12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Reads like a novel, 12 Jan. 2006
I was given this book as a present. It lay on the table for a couple of weeks before I finally picked it up. Then I couldn't put it down.
Fagan brings together great professional experience to summarise existing anthropological and archaeological evidence, and paints pictures of the human strategies for survival in good and bad environmental conditions over the past 15,000 years. He describes the progressive developments of societies, from hunter gatherer communities to city states, and shows how they made the best use of available resources and ingenuity.
In The Long Summer Fagan clearly illustrates the ever-changing nature of climatic variation. As patterns of glaciation ebb and flow, events such as melting ice can dramatically change the climate of large regions of the earth, often remote from the origin, thrusting the people who live there into new ways of existence as communities are destroyed, often within short time periods. In former times, people survived by changing their diet or migrating to areas with more favourable climatic conditions, but this is denied to more recent civilisations because of national boundaries and competition for resources in a world of high populations.
Choosing examples from different societies in Europe and Asia, and then the Americas, Fagan progresses through the centuries towards the present day, but omits contemporary society except to say that we ignore human impacts on the global climate at our peril, likening the attitudes of modern political leaders to a ship's captain who denies the existence of bad weather.
Repeatedly through the past centuries, societies have waxed and waned in response to favourable and unfavourable climatic conditions. At the end of the good periods comes hardship and destruction, themes which have intensified as time progresses and populations grow. There are sober lessons to be learned from this book, and we had better start learning them.
Fagan has combined the scientific and the social brilliantly to produce an important contribution to debate and a gripping read.