Review by Choice Review
Davies has a long-established reputation as a leading authority on Polish and Eastern European history. It is therefore no surprise that in this survey of Europe from earliest times, Davies not only gives Slavic peoples their due, but also shows how Europe cannot be understood without a full appreciation of their importance. Davies writes with a balance missing in other histories, demonstrating seemingly boundless erudition and marvelously lucid and mordant style. The text is interspersed with frequent "capsules," or historical asides, on such topics as the unhappy childhood of Vlad the Impaler and the irreverent songs sung by infantrymen in WW II (two examples are hardly enough). If, however, these are delights, the maps are not; in the tradition of Sebastian M"untzer, west is disorientingly shown as up. Still, this takes nothing away from a magnificent work that will be read and cited for decades. Throughout the book and most of all at the end, Davies asks a real question: Can a continent that has seen millennia of violence and disunity yet find peace and integration? All levels. S. Bailey; Knox College
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
The pre-eminent scholar of Polish history, Davies (God's Playground and Heart of Europe) expands his focus to all of Europe. While the book is bulky, its size is hardly adequate to a complete history of the continent from pre-history to the dismantling of the Soviet Union. In addition, as one might expect, Davies has taken great pains to treat countries other than England, France and Germany as legitimate parts of Europenot just as the thresholds over which barbarians crossed. ("For some reason it has been the fashion among some historians to minimize the impact of the Magyars," Davies writes when discussing what would become central Europe. "All this means is that the Magyars did not reach Cambridge.") The book works because his subject is not the constituent countries but the continent as a whole. Thus, while Elizabeth I gets one brief mention in passing, Aristide Briand, the French foreign minister who tried to effect a Franco-German reconciliation until the Nazis won power, gets several paragraphs. Aside from defining what Europe is and giving all countries their due, Davies also tries to show the joys of an inclusive reading of historical subjects (he disparages excessive specialization and writes admiringly of the Annales school). A master of broad-brushstroke synthesis, Davies navigates through the larger historical currents with the detail necessary to a well-written engaging narrative. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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