“The book's true originality lies in its all-inclusive scope and erudition, and literary panache with which the story of Europe is told.” (Time (Atlantic edition)). Beginning with its Paleolithic origins and the early civilizations of the Aegean, Roberts traces the development of the European identity over the course of. While many history books focus on a limited area, such as the Vietnam War, other texts examine far broader subjects, and there are plenty of.
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Europe book. Read reviews from the world's largest community for readers. From the Ice Age to the Cold War, from Reykjavik to the Volga, from Minos t. Originally Answered: What are some good books on European History? A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century. the fourteenth century. As Davies notes in the Preface, the book contains little that is original. Primary research was rarely required. Twelve chapters span the European past from.
Beyond my petty troubles, I have been thinking about time as an experience: I have been thinking about the inexorability of time: I have been spending a lot of time remembering, connecting my past with my present, if only artificially, and wondering how much the act of remembering itself distorts my memories. And in a Proustian mood, I have wondered whether a tremendous act of remembrance is the only defense we have against the ceaseless tide of time.
In the midst of our mundane concerns, it is all too easy to forget to remember. But is it crucial to remember; otherwise life can go by without us noticing. This is why we celebrate birthdays. Logically, it is silly to think that you turn from one age to another all at once; of course we get older every day.
We celebrate birthdays to force ourselves to reflect on the past year, on how we have spent our time and, more chillingly, on how much time we have left. This reflection can help us assess what to do next.
Birthdays are just one example. In general, I have been finding it increasingly important to focus on these cycles, when a milestone is reached, when a process is completed, moments when the past is forcefully juxtaposed with the present.
I first heard of the book from an old copy of National Geographic ; it was in an article discussing the recent introduction of the euro in , a historic step in European unity. I read this article right as my love of reading began to blossom. But it was years until I finally bought a copy; and still more years before I finally started reading.
When I first heard of the book I would never have imagined that I would finally read it, many years later, in Europe. But here I am, and it feels great. As you can imagine, an enormous amount of selection and compression was necessary in order to fit all this material into one volume. Luckily, Davies is adept at both of these skills; unfortunately, the book is still too big to carry around. It is big, fat, and heavy: In terms of content, the book is both longer and shorter than it appears.
Of the nearly 1, pages, only about 1, are actual history; the rest is given over to his notes, the index, and a lengthy series of appendices, on subjects ranging from the standard canon of opera, to death tolls in the Second World War, to the life course of an Austrian peasant household. Nevertheless, the pages are dense with text, in small font and with narrow margins; and the pages themselves are quite big.
Moreover, owing to the huge amount of territory Davies covers, the book is almost nauseatingly packed with information, every page a summary of whole books. Davies begins with a pugnacious introduction, in which he denounces all of his forbearers. Davies snubs his nose at specialization, and wags his finger at academic fads; he bashes both the traditionalists and the radicals. I personally found this introduction to be an interesting read, but it does seem out of place in a book for the general reader.
After an obligatory chapter on prehistory, he goes into a chapter on Greece, then Rome, then the Middle Ages, and so on. And even though one of his major bones of contention is the erstwhile disregard for Eastern Europe, he generally spends far more time on Western Europe. The chapters increase in length as they approach the future, becoming progressively more detailed. For example, Aristotle and Plato must share one measly paragraph between them, but Gorbachev is given a dozen pages.
As a result, the book gets more interesting the further you read. The coverage is only so-so for the ancient world; quite good for the Medieval period; and becomes really gripping by the 19th century. Davies attempts to cover all the major developments, but of course his space is limited. For the most part Davies focuses on economic, political, social, and cultural history, while paying less attention to intellectual and art history. Among the arts, he is strong on music but weak on painting, sculpture, and architecture.
These are mini-essays, ranging from half a page to two pages, on a variety of topics that interested Davies; they are set aside in their own boxes, interrupting the flow of the main text.
But I had mixed feelings about the idea.
Half of the capsules were fascinating, but I thought many were uninspiring. And it was annoying to constantly be having to put the main narrative on hold, read a little essay, and then return where I left off. I thought it would have been a much better idea if he had left the capsules out completely, developed them into full-length essays, and then released them in their own book.
Davies is a writer of high caliber. He can adapt his style to any subject. His prose, although largely devoid of flourish, is consistently strong.
