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Civilizations: Culture, Ambition, and the Transformation of Nature
Name: Civilizations: Culture, Ambition, and the Transformation of Nature
Author: felipe fernandez armesto
Pages: 562
Year: 2001
Language: English
File Size: 8.58 MB
Downloads: 0
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U.S. $35.00 I n Civilizations, Felipe Ferngndez Armesto once again proves himself a brilliantly original historian, capable of large minded and comprehensive works; here he redefines the subject that has fascinated historians from Thucydides to Gibbon to Spengler to Fernand Braudel: the nature of civilization. To Fernindez Armesto, a civilization is "civilized in direct proportion to its distance, its difference from the unmodified natural environment" . . . by its taming and warping of climate, geography, and ecology. The same impersonal forces that put an ocean between Africa and India, a river delta in Mesopotamia, or a 2,000 mile long mountain range in South America have created the mold from which humanity has fashioned its own wildly differing cultures. In a grand tradition that is certain to evoke comparisons to the great historical taxonomies, each chapter of Civilizations connects the world of the ecologist and geographer to a panorama of cultural his tory. In Civilizations, the medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is not merely a Christian allegory, but a testament to the thousand year long deforestation of the trees that once covered 90 percent of the European mainland. The Indian Ocean has served as the mld's greatest trading highway for millennia not merely because of cultural imperatives, but because the regular monsoon winds blow one way in the summer and the other in the winter. In the words of the author, "Unlike previous attempts to write the comparative history of civilizations, it is arranged environment by environment, rather than period by period, or society by society." Thus, seventeen distinct habitats serve as jumping off points for a series of brilliant set piece comparisons; thus, tundra civiliza


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tions from Ice Age Europe are linked with the Inuit of the Pacific Northwest; and the Mississippi mound builders and the deforesters of eleventh century Europe are both understood as civilizations built on woodlands. Here, of course, are the familiar riverine civilizations of Mesopotamia and China, of the lndus and the Nile; but also highland civilizations from the Inca to New Guinea; island cultures from Minoan Crete to Polynesia to Renaissance Venice; maritime civilizations of the Indian Ocean and South China Sea . . . even the Bushmen of Southern Africa are seen through a lens provided by the desert civilizations of Chaco Canyon. More, here are fascinating stories, brilliantly told of the voyages of Chinese admiral Chen Ho and Portuguese commodore Vasco da Gama, of the Great Khan and the Great .Zimbabwe. Here are Hesiod's tract on maritime trade in the early Aegean and the most up to date genetics of seed crops. Erudite, wide ranging, a work of dazzling scholarship written with extraordinary flair, Civilizations is a remarkable achievement . . . a tour de force by a brilliant scholar. FELIPE FERN~NDEZ 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 Histow I Visit us onllnc at www.simonsays.crm IACKET DESIGN BY ERICSUENTECILLA IACKET ILLUSTRATION: CANALETTO. VENICE. BRIDGE OF ME RIALTO1 COURTESY OF THE GRANGER COLLECTION AUTHOR PHOTOGRAPH BY BARRY BURNS PRINTED IN THE U S A COPYRIGHT 0 2001 SIMON 8 ICHUSTER INC DISTRIBUTED BY SIMON B SCHUSTER INC.


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THE FREE PRESS A Division of Simon 6 Schuster, Inc. 1230 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10020 Copyright O 2001 by Felipe Ferncindez Armesto AII rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. THE FREE PRESS and colophon are trademarks of Simon 6 Schuster, Inc. Designed by Edith Fowler Manufactured in the United States of America Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Femcindez Armesto, Felipe. Civilizations : culture, ambition, and the transformation of nature l Felipe Ferncindez Armesto. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. ) and index. I. Civilization History. 2. Human geography. 3. Human ecology. 4. Nature Effect of human beings on. 5. Ambition History. I. Title. CB151 .F47 2001 909 dc21 2001018154 ISBN 0 7432 0248 1 "Japan Revived" (1953) by Edmund Blunden is taken from A Hong Kong House: Poems 195 1 1961 (copyright Edmund Blunden 1962). Reproduced by permission of PFD on be half of the Estate of Edmund Blunden. Extract from the song "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" by Noel Coward reproduced by per mission of Methuen Publishing Ltd, London. Extract from Collected Poems, 1909 1962 by T. S. Eliot reproduced by permission of Faber and Faber Ltd, London. Quotations from publications of The Hakluyt Society reproduced by kind permission of the Council of The Hakluyt Society.


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