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Europe: A History

4.1 out of 5 stars 186 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0060974688
ISBN-10: 0060974680
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

With Europe: A History, University of London professor Norman Davies has undertaken the near impossible: a synthetic one-volume overview of Europe from prehistory through the present. Remarkably, he has succeeded. Europe: A History is a conventional narrative, proceeding forward in time at a gradually decelerating pace. (The beginning covers millions of years of prehistory, while the final chapter discusses the 46 years between World War II and the book's publication.) But Davies's writing--vigorous, incisive, and confidently knowledgeable--carries the reader along, while the steady sweep of the main narrative is broken up by "capsules," boxed passages examining particular places, customs, or issues that cut across chronological lines. Davies, who has written two books on Polish history, also gives the eastern part of Europe its due coverage, unlike many of his predecessors, and manages to include commoners and the persecuted or ignored in his story along with the mighty and the royal. Europe: A History won't please everybody, but it's a highly intelligent, superbly readable overview that is certain to become a standard text. --This text refers to the Digital 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 the Digital edition.

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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: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (186 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,884 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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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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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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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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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