In short, he has achieved that allusive aim of popular history writers: Seldom does he come across as seriously biased; but he is not afraid to be opinionated at times, which adds a nice touch of spice to the book: Under pressure from the ruthless, the clueless combined with the spineless to achieve the worthless.
Although this book is a survey history, Davies does have one central concern: What does it mean to be a European? The reason for his concern is obvious. The Soviet bloc had only recently been dismantled, and now the European Union was faced with the task of dealing with these newly freed states. It was a bit strange to be finishing this book now. I can still remember the hopeful, enthusiastic tone of that National Geographic article about the new euro. People must have felt that they were entering a new age of European unity.
Now the United Kingdom is threatening to leave the European Union, and several other countries are grumbling. The future, as always, is in doubt.
Everyday people, old and young, were lined up in an auditorium to read a page from that great masterpiece; it will go on for 48 hours.
After that, I walked to the Cervantes exhibition in the National Library, where they have dozens of old manuscripts of Cervantes and his contemporaries on display. I am celebrating the completion of a cycle, and so is Spain. The past is alive and well in Europe.
View all 20 comments. Sep 24, Marc rated it it was amazing Shelves: What an impressive book! Even after all those years this work still stands. Davies Eastern European speciality adds decisive information and corrects our classic view on European history. Also see my review in my Sense-of-History-account: Jan 03, Pete Sikora rated it liked it Recommends it for: The result is a haphazardly organized mish-mash that loses its way just as its subject emerges as a concept in the 17th and 18th centuries.
We get a lot of Eastern European history, at the expense of understanding other nations. My Polish background makes that fine by me. However, by writing too many books, historians run a danger: At pages plus loads of appendixes, it's a massive tome. It would have been nice to see more modern history - as usual for sweeping histories, the last 50 years are covered in the last 50 pages.
There was no "Europe" at all in ancient times - or the middle ages either. Heck, they didn't even have the shape of the continent mapped.
Not to mention that it's barely even a real continent anyway. On some level, therefore, the book is untrue to its title. It's really a history of the geographic area we now know as Europe.
That's a quibble tho - I hate those dang: Still, it should have been more focused on the modern world. On the other hand, it's a good stab at a difficult impossible?
If Davies were a better writer, it'd be really solid a 4. I also suspect that he doesn't really know what he's talking about vis a vis anything other than Eastern Europe. So he can't quite pull it off. Davies is a tad defensive, albeit understandably. Just like, say, these 2 points stuck into the middle of this review. Should have stuck to the history, and avoided the philosophy, because it's a superficial attempt and serves the reader poorly.
We get that they both were bad - real bad. No need to try to prove they're basically the same thing, when the governing systems were radically different. But again, tough subject, and I kept reading. There's real merit to taking on the topic. A little grading on the curve is merited.
Kudos to Davies for making the attempt. May 16, John Lucy rated it really liked it. Unless you know a whole lot about Europe already, this is a great book to read for the curious lay person and intellectual or for the student. It's long, clearly, but very much worth it as a book to read on the side. I'm a firm believer that histories should neither be told as stories or as simply a collection of facts, but something in between: Davies does it to near perfection.
The writing is smooth and easily understandable for all. And, to his great credit, Davies tries hard at writing the h Unless you know a whole lot about Europe already, this is a great book to read for the curious lay person and intellectual or for the student. And, to his great credit, Davies tries hard at writing the history without cultural biases or scholarly biases of any sort--obviously this is nearly impossible to do and Davies admits as much in his introduction, which is a great piece of writing in its own right.
For people who "don't like" or "don't care" about history, the introduction alone is worth reading. Yet Davies does not fall into the modern trip, either, of exhibiting how evil the "good" guys actually were: The end result is that a reader from any country, the U. In pages Davies does an excellent job of compacting the whole of Europe's history, with a strong emphasis on more modern history. All eras are covered but the closer to today the more attention Davies gives.
For the lay person, perhaps the best trait of the history are the many capsules throughout that do not and would not fit into the historical narrative but cite interesting tidbits of historical knowledge, particularly cultural knowledge: Like the introduction, the capsules are a good means for people who claim to not care about or like history to understand how fun history can be by learning from where certain cultural phenomenons come.
