The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization

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Humanity evolved in an Ice Age in which glaciers covered much of the world. But starting about 15,000 years ago, temperatures began to climb. Civilization and all of recorded history occurred in this warm period, the era known as the Holocene-the long summer of the human species. In The Long Summer, Brian Fagan brings us the first detailed record of climate change during these 15,000 years of warming, and shows how this climate change gave rise to civilization. A thousand-year chill led people in the Near East to take up the cultivation of plant foods; a catastrophic flood drove settlers to inhabit Europe; the drying of the Sahara forced its inhabitants to live along the banks of the Nile; and increased rainfall in East Africa provoked the bubonic plague. The Long Summer illuminates for the first time the centuries-long pattern of human adaptation to the demands and challenges of an ever-changing climate-challenges that are still with us today.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Fagan (anthropology, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara) is an author with many books to his credit, including two that focus on the impact of climatic conditions upon historical developments. In his latest exploration of this subject, Fagan looks at the effect of rising temperatures over the past 15,000 years and how this has influenced human civilizations. While most of human evolution occurred during the Ice Age, it is only when glaciers started to recede and temperatures and sea levels started to rise that humans invented agricultural techniques, which led them to build permanent cities and communities. Recent analysis of climate records during this warm period (the Holocene) provides the framework against which historical transitions are now being studied. Fagan postulates that changes due to warming led to the cattle-herding culture among ancient Egyptians and the Masai; Middle Eastern droughts spawned plant cultivation; rising sea levels created the Persian Gulf and Fertile Crescent, which generated the rise of Mesopotamia. Extremely readable and thought-provoking, this book should appeal to many people, including those concerned with global warming and its implications for the future. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.-Gloria Maxwell, Penn Valley Community Coll. Lib., Kansas City, MO Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465022823
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 1/1/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 794,589
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Brian Fagan is Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. A former Guggenheim Fellow, he has written many internationally acclaimed popular books about archaeology, including The Little Ice Age, Floods, Famines, and Emperors, and The Long Summer. He lives in Santa Barbara, California.
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Table of Contents

Preface xi
Author's Note xvii
1 The Threshold of Vulnerability 1
Part I Pumps and Conveyor Belts
2 The Late Ice Age Orchestra, 18,000 to 13,500 B.C. 13
3 The Virgin Continent, 15,000 to 11,000 B.C. 35
4 Europe During the Great Warming, 15,000 to 11,000 B.C. 59
5 The Thousand-Year Drought, 11,000 to 10,000 B.C. 79
Part II The Centuries of Summer
6 The Cataclysm, 10,000 to 4000 B.C. 99
7 Droughts and Cities, 6200 to 1900 B.C. 127
8 Gifts of the Desert, 6000 to 3100 B.C. 147
Part III The Distance Between Good and Bad Fortune
9 The Dance of Air and Ocean, 2200 to 1200 B.C. 169
10 Celts and Romans, 1200 B.C. to A.D. 900 189
11 The Great Droughts, A.D. 1 to 1200 213
12 Magnificent Ruins, A.D. 1 to 1200 229
Epilogue, A.D. 1200 to Modern Times 247
Notes 253
Acknowledgments 271
Index 273
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 14, 2011

    Worth Reading

    That climate affects the course of civilizations is hardly a novel idea. But, whereas prior to about the 1970s, historians and archeologists would include commentary on climate as an aside, current literature has tended to place climate effects squarely in the role of prime mover.

    In this book, one of several on history and pre-history, Brian Fagan examines the impact of past climates on the course of the development and collapse of several civilizations worldwide. The author displays an encyclopedic knowledge of pre-history with interesting tales, full of archeological insights, that move in circuitous paths and at a dizzying pace from Europe to America, the Middle East, North Africa, etc. and around again. The emphasis in this tour is on the so-called Medieval Warm Period which lasted from about 800 to 1300 AD.

    As would be suggested by the sub-title, the author begins and ends this book with clear statements of his goal - to show how climate change has impacted, both positively and negatively, the course of several civilizations - and what may be in store for modern man. However, the main body of the text does not consistently place climate as the central player with much of the discussion dealing purely with historical, economic and political events not securely tied to climate. A series of time-scales helps somewhat to balance the wandering.

    Without ever mentioning Malthaus, this book does an excellent job of laying down a fundamentally neo-Malthusian case for the vulnerability of all civilizations to climate change. When times are good, populations expand and civilizations, especially population centers, develop. When times are poor, some civilizations respond by hunkering down with new technologies, etc. and get by. When times get worse, civilizations collapse either by dispersing or annihilation.

    Although this is not a climate science text, some editing of the science would have helped. For example, in amongst a discussion of climatic effects of upwelling along the California coast, a nicely draw diagram represents, in fact, the South American coast - the prevailing winds should be moving from north to south in California (or west to east in the Santa Barbara channel).

    This book is worth reading for its tales of pre-history alone, but is worthy of a place in the climate literature for its unique emphasis on the vulnerability of civilizations to climate change - a critical aspect of the climate "debate" often overlooked by both "sides".

    Richard R. Pardi, Environmental Science, William Paterson University

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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