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From the Ice Age to the Cold War, from Reykjavik to the Volga, from Minos to Margaret Thatcher, Norman Davies here tells the entire story of Europe in a single volume. It is the most ambitious history of the continent ever undertaken.


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From the Ice Age to the Cold War, from Reykjavik to the Volga, from Minos to Margaret Thatcher, Norman Davies here tells the entire story of Europe in a single volume. It is the most ambitious history of the continent ever undertaken.

30 review for Europe: A History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Betty Ho

    It took me 2 months to struggle through the first half of the book with numerous side readings/ wiki/ movies (To make sure I've got a clear picture, I even created a timeline with 300 events from pre-history to reformation and also hundreds of dots on my Google map). Once all the puzzles came together, I can breeze through the remaining 50% with great satisfaction.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    I read this on a Kindle which in terms of sheer logistics is the best way to read a 1392 page book. A "book" book of this size is just too uncomfortable to read in any other way. The Kindle came into its own especially with its notes and highlights features. 1392 pages, too little to cover 3 or 4,000 years of complex history of a continent? 1392 pages, too many pages to not be bored or overwhelmed with information? Davies did this by not writing a conventional history. By conventional I mean not I read this on a Kindle which in terms of sheer logistics is the best way to read a 1392 page book. A "book" book of this size is just too uncomfortable to read in any other way. The Kindle came into its own especially with its notes and highlights features. 1392 pages, too little to cover 3 or 4,000 years of complex history of a continent? 1392 pages, too many pages to not be bored or overwhelmed with information? Davies did this by not writing a conventional history. By conventional I mean not by chronology alone. He certainly starts at the start with neolithic peoples but he also starts by questioning what is Europe? He does a fair bit of historiography throughout questioning assumptions and reviewing what the profession thinks about certain issues and controversies. For instance he looks at the basis of Classical Greek civilisation, reviewing the "Black Athena" thesis (and dismissing it). What Davies does is write stories, some very opinionated. He writes stories about important aspects of European history. For instance when writing about the Roman class system he mentions slavery and goes off on a tangent about the history of slavery in Europe and then he comes back to Rome. There is the problem of what sort of reader would like this book. If you're a history buff why reread all the stuff you have read before and if you aren't a history buff why pick up a nearly 1400 page history book in the first place. The simple answer is gaps and connections. Everyone has a gap in their knowledge and Davies sees connections where most don't. Davies is an Eastern European specialist so he brings that insight into the book. He sees the interconnections between Western and Eastern Europe and how they formed. He gives space and credit to Byzantium and Orthodox Christianity. I knew nothing of Byzantium until I was about 15. I suspect most English speaking /Catholic/Protestant people are the same. Before this book I knew nothing of the history of Poland. Does the average person know why Poland had a large Jewish population? Well the reason is that when Europe was ripping itself to pieces over religion in the 16th and 17th Poland had a conscious policy of religious freedom and toleration so the Jews of Europe came and settled in a land that did not persecute them. It was only in the 19th Century with Poland split and the pressure of Czarist Orthodoxy that the idea of a real Pole being a Catholic came into play. I would highly recommend this book both for the specialist and the lay reader. I can see one potential untapped market with the rise of China and India. It is quirky in style and opinionated but it is well written.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jan Hidders

    A very big read indeed, but worth every minute you spend on it. The author makes a big point of treating the history of the whole of Europe, not just the Western part, and I agree with the author that such a treatment has been long overdue. The book is great as an overview work but can also be used to fill in some of the gaps in your historical knowledge, especially about Eastern Europe, since it also goes into some detail. However, it is not an introductory work and often assumes that you alrea A very big read indeed, but worth every minute you spend on it. The author makes a big point of treating the history of the whole of Europe, not just the Western part, and I agree with the author that such a treatment has been long overdue. The book is great as an overview work but can also be used to fill in some of the gaps in your historical knowledge, especially about Eastern Europe, since it also goes into some detail. However, it is not an introductory work and often assumes that you already know a thing or two. I like the writing style of the author, which really can draw you in sometimes, but he also sometimes gets a bit lost in theoretical musings, or gives too much irrelevant detail such as lists of kings, battles and dates. Here and there he also tries to keep up the pace by skipping on the basic explanations for the reader who isn't familiar with the specific period and region. Having said this, this is still simply the best work on the subject I've read, both in depth and comprehensiveness, as well as in readability.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Marc