Smaller histories are likely to accrue the criticism of having left out material while longer histories are often considered unreadable, and still receive the criticism of leaving out material. While all historians are susceptible to bias by inclusion or exclusion, it would be hard for anyone but a specialist scholar to point out where Davies does not include relevant material.
As someone with a fairly good knowledge of European history going into the reading of this book, it's easy to say that Davies includes all the major and minor points of history and then some.
The only problem is that Davies sometimes includes pieces of information by merely referencing it, as if he expects the reader to already know what he's talking about. Similarly, Davies is, to his credit, clearly attempting to write a history of Europe for Europeans, and Americans, and not for only one language group, though he is writing in English.
What this means is that he often quotes poetry and other things in the native language, which is great, but then at times does not translate, which is not great, either expecting the reader to know French, Russian, German, and Italian particularly, or not caring at all about the reader.
In the same vein Davies uses the actual spelling of historical figures' names rather than any accepted Anglicized versions of the names and rarely explains. This is particularly an issue at the beginning of the history with the Romans and Greeks, but continues to be an issue all the way through to approximately the Renaissance portion of the history. Most of the time the reader will figure it out--it would be hard to mistake Julius Caesar, given how much space he receives and that his story should be fairly recognizable for anyone--sometimes a less knowledgeable reader will come across a previously unknown figure and then be taught a spelling that many others wouldn't immediately recognize.
All in all, I highly recommend this history. At the very least, read the introduction, the capsules, and the last two or three chapters. Jul 12, Kinga rated it really liked it Shelves: After six months though really two intense months of reading I've finally finished this monster of a book!
I'm not saying that in quality only in the size of the book. The content itself was actually really enjoyable. Norman Davies divides his chapters between the the ideas and events that take place in the continent during each respective era. He shows how things that happen to one state or part of Europe can have immense effect on another area. I really enjoyed getting the broader picture which showed the inter-connectivity which allowed me to grasp the fact that many different things happens simultaneously that I probably never would have considered otherwise.
Sometimes it's difficult to get that from a book that has a much narrower focus. True to his word, Davies strives to give the lesser known areas the attention they deserve especially when it comes to the Eastern side This I don't really mind since it is an area of great interest to me, though I feel the need to call the author out on it and compare him to a student who writes an essay and feels the need to include everything he knows on his subject of interest in order to add length or to show his niche expertise.
Again, something I personally don't mind as a person with an interest in the country, but I'm not sure how others without that mindset feel. Since the book is older than I am, it was interesting to see how Davies' predictions compared to how history really unfolded. I personally would like to see an updated version which includes material up until my current present day but I doubt that will happen.
Long story short, as any historian, Norman Davies shows a certain bias however, Europe does a great job of condensing a whole continent of history into one volume which is one of his goals if I remember the introduction alright.
The book's length should not discourage one from reading it as it is a great work and I will definitely be keeping it on my shelf to refer back to should I ever feel the need. Dec 14, Joel rated it it was amazing Shelves: I wavered between 4 and 5 stars, because there are some parts -- mostly in the beginning -- that I forced myself to trudge through. But that was only because my knowledge of Europe outside of the usual stuff is relatively small, and I was just not able to process all the names and places thrown out.
I'm taking into account that this book is an insane undertaking, and the fact that I was really into the book for around of its pages is pretty damn impressive. The little boxes of random as I wavered between 4 and 5 stars, because there are some parts -- mostly in the beginning -- that I forced myself to trudge through.
The little boxes of random asides scattered throughout the book are great, as are the maps and charts and lists packed in the appendices at the end.
It really lends itself to being left on the shelf for future reference. And the more intimate stories that end each chapter serve to wrap up things in each section extremely well, making each chapter feel like its own short book.
It's fantastic. View all 6 comments. I've been reading this all year, 2,3, 4 pages a day, slowly digesting. This is magisterial history. It does have sections deep in the past when his history slides into a survey of rulers or social movements. Not surprising in a work so vast and all-encompassing in its scope. I think his narrative of the 20th century astonishing in its insight and analysis.
I highly recommend this to anyone interested in reading history. Nov 18, Richard Newton rated it really liked it Shelves: I feel a sense of relief having finished this book. That's not something one would normally feel on finishing what is a good book, but this is such an enormous relentless tome, that it is pretty exhausting. Even though I have read several books in parallel, this one has tired me! Davies covers European history in the full, from the earliest times to the point of completion of the book back in It is by its nature broad brush history, but Davies includes plenty of small details and historical I feel a sense of relief having finished this book.
It is by its nature broad brush history, but Davies includes plenty of small details and historical anecdotes which bring a sense of realism to the history he is describing. This is a work of phenomenal education and breadth of knowledge. I like the way Davies neither sticks to the history of big events or the history of social trends, but brings both together.
I like the coverage of a real European history - from Russia to Ireland, not just western Europe as is so common. There are a few faults. At times it reads more like an encyclopedia as you jump from one part of history to another in the long chapters.
The little inserts on items of interest do not always work, and even when they are interesting can disrupt the flow of reading. Some smaller, but very interesting, countries in Europe could complain this focuses too much on the big nations - such as Italy, the UK, France, Germany, Poland and Russia.
Additionally, this is a massive book for a paperback - 1, pages long with larger than normal pages, which at times just makes it hard to handle. A 2 volume version would have been preferable. This may seem like a minor gripe, but this is not a book to be carried around,. If, like me, you do a lot of reading whilst travelling this book, at least in physical form, is probably a non-starter. Finishing reading this in late the book reads pretty poignantly given recent events. The ease with which extreme right wing and nationalist parties have risen time and time again in Europe should be a part of history better understood.
The ease with which historical "facts" have been manipulated, represented and recreated to suit a particular politic message is something everyone could do with knowing.
Oct 28, carl theaker rated it it was amazing Shelves: A quite fascinating entirely readable intro to European history. At over pages it's quite a tome, but it does cover a lot of ground, pre-history to , nomadic-tribes to the end of the Cold War.
Along with plenty of maps, charts, and a few sections of photos, there are 1 page Capsules sprinkled throughout, which delve into a particular subject a little deeper.
Davies is a scholar on Poland, so if you find the section on that area a little long, you've never learned so much about Lithuania A quite fascinating entirely readable intro to European history.
Davies is a scholar on Poland, so if you find the section on that area a little long, you've never learned so much about Lithuania in your life, that's probably why. In the later chapters he speculates on a few subjects that aren't quite 'history' yet, exposing some of this leanings. Overall a goodread and a good reference, easy to go back andread a section or two or a favorite Capsule.
Certainly plenty of interest piquing areas to inspire you to investigate a subject more. Jul 22, Synve rated it really liked it Shelves: Interesting, comprehensive book. He does a good job of covering all of Europes history in one volume. However, I did notice some incorrect facts in the book for instance about Scandinavia which I know best , and this probably means there are many more incorrect facts I didnt notice.
Feb 17, Elijah Meeks rated it it was amazing. This is an amazing, magisterial text that I always find myself opening. Though Davies let's his anti-Soviet sentiment affect not only his modern interpretations and he ignores the Romanized and Hellenized culture of the Middle East, it's still the finest overview of classical Europe that I've ever read.
I loved the balance Davies brought into the book - no longer was Eastern Europe left to the sidelines but it was returned to its rightful place , in there , in Europe!
I Loved the little packaged bits that looked that topics in more detail The best history of Europe yet! Apr 18, Pierce rated it it was amazing Shelves: The sine qua non reference for European history.
Particularly valuable for covering more than France, Germany, Italy, and Britain. Mar 04, Pierre rated it really liked it. A truly epic work. Having odd years of perspective since this book was published really brings home just how big a millstone around the neck of Europe our collective and individual history is. I found myself sighing in recognition of so many of the follies of modern British and European politics, seeing how we simply refuse to learn the lessons of experience. I've seen some quite sniffy reviews of this claiming it to be unduly weighted towards Poland at the expense of other parts of Eastern Eu A truly epic work.
I've seen some quite sniffy reviews of this claiming it to be unduly weighted towards Poland at the expense of other parts of Eastern Europe, but I can't say that particularly bothered me as an "outsider" to that.
What did take some of the shine of it for me is there are a few sections of quite insipid "X tribe went here and displaced Y tribe who went there Also, my copy had a printing error so about 20 random pages near the middle of the book were missing. It's such an epic sweep that I'm not sure if I missed anything important or not, but having gone to the effort of reading all of this tome I wanted to read, well, all of it!
Takes real commitment to get through, but if you're in any way interested in Europe now or in the past, this is well worth the effort.
