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Europe: A History Paperback – January 20, 1998

ISBN-13: 978-0060974688 ISBN-10: 0060974680

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1392 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (January 20, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060974680
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060974688
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 2.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (154 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #93,084 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

The pre-eminent scholar of Polish history, Davies (God's Playground and Heart of Europe) expands his focus to all of Europe. While the book is bulky, its size is hardly adequate to a complete history of the continent from pre-history to the dismantling of the Soviet Union. In addition, as one might expect, Davies has taken great pains to treat countries other than England, France and Germany as legitimate parts of Europe?not just as the thresholds over which barbarians crossed. ("For some reason it has been the fashion among some historians to minimize the impact of the Magyars," Davies writes when discussing what would become central Europe. "All this means is that the Magyars did not reach Cambridge.") The book works because his subject is not the constituent countries but the continent as a whole. Thus, while Elizabeth I gets one brief mention in passing, Aristide Briand, the French foreign minister who tried to effect a Franco-German reconciliation until the Nazis won power, gets several paragraphs. Aside from defining what Europe is and giving all countries their due, Davies also tries to show the joys of an inclusive reading of historical subjects (he disparages excessive specialization and writes admiringly of the Annales school). A master of broad-brushstroke synthesis, Davies navigates through the larger historical currents with the detail necessary to a well-written engaging narrative.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

I have read both Robert's and Davies' books on general European history.
Paul Brazis
The essays, structured much like a hyperlink, explain some interesting nuance, concept, or historical figure mentioned in the main text in some detail.
Greg Lynn
A book that will find its place with all your other desk references or by your armchair for a long and enjoyable read.
James Ferguson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

127 of 134 people found the following review helpful By James Ferguson VINE VOICE on January 5, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book has proven to be one of my most valuable desk references. I wished I had bought the hardback, given the wear and tear on it over the 6 years I have had it. Davies has done a marvelous job of condensing a tremendous amount of history into one volume. He approaches it in a three-fold way. He provides a richly flowing narrative that covers the story of Europe much like an epic novel. He intersperses the narrative with an extensive series of "Capsules" that take in special events and interesting asides in the development of a European identity. Lastly, he provides a massive set of appendices that cover everything from royal lines to WWII death tolls.
The narrative is divided into a set of 12 chapters that cover broad periods of time starting with the environment and prehistory of the contintnet to the Cold War era. Davies has a tremendous command of the events which shaped Europe. His strength lies in his understanding of Eastern Europe, and in particular Poland, expanding the breadth of the continent beyond its usual eastern borders. In fact one might say that Davies has made the case to rethink European history along Eastern European lines, which is the logical extension of his earlier two-volume history of Poland. He takes in Russian history, with special attention to its Slavic roots. He deals with the inevitable conflicts that arose and provides good summaries of the World Wars. He deals with the restoration of Western Europe and the demise of Eastern Europe following WWII along ideological lines, noting how one rose at the expense of the other. He chooses to end his narrative with the collapse of the Soviet Union, providing a short epilogue on his thoughts concerning the new allignments in Europe.
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56 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Richard R. Carlton on September 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a totally absorbing, sparkling romp over the just completed millennium of European history. A fantastic job, although I will agree with other reviewers that this can be a tough read if you are not already familiar with much of the range of ethnic and national history.
Davies clearly states his premise in the Introduction.....his desire to provide a single volumn survey that provides an evenly magnified view from both the number of pages per year and the geographic/ethnic perspective of the writer. His objective is to avoid focusing on recent centuries or recently predominant cultures at the expense of more distant or less studied times or regions. This alone is a worthy effort and makes the entire tome almost an obligatory read for a serious amateur historian like myself.
Davies provides several ingenious aids to your perspective as you plow through this vast field of information. There are 300 capsules that entertain as well as provide tangential sideshows. (Did you know that Pope John Paul II approved the exhumation of Elizabeth of Austria's tomb in 1973 in an attempt to foser Polish patriotism, yet 16 people may have died from the bacilli that were released? Or, how about stretching your mind by trying to comprehend the horror of Stalin's genocidal act of state policy as he created an artificial famine by cordoning off the Ukraine in 1932-3 until 7 million people were dead?) This is a powerful book.
Even better is the orientation of the European maps throughout the book so that you are looking at them with the west uppermost, thus viewing the continent as the first settlers (and more importantly, central and eastern Europeans) perceived their relationships.
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61 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Paul Brazis on January 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I have read both Robert's and Davies' books on general European history. Robert's book is an excellent, concise introduction to the history of Europe that can be read in several weeks. After reading Robert's text, one has a good concept and understanding of the "basics." Davies' book includes all of the data covered by Roberts but goes into much greater detail, including many names, locations, etc only alluded to in Robert's work. The "capsules" that occur throughout the volume are indeed irritating but sometimes interesting. The stressing of Eastern Europe is not a problem and often adds much interesting information. Davies' book is much more "meaty" than Roberts'. Thus, if you want a concise introduction and review of a very extensive topic, read Roberts; if you want a more comprehensive and involved text, read Davies; or ideally, read both but start with Robert's text!
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Hoke on August 7, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I lived in Europe for 3 1/2 years while in the Army. I lived in Germany and was deployed to Kosovo for over a year. I traveled to nearly 20 countries and countless cities in that time. This book was with me for it all.

With this book Davies attempts the enormous task of trying to plot the entire history of Europe from its creation up until modern times. Although no work of this type could possibly be complete in one volume, Davies does a very good job in hitting almost everything you could want.

This is essentially a reference book. It gives you a good starting point on almost any subject or period you are interested in. I would suggest a basic knowledge of European history before trying to read this cover to cover like I did.

Even though it is rather bulky I took it with me on all of my travels. Every city I went to I used this to maximize my travel so that I could focus on what I thought would be most interesting. Lets face it a normal guidebook will bring you to the places a tourist would find interesting and not what is necessarily historically significant.

Although there are a lot of books that are more specific than this work in any given area none are as complete a compendium as this work is. If you are a student of history then this book is a necessity.
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More About the Author

Norman Davies C. M. G., F. B. A. is Professor Emeritus of the University of London, a Supernumerary Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford, and the author of several books on Polish and European history, including God's Playground, White Eagle, Red Star, The Isles, Europe, and Microcosm.

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