Europe: A History

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From the ice age to the Cold War, from Reykjavik to the Volga, from Minos to Margaret Thatcher, Norman Davies here tells the entire history of Europe in one single volume. The narrative zooms in from the distant focus of Chapter One, which explores the first five million years of the continent's development, to the close focus of the last two chapters, which cover the twentieth century at roughly one page per year. In between, Norman Davies presents a vast canvas packed with startling detail and thoughtful ...
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Overview

From the ice age to the Cold War, from Reykjavik to the Volga, from Minos to Margaret Thatcher, Norman Davies here tells the entire history of Europe in one single volume. The narrative zooms in from the distant focus of Chapter One, which explores the first five million years of the continent's development, to the close focus of the last two chapters, which cover the twentieth century at roughly one page per year. In between, Norman Davies presents a vast canvas packed with startling detail and thoughtful analysis. Alongside Europe's better-known stories - human, national and international - he examines subjects often spurned or neglected - Europe's stateless nations, for example, as well as the nation-states and great powers, and the minority groups from heretics and lepers to Romanies, Jews, and Muslims. He reveals not only the rich diversity of Europe's past but also the numerous prisms through which it can be viewed.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's 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. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Historian Davies (Heart of Europe, 1984) is perfect for this ambitious project, a panoramic history of Europe from prehistoric times to the present. He reminds readers that East and West have much in common, beginning with a long, conjoined history of events, personalities, movements, and concepts. Narrative chapters alternate with tableaux of specific events; there are numerous digressive inserts. The prose is elegant throughout; Davies's comments are always insightful and frequently witty. (Of the Western historians' dismissal of the Magyars as "not a creative factor in Western history," he comments: "All this means is that the Magyars did not reach Cambridge.") The author muses on "the extreme contrast between the material advancement of European civilization and the terrible regression in political and intellectual values." At last, a truly pan-European history that rests firmly on solid scholarship and exhibits wisdom and literary elegance; highly recommended.-David Keymer, California State Univ., Stanislaus
Booknews
An ambitious, well-written history of Europe chronicling the continent's first five million years of development to the close of the 20th century. Davies (history, U. of London) presents a map of time and space filled with topics and in-depth analysis of the human, national, and international stories well-known to readers as well as neglected subjects such as Europe's stateless nations, and minority groups from heretics and lepers to Romanies and Muslims. Each discussion highlights a specific issue that cuts across the chronology and concludes with a "snapshot" of the whole continent captured during one symbolic moment, creating a historical picture album effect. Includes maps, illustrations, and a historical compendium. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195209129
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 12/5/1996
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 1424
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.62 (h) x 2.55 (d)

Meet the Author

About the Author:
Norman Davies is Professor of Polish History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London. His previous books include God's Playground, A History of Europe (2 volumes), and Heart of Europe: A Short History of Poland.

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Read an Excerpt

Europe

A History
By Norman Davies

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Norman Davies
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060974680

Chapter One

Peninsula

Environment and Prehistory

There is a marked determinism about many descriptions of Europe's environmental history. Many Europeans have assumed that their 'continent' was so magnificently endowed that it was destined by Nature for world supremacy. And many have imagined that Europe's good fortune would somehow last forever. 'The empire of climate', wrote Montesquieu in 1748, 'is the first of all empires'; and he proceeded to show that the European climate had no rival. For Montesquieu, as for his many successors, Europe was synonymous with Progress.1

There has also been a good deal of national parochialism. Even the founder of human geography, the great Paul Vidal de la Blache (1845-1918), one of the intellectual ancestors of the Annales school, was not above a touch of Gallic chauvinizing. The geography of France, he stressed, was marked by the keynote of variety. 'Against the diversities which assail her', he wrote, 'France sets her force d'assimilarion, her power of assimilation. She transforms everything that she receives.' On Britain, in contrast, he quotes the doggerel lines about 'this paltry little isle, I with acres few and weather vile'. Onehundred years later one finds Fernand Braudel doing similar things.2 Variety is indeed a characteristic of France's superb make-up. But it is not a French monopoly; it is a hallmark of Europe as a whole.

In fact, the Peninsula of Europe is not really a 'continent' at all: it is not a self-contained land mass. At c.10 million km2 (3.6 million square miles), it is less than one-quarter the size of Asia, one-third of Africa, one-half of each of the Americas. Modern geographers classify it, like India, as a subcontinent of Eurasia: 'a cape of the old continent, a western appendix of Asia'. Even so, it is impossible to deny that Europe has been endowed with a formidable repertoire of physical features. Europe's landforms, climate, geology, and fauna have combined to produce a benign environment that is essential to an understanding of its development.

Europe's landforms do not resemble those of any other continent or sub-continent. The depressions to north and south have been flooded by the ocean to form two parallel sea-chains which penetrate deep into the interior. In the north, the North Sea-Baltic sea lane stretches 1,500 miles (2,500 km) from the Atlantic to Russia. In the south, the Mediterranean-Black Sea system stretches over 2,400 miles (4,000 km) from Gibraltar to the Caucasus. Within these protected seas lie a vast complex of lesser gulfs and a huge spangle of islands. As a result, the ratio of shoreline to landmass is exceptionally high: at c.37,000 km, or more than 23,000 miles, the European shoreline is almost exactly the length of the Equator. For early Man, this was perhaps the most important measure of accessibility.

What is more, since the shores of the Peninsula lie in the temperate latitudes of Eurasia's western extremity, they are served by a user-friendly climate. Prevailing ocean winds blow westerly; and it is the western coasts of the great continents that stand to benefit most from the moderating influx of sea air. Yet few other west-facing continental coasts can actually enjoy the advantage. Elsewhere, if the western shore is not blocked by towering peaks or icy currents, it is lined by deserts such as the Sahara, the Kalahari, or the Atacama.