Oct 31, Darren Goossens rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: A History by Norman Davies Pimlico, This is probably the single biggest volume I have ever read. It has many fans, and rightly so. European history is rather like translations of Homer and films of Shakespeare; each English speaking generation needs to have its own.
I have read a handful of histories of Europe, and each time a new one comes along it allows itself to believe it has shaken off a few more shibboleths, se Europe: I have read a handful of histories of Europe, and each time a new one comes along it allows itself to believe it has shaken off a few more shibboleths, seen a little more clearly, and perhaps approached nearer to some kind of truth, or at least accuracy.
We even get a textbox on the Khazars. There is no reason why France should get more pages than Poland in a European history, yet many books hardly go east of Prussia.
I suppose few European histories written by authors from east of the Rhine, let alone the Vistula get translated into English… Davies has written extensively on Eastern Europe, and is the perfect author to give the east its due. Old European histories would say how the Roman Empire fell in , and I still recall being surprised when I found out that that simply was not true, just an artefact of a reprehensibly skewed view of the past.
The Eastern Roman Empire persisted until at least , a direct, if many-times transformed, descendant of the Republic of BC.
It truly was a bulwark against Islam — and I make no judgement on whether a Christian Europe is a better or worse thing than an Islamic one, I simply note that Europe most likely would be Islamic had the Byzantines crumbled sooner — and for that alone needs to be properly integrated into a European history.
Davies does this. Russia, Poland, the Ottomans, they all are given reasonable weight. It is a good book, a good popular history. And, thought I live in Australia, it is my history, or at least a large chunk of my history.
I am a white Australian. A History gives me a broader, deeper view than any other book I have read that claims the same territory. Were I to construct a top 10 list of my favourite books, it would be in there.
Jun 18, Lyn Elliott rated it really liked it Shelves: I have been reading this for over a year, and will probably go on reading it for the rest of my life. For anyone wanting to understand the patterns of Europe over a long time frame, this is the most interesting book I have come across. Davies discusses the concept of 'Europe' as a starting point - in itself a fascinating exercise. The large format, two-column layout means that each page is twice the size you would find in a conventional book.
There are pages, with 45 contributors from across the continent, including editor Francesco Martinelli and Equinox series editor Alyn Shipton — both of whom have written sections — plus several translators. In illustration of this, Shipton points out in his introduction that the coverage of European jazz in the second edition of the standard reference work The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz was dramatically greater than in the first edition, which had appeared in Of course, over the last two decades modern communications have accelerated the spread of ideas in every aspect of culture, and jazz is no exception.
The challenge for non-American jazz musicians and composers has always been to create new forms and styles, so that the music does not merely reproduce something that already exists in America.
The problem of adapting an American-originated art-form into one that better reflects indigenous cultures has been tackled in different ways across the continent. Ethnic instruments, from the accordion to the oud have been brought to bear on music that we might conventionally associate with the piano and the trumpet.
In some ways, these distinctions are artificial: American musicians have been ransacking the global music storehouse for decades, incorporating ideas from Africa, Asia, South America and the Caribbean as well as that of the European modernist composers — Ravel, Debussy, Bartok, Schoenberg.
A fascination for the music of Spain, for example, has played a major role in the work of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Chick Corea and others.
So Americans know all about European musical traditions, but how much do we Europeans really know about each other?
Hence the importance of this book, published in just one language — English. At last, we have a single publication that brings together a vast collection of knowledge and ideas and traditions, many of which have never travelled beyond certain national boundaries. Each chapter not only narrates the development of jazz in each country but includes a separate bibliography and listening guide.
The focus is largely historical. American ragtime and cakewalk musicians were already visiting Europe by the end of the 19th century. This did little to dent its popularity with the public. In the mids a revue bizarrely named Chocolate Kiddies toured Europe. And still they flood in, bringing their music every Summer to hundreds of jazz festivals from Croatia to Portugal. But of course the traffic has been flowing in both directions for decades. In the years up to , life was particularly difficult for Eastern European jazz musicians.
Yet even here jazz managed not only to survive but to develop in a nationally distinctive form, influenced by an avant-garde tradition in its literature, visual arts and architecture.
Under Soviet rule, artists of all kinds faced severe travel restrictions. But in more normal times jazz musicians have constantly travelled from one country to another within Europe.