560 pages, illustrations
Erudite, wide-ranging, a work of dazzling scholarship written with extraordinary flair, Civilizations redefines the subject that has fascinated historians from Thucydides to Gibbon to Spengler to Fernand Braudel: the nature of civilization. To the author, Oxford historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, a society's relationship to climate, geography, and ecology are paramount in determining its degree of success. "Unlike previous attempts to write the comparative history of civilizations," he writes, "it is arranged environment by environment, rather than period by period or society by society." Thus, for example, tundra civilizations of Ice Age Europe are linked with those of the Inuit of the Pacific Northwest, the Mississippi Mound Builders with the deforesters of eleventh-century Europe.
Civilizations brilliantly connects the world of ecologist, geologist, and geographer with the panorama of cultural history.
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Felipe Fernandez-Armesto is a Professorial Fellow of Queen Mary, University of London, and a member of the Modern History Faculty at Oxford University. He is the author of twelve books, including Millennium and Truth: A History.