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Europe Between the Oceans: Themes and Variations, 9000 BC - AD 1000 Hardcover – September 2, 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 518 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1st edition (September 2, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300119232
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300119237
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 1.5 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #473,213 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"This is a truly remarkable book... It is immensely readable and totally authoritative... No one could read this book, one of its distinguished author's finest achievements, without pleasure and profit. Simply put, it is excellent: original, exciting and a delight to read"—Roger Collins, author of Visigoth Spain, 409-711 and Early Medieval Europe, 300-1000
(Roger Collins)

"Cunliffe provides an enthralling history of Europe from end of the last ice age to the brink of global exploration, an extraordinary story told with unsurpassed knowledge and insight." - Steven Mithen, author of After the Ice: A Global Human History 20,000-5000 BC

(Steven Mithen)

"This book is an achievement of astonishing scope: the first to present the whole prehistory of Europe from the origins of farming to the rise of urban society with evident authority, and then to go on to review the Roman world right through to the dawn of the Middle Ages. A pioneering work of synthesis on a continental scale, this is the first coherent overview of the origins of Europe which meets the challenge of treading the path from prehistory into the full light of history. Only an archaeologist could have written it, yet Professor Cunliffe has an impressive grasp also of the historical sources for the Roman world and its aftermath. His easy style should please the general reader, while the boldness and assurance of his masterly treatment will challenge and intrigue the specialist." - Lord Colin Renfrew, Formerly Disney Professor of Archaeology and Director of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge

(Colin Renfrew)

“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)

(James Fenton The Sunday Times 2008-08-08)

"Europe Between the Oceans, at once compelling and judicious, is an extraordinary book. A work of analytical depth and imaginative sweep. . . . Lavishly illustrated and replete with a sumptuous array of creatively conceived color maps . . ."—Benjamin Schwarz, Atlantic Monthly
(Benjamin Schwarz Atlantic Monthly 2009-05-11)

"Vibrant. . . . Europe Between the Oceans is eminently readable [and] synthesizes major themes in archaeology and history. . . . One of the most accessible discussions available."—Cheryl Ward, International Journal of Maritime History
(Cheryl Ward International Journal of Maritime History)

"This tale is a human one, admirably told within a variety of geographical and ecological contexts. . . . Remarkable. . . . Europe between the Oceans is a model of interdisciplinary environmental history and a thoroughly enjoyable work. Cunliffe gracefully distills the essence of European development across a span of time as few authors would attempt, and he does so without sacrificing detail. It is admirable in its accessibility, currency, and scope, with much to offer general readers as well as historians and archaeologists."—Vicki Ellen Szabo, Journal of World History
(Vicki Ellen Szabo Journal of World History)

“Cunliffe has written an extraordinary book, which is the culmination of a lifetime’s research and thinking about early European history. This is archaeology that truly is history, a definitive account of early Europe from its beginnings to medieval times that draws effortlessly on a myriad of sources. Archaeologists, general readers, and historians alike will delight in this historical tapestry.”—Brian Fagan, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of The Long Summer

(Brian Fagan)

Customer Reviews

His book serves readers a staggering amount of information.
Richard Reese (author of Sustainable or Bust)
I would say that the content of the book is worth four stars with another added for the quality of the hardcover edition.
I love this book and recommend it to everyone interested in Ancient European History.
E. Mcmahon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

108 of 112 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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57 of 60 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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47 of 51 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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101 of 121 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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42 of 50 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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