  bezoar44 | Jul 12, 2015 |
I'm glad this book exists--it fills a much unwanted gap, inasmuch as it's a reasonably approachable introduction to prehistoric Europe and the way it developed into historical Europe. For the first few chapters I was riveted. For the middle half dozen, I was aflame with the thirst for knowledge: Cunliffe describes thousands of years worth of broad historical trends in a fascinating way, never downplaying the difficulty of actually knowing about the distant past, and somehow manages to make archaeology-based economic history fascinating.

Perversely, once he gets to the 'easy' stuff (i.e., the Greeks and after), the book becomes as insipid as dishwater. I suppose if you know nothing about ancient, late ancient and early medieval Europe you'll learn a few things, but it's hard to believe that anyone would pick this up unless they knew something about early historical periods. All the interesting stuff is replaced by thumbnail sketches of battles and kings and so on, which is all well and good, but much better done by others. Had Cunliffe stuck to prehistory, this would have been amazing. As it is, the last quarter is a real let down.

Also, if you're going to orient everything to rivers, you should include an easily accessible map that plainly names all of those rivers. It's my fault for not knowing the geography of Europe well enough, I suppose, but it's still frustrating to be told that so and so did such and such at between the Danube and Don and to have literally no idea what that might mean. ( )
2 vote stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
Barry Cunliffe takes a look at the long-term history of the Asian peninsula we call Europe in the 10,000 years from 9000 BC to AD 1000.

Fascinating. Obviously relies on archaeological discoveries for the first 8500 years, and I always find archaeology heavier going than history, but I'm glad I persevered. Certain themes, such as the movement of peoples from East to West and North to South, and the persistence of certain geographically defined regions (the Mediterranean shores, the Atlantic shore, the North Sea and Baltic shores, and the Central areas), which become interlocking cultural areas as well. ( )
1 vote Robertgreaves | Aug 31, 2012 |
I'm not an expert on prehistory but for the layman this is probably the definitive book on European history from 10,000 BC to about 2,000 BC. It's a period I knew almost nothing about, and even thought there wasn't much to know. The Germanic "barbarians" before the Romans were a mystery that was forever lost. But the amount of detail we know through archaeological evidence is amazing, it's not at all a dark period, it's a huge stretch of history that is beginning to open up and become more clear.

Cunlife looks at big common themes reoccurring through the millennium driven by geography, themes as common today as they were in 6000 BC, and will be in the future. The different zones of culture, the axis of communication and movement of goods (north-south and east-west), the axis of movements of people. Rivers and mountains, oceans and peninsula's carve and divide Europe, along and around which flow people and goods, creating cognitive geographies that further shape culture.

As I was nearing the end of the book, events felt strangely repetitive. By the time written history begins, the patterns of the modern world had already solidified. This perspective is very different from the traditional view of early history as the "new" and beginning, not towards the end of something larger that came before. The book opens new perspectives on the development of civilization in Europe. A wonderful book that has greatly peaked my interest in the "prehistory" of Europe, but also changed my perspective on Europe as a whole.

--Review by Stephen Balbach, via CoolReading (c) 2011 cc-by-nd ( )
2 vote Stbalbach | Jun 26, 2011 |
Cunliffe does geographical anthropology, looking at how land and water shaped European civilization. Fascinating, and definitely accessible to the non-specialist (e.g., me). ( )
1 vote ben_h | Apr 6, 2011 |
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The westerly excrescence of the continent of Asia, which we call Europe, came to dominate the world during the course of the second millennium AD.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0300119232, Hardcover)

In this magnificent book, distinguished archaeologist Barry Cunliffe reframes our entire conception of early European history, from prehistory through the ancient world to the medieval Viking period. Cunliffe views Europe not in terms of states and shifting political land boundaries but as a geographical niche particularly favored in facing many seas. These seas, and Europe’s great transpeninsular rivers, ensured a rich diversity of natural resources while also encouraging the dynamic interaction of peoples across networks of communication and exchange. The development of these early Europeans is rooted in complex interplays, shifting balances, and geographic and demographic fluidity.

Drawing on archaeology, anthropology, and history, Cunliffe has produced an interdisciplinary tour de force. His is a bold book of exceptional scholarship, erudite and engaging, and it heralds an entirely new understanding of Old Europe.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:43 -0400)

By the fifteenth century Europe was a driving world force, but the origins of its success have until now remained obscured in prehistory. In this book, distinguished archaeologist Barry Cunliffe views Europe not in terms of states and shifting political land boundaries but as a geographical niche particularly favored in facing many seas. These seas, and Europe's great transpeninsular rivers, ensured a rich diversity of natural resources while also encouraging the dynamic interaction of peoples across networks of communication and exchange. The development of these early Europeans is rooted in complex interplays, shifting balances, and geographic and demographic fluidity.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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Yale University Press

2 editions of this book were published by Yale University Press.

Editions: 0300119232, 0300170866

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