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By Steppe, Desert, and Ocean: The Birth of Eurasia

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  • The story of how human society evolved across the Eurasian continent, from the origins of farming to the expansion of the Mongols
  • A vast historical canvas, covering the development of civilization in Europe, the Middle East, and China – and the growing links between them
  • A tale of war, invasion, migration, and the rise and fall of empires set over more than 10,000 years
  • How humankind first started building the globalized world we know today – across steppe, desert, and ocean

By: Sir Barry Cunliffe(Author)

530 pages, 130 colour photos, 28 illustrations, 150 colour maps

Oxford University Press

Paperback | Sep 2017 | #234315 | ISBN-13: 9780199689187
Available for pre-order: Due Sep 2017 Details
NHBS Price: £19.99 $26/€22 approx
Hardback | Sep 2015 | #224723 | ISBN-13: 9780199689170
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £29.99 $39/€33 approx

About this book

By Steppe, Desert, and Ocean is nothing less than the story of how humans first started building the globalized world we know today. Set on a huge continental stage, from Europe to China, it is a tale covering over 10,000 years, from the origins of farming around 9000 BC to the expansion of the Mongols in the thirteenth century AD.

An unashamedly 'big history', it charts the development of European, Near Eastern, and Chinese civilizations and the growing links between them by way of the Indian Ocean, the silk Roads, and the great steppe corridor (which crucially allowed horse riders to travel from Mongolia to the Great Hungarian Plain within a year). Along the way, it is also the story of the rise and fall of empires, the development of maritime trade, and the shattering impact of predatory nomads on their urban neighbours.

Above all, as this immense historical panorama unfolds, we begin to see in clearer focus those basic underlying factors – the acquisitive nature of humanity, the differing environments in which people live, and the dislocating effect of even slight climatic variation – which have driven change throughout the ages, and which help us better understand our world today.

"A magnificent and visually stunning account of over 11,000 years of human expansion. By Steppe, Desert, and Ocean should become a classic."
– Ian Morris, Antiquity

"[This book] demonstrates how wrong Kipling was: East may be East and West may be West, but over the millennia the twain have repeatedly met."
– Tom Holland, Books of the Year 2015, History Today

"the author's modest, mellifluous style, and his honed skill for storytelling, make the read pleasurable and stimulating, and – ven at 500 pages – hard to put down."
– Mike Pitts, British Archaeology

"By Steppe, Desert, and Ocean is a masterpiece of multidisciplinary historical narrative [...] Beautifully and clearly written, also lavishly illustrated, this is a work of astounding learning and succinct authority by one of the best archaeologists in the world. He happens also to be a skilled storyteller. Revel in the wonderful book's delights, for the archaeological blank is no longer. You won't regret it."
– Prof Brian Fagan, Current World Archaeology

"[Sir Barry Cunliffe] is our greatest living archaeologist – and writer on the subject. Who else could have told this epic 10,000-year-old tale? [...] Written in his usual clear, authoritative, elegant style not a word is wasted. What a pleasure it is to read ancient history written in English as she should be spoken."
– Lindsay Fulcher, Minerva

"Cunliffe is a master storyteller, explaining his carefully researched conclusions through polished language and apropos turns of phrase that make his book a breeze despite its depth and breadth."
Publishers Weekly

"This magnificent study should inspire many more journeys of discovery."
– Andy Ffrench, The Oxford Times

"tracing the rise of Eurasian civilization, Cunliffe makes clear that history is much more than just one thing after another. As migrations and conquests pile up in the book, it becomes apparent that a dizzying array of forces interacted to produce the modern world."
Science News


1: The Land and the People
2: The Domestication of Eurasia, 10,000-5000 BC
3: Horses and Copper: the Centrality of the Steppe, 5000-2500 BC
4: The Opening of the Eurasian Steppe, 2500-1600 BC
5: Nomads and Empires: The First Confrontations, 1600-6000 BC
6: Learning from Each Other: Interaction along the Interface, 600-250 BC
7: The Continent Connected, 250 BC-AD 250
8: The Age of Perpetual War, AD 250-650
9: The Beginning of a New World Order, AD 650-840
10: The Disintegration of Empires, AD 840-1150
11: The Steppe Triumphant, AD 1150-1300
12: Looking Backwards, Looking Forwards

Guide to Further Reading

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Sir Barry Cunliffe taught archaeology in the Universities of Bristol and Southampton and was Professor of European Archaeology at the University of Oxford from 1972 to 2008, thereafter becoming Emeritus Professor. He has excavated widely in Britain (Fishbourne, Bath, Danebury, Hengistbury Head, Brading) and in the Channel Islands, Brittany, and Spain, and has been President of the Council for British Archaeology and of the Society of Antiquaries, Governor of the Museum of London, and a Trustee of the British Museum. He is currently a Commissioner of English Heritage. His many publications include The Ancient Celts (1997), Facing the Ocean (2001), The Druids: A Very Short Introduction (2010), and Britain Begins (2012), all also published by Oxford University Press. He received a knighthood in 2006.

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