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.)
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"'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)) 'To somebody like myself, who enjoys 'big history' (and prehistory), this supplies it with a vengeance... The author is one of our greatest living archaeologists, writing at the height of his powers and with decades of accumulated knowledge brought into play. The result is a cascade of maps, illustrations and (above all) vivid, informed, assured prose.' (Ronald Hutton, History Today) 'Barry Cunliffe's latest book represents the synthesis of half a century studying the archaeology of Europe... He has established a pre-eminent reputation for mastery of a huge corpus of Europe-wide data, and an ability to construct panoramic overviews of past epochs. His latest book is his most ambitious so far.' (Current Archaeology) 'Nothing less than a masterwork, a gloriously sweeping survey of the early history of Europe drawn by a scholar and archaeologist at the very peak of his powers.' (Alistair Moffat, The Scotsman)"