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Europe Between the Oceans: 9000 BC-AD 1000 Paperback – April 26, 2011

58 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Cunliffe, emeritus professor of archeology at Oxford, colorfully weaves history, geography archeology and anthropology into a mesmerizing tapestry chronicling the development of Europe. The sheer size of the European coastlines, as well as the inland rivers pouring into these seas, enabled many groups to move easily from one place to another and establish cultures that flourished commercially. Between 2800 and 1300 B.C., for example, Britain, the Nordic states, Greece and the western Mediterranean states were bound together by their maritime exchange of bronze, whose use in Britain and Ireland had spread by 1400 B.C. to Greece and the Aegean. From 800 to 500 B.C.—the three hundred years that changed the world—the Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans and Carthaginians emerged from relative obscurity into major empires whose struggles to control the seas were for the first time recorded in writing. Cunliffe points out that each oceanic culture developed unique sailing vessels for the kinds of commerce peculiar to it. Richly told, Cunliffe's tale yields a wealth of insights into the earliest days of European civilization. Illus., maps. (Sept.)
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Review

"'When history is written in this way, conventional priorities are overthrown... An admirable distillation of an enormous amount of evidence - full of what is beautiful, interesting and true.' (James Fenton, The Sunday Times (London)) 'To somebody like myself, who enjoys 'big history' (and prehistory), this supplies it with a vengeance... The author is one of our greatest living archaeologists, writing at the height of his powers and with decades of accumulated knowledge brought into play. The result is a cascade of maps, illustrations and (above all) vivid, informed, assured prose.' (Ronald Hutton, History Today) 'Barry Cunliffe's latest book represents the synthesis of half a century studying the archaeology of Europe... He has established a pre-eminent reputation for mastery of a huge corpus of Europe-wide data, and an ability to construct panoramic overviews of past epochs. His latest book is his most ambitious so far.' (Current Archaeology) 'Nothing less than a masterwork, a gloriously sweeping survey of the early history of Europe drawn by a scholar and archaeologist at the very peak of his powers.' (Alistair Moffat, The Scotsman)"

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (April 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300170866
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300170863
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 7.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,410 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

113 of 117 people found the following review helpful By K. Kehler on November 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a remarkable overview of an important period in human history in what we now call Europe (basically the period from the end of the last ice age to the medieval period, and covering the beginnings of farming and the rise of cities and settlements: the Neolithic and post-Neolithic period). This is also a summary of archeologist Cunliffe's other works, now contained between two covers. The author discusses everything from trade, migration and the domestication of animals to art and literature -- with Homer's great oral tales in particular getting very good treatment -- and of course languages and warfare. It is well written (on paper is of an exceptional quality) and filled with wonderful crisp and clear photographs, as well as charts and diagrams. The only possible downside is the sheer weight of the book, making it resemble a coffee book, though it isn't that. So, all in all, a great work about an important subject -- the big picture of how the West came to be the West we know -- by a learned and lucid expert in the field(s), pitched at the intelligent ordinary reader, to boot.
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63 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Robert J. Melton on January 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a great treasure - if I was headed for a desert island it would be one of the ten books I would take with me. (And that is after a good forty years of reading history and literature) Cunliffe gives a wide and deep summary of Europe's growth and evolution from the paleolithic to the Roman empire. Unlike so many historians with narrow views, he weaves together findings from archaeology, climatology, geographpy, medical genetics, social history and ecology. His prose is a miracle of clarity, conciseness and sparkled here and there with a little wit and mischief. He highlights the big controversies, lets you know where he stands on them, but is never dogmatic or overbearing. He writes from a long career in this field, yet everything in the book is right up to date. The maps, charts and photos are all a graphic designer's dream - perfectly rendered and always completely integrated with the text. In fact, the book is a publisher's masterpiece. I could go on and on - but just go out and get this!!
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49 of 53 people found the following review helpful By History buff on December 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Along with Mithen's After The Ice, this is the most enjoyable book on European prehistory that I have read. Filled with colorful maps and photos that follow along with the text descriptions, written elegantly and with enough detail to not seem too "dumbed-down" for the layman. If every professor or researcher published their books in such an appealing and vibrant fashion, it would cut into the ratings of the Science and History channels.
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118 of 143 people found the following review helpful By Wilmington on January 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book is a quick summary of European prehistory, ancient and early medieval history. I bought it chiefly for the prehistoric section (two thirds of the book). It is very readable and well illustrated, but so basic that it reminded me of a secondary school textbook (although a nice one). I didn't learn much. I was annoyed by the fact that Barry Cunliffe speculates a lot and gives his personal opinion everywhere, but not enough archaeological data that would allow the reader to draw his own conclusions. Archaeological periods are usually mentioned without starting and ending dates, which I find unacceptable.

The first three chapters (86 pages) are not about history or archaeology, but consist of a boring description of European geography and geology. There is very little about the central European and Italian Bronze Age; only to sentences about the Unetice culture and not a single mention of the Tumulus culture (1600-1200 BCE), nor of the Terramare culture (1700-1150 BCE), two essential periods to understand the development of Celtic and Italic cultures. There is very little on north-eastern Europe as well.

For a book specifically about European (pre)history, I found that there was an undue emphasis on the Near East (Anatolia, Levant, Egypt) and much too little about Europe beyond Greece, Italy and the Balkans.

Cunliffe keep insisting that no major migration took place between the Pontic steppes and the rest of Europe, despite overwhelming genetic evidence to the contrary. He claims that Indo-European languages came with Neolithic farmers from Anatolia (p.137).
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46 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Michael Gunther on August 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
What can be said about a "history" of ancient Europe that doesn't even mention Socrates, let alone the Druids? That it is not a conventional history! As Cunliffe readily explains, his book is concerned with the long-term trends in European history, not the short-term ephemera of particular people and events. This is debatable in principle ("For want of a nail... the kingdom was lost," as Shakespeare put it), and even more restrictive in practice, for "Europe Between The Oceans" confines itself exclusively to the movement of populations and goods, i.e. territories and trade, across and around the varied geography of Europe. This is understandable in a physical archaeologist of the now-outdated (1960's!) French "Annales" school, for whom the object record is paramount, but it is so far from the whole story as to turn the book itself into a prime example of the limitations of this sort of methodology. There are, after all, long-term trends (the infamous "longues durees" so beloved of French theory) to be discerned in science and technology, political and legal systems, social organization, art and literature, philosophy and religion. Yet Cunliffe argues that geography and trade routes are the determining factors in human (or at least, European) history. Not Proven! Consider, for example, the author's concluding remarks, in which he opines that Europeans were restless explorers because they had a "pioneering spirit" (p. 475). This is like saying (to quote Voltaire's satire) that people sleep because of a "dormative principle."

Turning from theory to a reader's practical concerns, I think that many readers will not be able to get through the book's endless recitals of who traded what to whom. It is very heavy going. For example (p.
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