48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
A Unique Balanced Perspective On European History,
This review is from: Europe: A History (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. Especially for those of us with anglized perspectives, it's a very good thing to see the distance and small scale with which the western European nations hold by comparison with the mass of the rest of the continent.
This book is remarkable in the unique perceptual orientations it provides. When added to the balanced approach of the quantity of text, there is a true effort to provide a non-western European view and this is very much needed. A great job and a worthy read for anyone serious about the past of our species.