By Felipe Fernandez-Armesto
Erudite, wide-ranging, a piece of extraordinary scholarship written with impressive aptitude, Civilizations redefines the topic that has involved historians from Thucydides to Gibbon to Spengler to Fernand Braudel: the character of civilization.To the writer, Oxford historian Felipe Fernández-Armesto, a society's dating to weather, geography, and ecology are paramount in identifying its measure of good fortune. "Unlike earlier makes an attempt to put in writing the comparative historical past of civilizations," he writes, "it is prepared setting via setting, instead of interval through interval or society via society. therefore, for instance, tundra civilizations of Ice Age Europe are associated with these of the Inuit of the Pacific Northwest, the Mississippi Mound developers with the deforesters of eleventh-century Europe.Civilizations brilliantly connects the area of ecologist, geologist, and geographer with the landscape of cultural historical past.
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Additional resources for Civilizations: Culture, Ambition, and the Transformation of Nature
O n the one hand, an urge inherited from empiricism makes us want to cut out the pourparlers and get on with the job. O n the other, we inhabit or are entering an intellectual world in which nothing is pinned down and definitions always seem deceptive: a "processual" world in which no process is ever complete, in which meaning is never quite trapped, and in which distinctions elide, each into the next. I get impatient with wrigglers into word games: I want every inquiry to aim, at least, at saying something definite.
World history is about peoples7 relationships with each other. Its most representative episodes, environment by environment, reflect great cross-cultural themes: migrations, trade, exchanges of influence, pilgrimages, missions, war, empire-building, wide-sweeping social movements, and transfers of technologies, biota, and ideas. Some of the environments considered in this book-deserts, grasslands, and oceans-figure not so much as settings for civilizations but rather partly or entirely as highways between them.
In the entire animal kingdom, mankind is the only species that can survive all over the planet, except for the parasites that colonize our own bodies and accompany us wherever we go. 7775 By land and sea, over the bleakest edges of the ice caps, and at very high altitudes, there is almost no environment on earth where people have been unable to establish societies. It used to be thought that civilization could only happen in particular kinds of environment: not too harsh, like ice lands and deserts, because people would never be free to acquire wealth or leisure; not too easy, like teeming or fertile forests, because people would not need to work hard or cooperate to organize distribution of food.
Civilizations: Culture, Ambition, and the Transformation of Nature by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto