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Europe Between the Oceans: 9000 BC-AD 1000 [Paperback]

Barry Cunliffe
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
RRP: 19.99
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Book Description

1 Mar 2011
Europe is, in world terms, a relatively minor peninsula attached to the Eurasian land mass, yet it became one of the most innovative regions on the planet, bearing restless adventurers who traversed the globe to trade and often to settle. By the fifteenth century Europe was a driving world force, but the origins of its success have until now remained obscured in prehistory. In this magnificent book, the distinguished archaeologist Barry Cunliffe sees Europe not in terms of states and shifting land boundaries, but as a geographical niche particularly favoured in facing many seas. These and the great transpeninsular rivers ensured a rich diversity of natural resources, and encouraged the interaction of dynamic people across networks of communication and exchange. The development of these early Europeans is rooted in complex interplays, shifting balances, geographic and demographic fluidity. Weaving together titanic concepts whilst remaining sensitive to the specific incidence, this is an interdisciplinary tour de force. A bold book of exceptional scholarship and an erudite and engaging narrative, "Europe Between the Oceans" heralds an entirely new understanding of Old Europe.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (1 Mar 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300170866
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300170863
  • Product Dimensions: 24.5 x 18.9 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 226,321 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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)"


"It's an awesome scholarly monument, but it's also a truly riveting story." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
104 of 123 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too basic, lots of errors and speculations 25 Jan 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is a quick summary of European prehistory, ancient and early medieval history. I bought it chiefly for the prehistoric section (two thirds of the book). It is very readable and well illustrated, but so basic that it reminded me of a secondary school textbook (although a nice one). I didn't learn much. I was annoyed by the fact that Barry Cunliffe speculates a lot and gives his personal opinion everywhere, but not enough archaeological data that would allow the reader to draw his own conclusions. Archaeological periods are usually mentioned without starting and ending dates, which I find unacceptable.

The first three chapters (86 pages) are not about history or archaeology, but consist of a boring description of European geography and geology. There is very little about the central European and Italian Bronze Age; only to sentences about the Unetice culture and not a single mention of the Tumulus culture (1600-1200 BCE), nor of the Terramare culture (1700-1150 BCE), two essential periods to understand the development of Celtic and Italic cultures. There is very little on north-eastern Europe as well.

For a book specifically about European (pre)history, I found that there was an undue emphasis on the Near East (Anatolia, Levant, Egypt) and much too little about Europe beyond Greece, Italy and the Balkans.

Cunliffe keep insisting that no major migration took place between the Pontic steppes and the rest of Europe, despite overwhelming genetic evidence to the contrary. He claims that Indo-European languages came with Neolithic farmers from Anatolia (p.137).
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32 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A European perspective 16 Mar 2009
Following his book 'Facing the Ocean', Cunliffe has written a masterful history of Europeans, and demonstrates how the geography of Europe was instrumental in our development. In his own words, "The complex interaction of human groups with their environment, and with each other." The breadth of the book is enormous, but he skilfully and easily leads the reader through each time zone. He tells us that without the 'gentle intervention' of his publisher, the book would have been very much longer. I for one, wish she hadn't intervened !
This is a book we have been waiting for for a long time. I hope it receives the acclaim it deserves, with not too much 'knocking' from those entrenched in previous interpretations.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good book - needs editing 27 Aug 2010
This is an interesting and engaging book, all the better because Prof Gunliff does not hestitate to speculate boldly on sparse evidence. This is in the nature of the subject. I also appreciated his careful sketch of the geographical features of Europe which early man was able to exploit in gaining a living, creating cultures and in the trading/raiding/conquering formation of inter-cultural relationships and (unstable, if only in the long term) state-like entities among the "barbarians".

My major gripe is that it is so poorly edited, especially as the initial impact is of an expensively produced book. Most obviously, the Overview for Chapter Eleven (about the rise of Rome!) appears as part of the previous chapter. This slackness is apparent throughout the book. At first you feel the lack of a consistent timescale merely reflects the different chronologies of different zones of Europe, but it soon becomes clear that the repitition and backtracking is an editorial oversight. As are the inconsistencies (or even mistakes) in dates and the naming of geographical features. The maps take some careful reading, because of the use of closely toned colours, supposedly to differentiate areas. They often use different names from that used in the text (or perhaps the Dneper is a different river from the Dnieper, but one is named in the text and the other on the map). Most irritating is his use of a very recondite vocabulary, presumably derived from archaeological usage. With a smattering of Latin you probably (but I would hesitate to say usually) could make out what is meant. Without some Greek, you are sunk.
That said, it was still informative and enjoyable, refocusing (though really not enough) away from Classical/Historical accounts of the later part of this period.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Never to be bettered 21 April 2012
By barnton
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you are interested in the topic, as I am, this book is a tour de force and is unlikely ever to be bettered. If the topic doesn't interest you or you are just starting to be interested in the subject, then you will find it hard going and you should look for something less all-encompassing.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Challenging and Superb 1 July 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is the type of book that Archaeology has needed for a long long time.

It wears its scholastic depth lightly and it is very well written. Lots of contenious and challenging
stuff here but it has the firm underpinning of academic work to support it.

Ignore Wilmington's tired pseudo scholastic criticism ( if you cant work out how artefacts traded at sea ports make their way inland then...jeeeeez ) ....

Face it are you going to take a chance on purchasing this book on the basis of:
Cunliffe...President, Council for British Archaeology, menber of the Ancient Monuments Advisory Committee of English Heritage, since 1984, Member, Advisory Committee of The Discovery Programme (Ireland), since 1991, Governor, Museum of London
Fellow, Society of Antiquaries of London , Chair, Advisory Committee for the e-journal Internet Archaeology
Knighted on 17 June 2006, Chair of English Heritage in September 2008 and Chairman of The British Museum Friends or...some bloke on Amazon...?

Cracking book...dont have to agree with everything in it but its a superb bit of work.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Takes a while to get on side with this book but then really good
Published 22 days ago by Michael Houlihan
5.0 out of 5 stars A splendid book
Very well researched and absolutely accessible writing. Gave this as a present, and it was very well received by the recipient.
Published 9 months ago by Mr Phil Rowe
5.0 out of 5 stars Just buy it.
Lovely book ! Such a breadth of coverage and full of interesting and exciting hypothesis about the origins of our civilisation. Just buy it , - you'll see what I mean. Read more
Published 9 months ago by normalfornorfolk
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating subject
I have long been fascinated by prehistory and this is a must have to add to my books on the topic, it is well written by an expert in the field what more can one ask for.
Published 10 months ago by canarybird
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Read
This is a great read about the arrival of people on the tiny peninsular of Euroasia called Europe, all squeezed into its historical context.
Published 11 months ago by Lamu Hermit
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply superb
This book is simply superb, a must-have. It explains our complex past in terms we can all understand, without ever being "dumbed down" or condescending.
Prof. Read more
Published on 4 Jun 2012 by Pat Edinburgh
5.0 out of 5 stars Europe Between the Oceans
Prof Cunliffe does it again. This is a super, in depth, summary of the Mediterranean and European world from 9000 BC to 1000 AD. The scholarship is as usual -- excellent. Read more
Published on 27 July 2011 by Dr. D. M. Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars A fabulous read for non specialist
An enjoyable synthesis of European history and the effects of migration, climate change and supply and demand. Read more
Published on 15 May 2011 by TRich
3.0 out of 5 stars What has happened to Christianity
This book is very readable and beautifully produced. It would be an excellent introduction to the pre-history of Europe for the general reader. Read more
Published on 30 Jan 2010 by E. Woolley
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