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Facing the Ocean: The Atlantic and Its Peoples 8000 Bc-Ad 1500 (Anglais) Relié – janvier 2001


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Book by Cunliffe Barry


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Première phrase
To stand on a sea-washed promontory looking westwards at sunset over the Atlantic is to share a timeless human experience. Lire la première page
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Concordance
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Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Index | Quatrième de couverture
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Amazon.com: 8 commentaires
18 internautes sur 19 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
An interesting perspective on European history 31 octobre 2003
Par Atheen - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
Facing the Ocean is a very good summary of European history from the perspective of coastal societies. Professor Cunliffe covers a very long period of history, from 8000 BC to 1500 AD, in about 500 pages. Although slow in some parts-I nodded out a few times during discussions of specific trade items-it was none-the-less a well assembled volume of information.
Although I `ve studied the history of the area on a number of occasions for classes and in personal reading, I was surprised at how well the varied information was pulled into a more coherent whole by simply looking at the experiences of coastal populations. To a large extent these groups were marginal to the events of the major centers of civilization, isolated by distance and by geographical barriers from them. I've found in other cases, too, that it is often from the perspective of the peripheral cultures that more sense is made of global history. Although most historians treat these areas as cultural backwaters waiting to be "enlightened" by the more technologically advanced, in fact they had vigorous and creative cultures of their own that provided the central players with raw materials and a strong market for finished goods. The ebb and flow of trade and of people and the changes in the fortunes of the various participants of the central arena create a much richer historical texture than is usually portrayed, and makes more sense of some of the events of world history. For instance the author's statement that the decline in productivity and birth rate in the Mediterranean world coupled with the denser population of the Germanic tribes north of the Rhine created a "fracture" zone, was very prescient. Taken out of global context, the fall of Rome seems to be a simple matter of internal decay, which to some extent it was. It becomes more a matter of population dynamics and economics when considering the European, African and Asian Continents as a whole. In short, there was a lot more to it than it seems on the surface.
Because the author's primary research seems to be in Celtic studies (he has written an entire volume on the Celts), the book tends to focus rather heavily on periods leading up to the Celtic-Roman confrontations and to periods just after it. He barely touches upon the age of discovery during the 15th Century, which is an age of Atlantic maritime expansion, par excellence. Even though he is neither historian nor archaeologist by profession and his primary focus is Chinese global exploration, Gavin Menzies gives a far more thorough discussion of the age of European discovery in his book 1421, The Year China Discovered America. (He also gives an amazing account of fraud in map making by Bartholomew Colombus in collusion with his brother Christopher that is well worth the reading.)
Interesting, too, is the author's perspective as an archaeologist on the culture of Europe during the long period of habitation, particularly the Roman and post-Roman periods. Historically speaking, written works from the period tend to be vary biased in favor of the Romans. Unfortunately modern historians aren't always "up front" about some of these biases. The magic of the written word tends to give credence to whatever is imparted. For one thing, the ancient writers provide a good story, often times a gossipy one. And who doesn't enjoy a good gossip? For another they sometimes just didn't know, or they quoted as reliable information the reports of other writers who also just didn't know. While archaeology is as prone to errors of interpretation as is historical analysis of written sources, it has the benefit of solid primary evidence. Where one discipline seems to support the other, we probably have a good approximation of what occurred in the past. Where they disagree, we have to admit that for now at least, "we just don't know." The author makes this abundantly apparent throughout the text.
I was particularly impressed that author had such a good sense of geography and geology, particularly with his ability to pull the concept of isostacy into his discussion. It wasn't just that he understood that the coastal environment was subject to change due to emergence or submergence, he knew the mechanisms by which this occurred. This may be because he is an archaeologist, which requires a good understanding of geomorphological processes in interpreting habitation sites and the finds that are made there. I was a little surprised, though, that he made less of the environmental changes that occurred throughout his selected time period, producing major shifts in ecological zones. Though his main interest is Mayan history, Richardson Gill in his book, The Great Maya Droughts, gives a very plausible interpretation of changes in the European sociopolitical picture that takes this factor into account rather well, making even more sense of the shifts in fortunes in the Northern and Southern European venues.
All in all an interesting book. I think that it is more for those with a special interest in European history and pre-history rather than for the general reader. It would make a very useful supplementary text for a college archaeology or European history course. I would certainly have welcomed it when I took my Archaeology of Northern Europe class a couple years ago. I think that at a high school level it would make a good addition to a library for use in research or for the student with a special interest. I suspect most high school age individuals would find it a bit slow going.
11 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Comprensive Archaeology with a New Perspective 22 avril 2003
