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Over vast expanses of time, fire and humanity have interacted to expand the domain of each, transforming the earth and what it means to be human. In this concise yet wide-ranging book, Stephen J. Pyne – named by Science magazine as "the world's leading authority on the history of fire" – explores the surprising dynamics of fire before humans, fire and human origins, aboriginal economies of hunting and foraging, agricultural and pastoral uses of fire, fire ceremonies, fire as an idea and a technology, and industrial fire.
In this revised and expanded edition, Pyne looks to the future of fire as a constant, defining presence on Earth. A new chapter explores the importance of fire in the twenty-first century, with special attention to its role in the Anthropocene, or what he posits might equally be called the Pyrocene.
Stephen J. Pyne is professor emeritus of life sciences at Arizona State University. He spent fifteen seasons with the North Rim Longshots fire crew and three seasons writing fire plans for the National Park Service. He is author of the critically acclaimed Cycle of Fire books.
"Stephen J. Pyne writes about fire as if he were on fire, with searing, consuming heat and light. When he looks at fire he sees not biological catastrophe but social illumination and natural renewal."
– Seattle Times
"Fire: A Brief History packs into one slender volume a sweeping tale of fire, and man's interactions with fire, from prehistory to the dawn of the twenty-first century. Pyne's perceptive words and tightly organized sentences allow him to suggest many thought-provoking ideas and to bring to his audience a fascinating story of fire's role in shaping our world."
– H-Net Reviews
"No one is better qualified to teach us about fire's history, fire's crucial role in shaping landscapes, than Stephen Pyne. His discussions of forestry, land-management elitism, pastoral incendiarism, nature reserves, the conservation movement and the ecology of disturbance are profoundly valuable."
– New York Times
"Pyne is the world's leading authority on the history of fire, and his erudition is phenomenal. He offers us a broad panorama of ecological and human history in a framework of geology and geography. He shows what a great impact fire has had in shaping landscapes, flora, and fauna all over the world, and how in the late Pleistocene humans have, as it were, joined forces with fire by learning to manipulate it."
"An excellent overview of why the history of humanity cannot be told without the history of fire [...] An excellent book and strongly recommended for all audiences, especially those with interests in anthropology, geography, history, natural sciences, or the humanities."