The climate of Europe, therefore, is unusually temperate for its latitude. Generally speaking, under the influence of the Gulf Stream, northern Europe is mild and moist; southern Europe is relatively warm, dry, and sunny. Central and eastern Europe enjoy elements of a true continental climate, with clear, cold winters and baking hot summers. But everywhere the weather is changeable. Extremes are usually avoided. Even in European Russia, where the difference between the mean temperatures of January and July can approach 45°C, the range is only half what it is in Siberia. The wettest district in Europe is in western Norway, with an average annual precipitation of 3,500 mm (138 inches). The dryest district surrounds the Caspian Sea, with less than 250 mm ( inches) per annum. The coldest spot is Vorkuta, with a mean January chill of -20 °C; the hottest is disputed between Seville and Astrakhan, both with mean July roasts of +29 °C. These extremes do not compare with their counterparts in Asia, Africa, or the Americas.

Europe's temperate climate favoured the requirements of primitive agriculture. Most of the Peninsula lies within the natural zone of cultivable grasses. There were abundant woodlands to provide fuel and shelter. Upland pasture often occurs in close proximity to fertile valleys. In the west and south, livestock can winter in the open. Local conditions frequently encouraged special adaptations. The extensive coastline, combined with the broad Continental Shelf, gave fishermen rich rewards. The open plains, especially of the Danube Basin, preserved the nomadic horse-rearing and cattle-driving of the Eurasian steppes. In the Alps -- which take their name from the high pastures above the tree-line -- transhumance has been practised from an early date.

Europe's climate was probably also responsible for the prevalent skin-colour of its human fauna. Moderate levels of sunshine, and hence of ultra-violet radiation, meant that moderate levels of pigmentation came to be encoded in the Peninsula's gene pool. Certainly, in historic times pale faces have predominated, together with blond or golden hair and blue eyes in the northern regions. The great majority of Europeans and their descendants can be easily recognized as such from their looks.

Until recently, of course, it was impossible to take anything but the most superficial racial factors into consideration. The analysis of blood groups, body tissues, and DNA imprints, for example, was unknown until the late twentieth century; and it was not realized just how much genetic material all human beings have in common. As a result, racial theorists were apt to draw conclusions from external criteria such as skin colour, stature, or skull form. In reality, the racial make-up of Europe's population has always displayed considerable variety. The tall, blue-eyed, fair-skinned, platinum blonds of the so-called 'Nordic race' which established itself in Scandinavia forms the only group remotely qualified for the label of 'white'. They bore little resemblance to the squat, brown-eyed, swarthy-skinned and black-haired people of the so-called 'Mediterranean' or 'Indo-Mediterranean Race' which dominated large parts of the south. . . .

Continues...


Excerpted from Europe by Norman Davies Copyright © 2006 by Norman Davies. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Key Concept Chart
Introduction
Acknowledgments
Ch. I The Burdens of History: Nuclear Weapons, the Cold War, and Massive Defense Spending 3
I.1 The Nuclear FAQ
I.2 The Man Behind the Bomb 9
I.3 How Soviet Physicists Caught Up 18
I.4 Four Trillion Dollars and Counting 25
I.5 Midnight Never Came 37
Ch. II The Proliferation Problem: Will "They" Get the Bomb? 53
II.1 The Myth of the Islamic Bomb 56
II.2 Engineer for Hire 64
II.3 Black-Market Bombs and Fissile Flim-Flam 68
II.4 Potatoes Were Guarded Better 76
II.5 Non-Proliferation Regime: Jury-Rigged but Working 79
Ch. III Legacies of Insecurity: Human Costs, Societal Impacts, and Environmental Disasters 89
III.1 Victims of the Arms Race 92
III.2 Nothing Clean about Cleanup 94
III.3 Who the Hell Will Insure Us? 98
III.4 Poisoned Pacific 101
III.5 Chernobyl: The Decade of Despair 105
III.6 Nuclear Language and How I Learned to Pat the Bomb 114
Ch. IV From Foe to Friends? The Soviet Successor States 125
IV.1 Russia Will Turn Inward 128
IV.2 Baltic Pride, Russian Tears 132
IV.3 Kazakhstan Finds Its Own Way 139
IV.4 Power Play in Central Asia 144
IV.5 Armenia's Energy Choice 148
Ch. V Promoting Global Cooperation: Multilateral Peacekeeping and Sanctions 159
V.1 Phantom Forces, Diminished Dreams 162
V.2 We Are Dying of Your Protection 167
V.3 A Stronger U.N. Strengthens America 173
V.4 Misreading the Public on Peacekeeping 180
V.5 On Sanctions, Think Small 183
V.6 Who Suffers from Sanctions? 188
Ch. VI Arms and Security at Millennium's End 193
VI.1 More Security for Less Money 196
VI.2 A Chinese View on Nuclear Disarmament 202
VI.3 World Court Says Mostly No to Nuclear Weapons 205
VI.4 The Revolt Against Nuclear Weapons 208
VI.5 Comprehensive Test Ban Only a Beginning 211
VI.6 Four Steps to Zero 215
Ch. VII The Emergence of Global Citizenship 223
VII.1 Scientists as Public Educators: 1945-50 226
VII.2 The Global Tide 230
VII.3 A Movement Is Born 238
VII.4 The Revolutions of 1989 243
VII.5 Squeezing Apartheid 248
VII.6 Remember Your Humanity 253
Index 265
About the Contributors 273
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