Par Paul R. Thomas - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Barry Cunliffe ties together a comprehensive and detailed chronological description of the archaeological record for the Atlantic coastal areas of present day Spain, Portugal, France, England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland with a superb discussion of geography to provide a 9,500 year historical overview of these areas as an integrated cultural milieu whose evolution had more in common with each other than with inland areas or the rest of Europe.
The book is beautifully displayed with numerous and extraordinary photos, maps and illustrations that greatly aid in understanding the textual discussion. But well beyond just describing archaeological material, the author places this material in its geographical and historical context and then explains what this spatial and chronological record has to say, or may have to say, concerning the evolution of the regions' material and social cultures. Along the way, he weaves together a fascinating historical narrative and ties this to the archaeological record.
The book is beautiful to look at, well written, professionally comprehensive, and with a unique perspective on historical development. Yes, there are some editing errors and arguably some factual errors but to my knowledge they are few, insignificant and in no way detract from the quality of this book. My personal opinion is that the greatest strength of the book lies in its treatment of geography as a unifying, connecting or separating force as revealed in the archaeological record and this alone strongly recommends its reading.
If you wish, read it for its historical overview of trade, migration, development and warfare, its up to date and comprehensive discussion of the archaeological record, or simply to discover more places to visit (I have) from studying the maps and photos.
8 internautes sur 8 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Coastal community 27 avril 2003
Par Stephen A. Haines - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
There are historians who still contend the history of the Atlantic began in 1492 with Columbus' crossing. Barry Cunliffe gently unravels such "Christo-centrism" with a sweeping history of the Atlantic littoral peoples and their activities. Using a wealth of archaeological and geological evidence, he traces cultural and likely trade patterns to build a picture of dynamic societies. Unlike the accounts of conquisidor Spain or a globally imperial Britain, Cunliffe focuses on community life, active commerce and cultural exchange. With a descriptive challenge covering nearly ten millenia, florid prose would be an unnecessary luxury. The reading is anything but dry, however. Cunliffe doesn't delve into much ambitious speculation, but he's careful to apply "highly debateable" to issues not clearly resolveable. He combines evidence and logic in building his few speculations. The resulting picture is informed and informative.
Cunliffe begins with the physical structure and changes the Atlantic area underwent after the glacial retreat. As the ice melted, of course, the seas rose. The lost weight of the ice allowed the landforms to "rebound", a process still underway. The result is a lack of uniformity in sea level change and coastal forms. Rivers that once were self-cleansing slowed and silted estuaries and harbours as the land elevated. He provides several maps indicating old and new shorelines to depict the various shifting of shorelines and port locations. These maps and those showing grave sites, settlements, mines and artefact types enhance the worth of this book beyond cavil.
Throughout this account, the Morbihan coast and the Armorican residents remain the pivotal area of activity. Innovations may arise and flourish in various places, but if these failed to pass through what is now Brittany, dissemination was unlikely. The Gironde, Loire and Garonne rivers became the primary trade routes inland, but a lively trade must have flourished along the Bay of Biscay and Atlantic shores to the British Isles using short-hop local carriers. Cunliffe's analysis is chiefly supported by grave and community artefacts of pottery, weaponry and jewelly. While origin points for styles of these items is difficult to locate, their spread over time is more easily traced. What is notably significant is the obvious two-way movement of goods - tin and gold coming into western Europe in exchange for fine pottery and metal goods sent in return. The Armoricans were bypassed by nearly all the waves of invasion, keeping a traditional culture nearly intact until the Carolingian era. "Brittany" resulted from the waves of Irish and western England emigrants settling there in flight from Norman incursions in the British Isles.
Faults with this book are nearly non-existent. His bibliography, while extensive, might have been more detailed. Ten millenia, even in a restricted geographical area, is ambitious coverage and listing even the better sources would likely have doubled the size. A fuller bibliography instead of chapter references would have been a more useful tool, although Cunliffe is careful to note which sources have the best bibliographies of their own. Anyone with an interest in European history should consider this book a "must have".
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Outstanding work and fun book to read! 24 juillet 2006
Par A. Yeomans - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
I have to say this is one of my most treasured books next to my Tolkien collection. Sir Barry Cunliffe (just recently knighted and much deserved I might say) did a such a splendid job in keeping the main text clean of references and footnotes. For such a vast amount of material in the book, it's worth its weight in gold.

References are there for those seriously researching the information, but his book truly shows you can read what is usually dry material and have references too.

I would really love to see a book on ethnogenetics by him specifically focusing on the Atlantic Fringe.

A. Yeomans
10 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A well-produced book 28 février 2002
Par M. A Michaud - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
This exceptionally well-illustrated book describes the history and activities of the peoples who lived along Europe's western seaboard between 8,000 B.C. and 1,500 A.D. The author, a professor of archaeology at Oxford, believes that the Atlantic Ocean profoundly influenced the psychology and culture of those who lived on its edge. In many cases, they interacted more with each other than with peoples living in the interior of the continent; the seas became a link rather than a barrier. Maps of trade routes and archaeological finds illustrate these connections. The photographs, many of them in color, are first class. This is a unique and intriguing way to look at Western European history.
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