    What an impressive book! Even after all those years this work still stands. Davies Eastern European speciality adds decisive information and corrects our classic view on European history. Also see my review in my Sense-of-History-account: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... What an impressive book! Even after all those years this work still stands. Davies Eastern European speciality adds decisive information and corrects our classic view on European history. Also see my review in my Sense-of-History-account: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    Can one narrate time—time as such, in and of itself? Most certainly not, what a foolish undertaking that would be. The story would go: “Time passed, ran on, flowed in a mighty stream,” and on and on in the same vein. No one with any common sense could call that a narrative. —Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain Personal Preface Lately I have been thinking a lot about time. Well, perhaps thinking isn’t the right word; I’ve been worrying. Ever since I moved to Spain, time has been a problem. What’s the pr Can one narrate time—time as such, in and of itself? Most certainly not, what a foolish undertaking that would be. The story would go: “Time passed, ran on, flowed in a mighty stream,” and on and on in the same vein. No one with any common sense could call that a narrative. —Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain Personal Preface Lately I have been thinking a lot about time. Well, perhaps thinking isn’t the right word; I’ve been worrying. Ever since I moved to Spain, time has been a problem. What’s the proper time to eat? When do people sleep here? How long will my job last? What about my visa? Multiple clocks beset me, counting down and counting up. Beyond my petty troubles, I have been thinking about time as an experience: how monotony speeds up the clock’s hand, variety slows it down, and nothing can stop it. I have been thinking about the inexorability of time: every passing second is irretrievable, every yesterday is irrecoverable. I have been spending a lot of time remembering, connecting my past with my present, if only artificially, and wondering how much the act of remembering itself distorts my memories. And in a Proustian mood, I have wondered whether a tremendous act of remembrance is the only defense we have against the ceaseless tide of time. In the midst of our mundane concerns, it is all too easy to forget to remember. But is it crucial to remember; otherwise life can go by without us noticing. This is why we celebrate birthdays. Logically, it is silly to think that you turn from one age to another all at once; of course we get older every day. We celebrate birthdays to force ourselves to reflect on the past year, on how we have spent our time and, more chillingly, on how much time we have left. This reflection can help us assess what to do next. Birthdays are just one example. In general, I have been finding it increasingly important to focus on these cycles, when a milestone is reached, when a process is completed, moments when the past is forcefully juxtaposed with the present. Finishing Norman Davies’s Europe was one such moment for me, and an important one. I first heard of the book from an old copy of National Geographic; it was in an article discussing the recent introduction of the euro (in 1999), a historic step in European unity. Davies’s book had just been published the year before, and the reporter had interviewed Davies about his thoughts on the future of Europe. I read this article right as my love of reading began to blossom. Thus I dutifully underlined the name of Davies’s book, hoping to buy and read it some time in the future. But it was years until I finally bought a copy; and still more years before I finally started reading. When I first heard of the book I would never have imagined that I would finally read it, many years later, in Europe. But here I am, and it feels great. The Review Norman Davies’s Europe is an attempt to write a survey history of Europe in one volume, from prehistoric times to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, covering both Western and Eastern Europe. It’s an ambitious project. As you can imagine, an enormous amount of selection and compression was necessary in order to fit all this material into one volume. Luckily, Davies is adept at both of these skills; unfortunately, the book is still too big to carry around. It is big, fat, and heavy: thick enough to stop a bullet, hefty enough to knock someone out cold. In terms of content, the book is both longer and shorter than it appears. Of the nearly 1,400 pages, only about 1,140 are actual history; the rest is given over to his notes, the index, and a lengthy series of appendices, on subjects ranging from the standard canon of opera, to death tolls in the Second World War, to the life course of an Austrian peasant household. Nevertheless, the pages are dense with text, in small font and with narrow margins; and the pages themselves are quite big. Moreover, owing to the huge amount of territory Davies covers, the book is almost nauseatingly packed with information, every page a summary of whole books. It isn’t the sort of thing you can breeze through. Davies begins with a pugnacious introduction, in which he denounces all of his forbearers. For him, attempts to write European history have all fallen into various traps, by focusing too much on the ‘Great Books’, by their excessive length, or by their neglect of Eastern Europe. Davies snubs his nose at specialization, and wags his finger at academic fads; he bashes both the traditionalists and the radicals. I personally found this introduction to be an interesting read, but it does seem out of place in a book for the general reader. For all that talk, you’d think Davies’s treatment would be highly heterodox. But that’s not the case. After an obligatory chapter on prehistory, he goes into a chapter on Greece, then Rome, then the Middle Ages, and so on. And even though one of his major bones of contention is the erstwhile disregard for Eastern Europe, he generally spends far more time on Western Europe. The chapters increase in length as they approach the future, becoming progressively more detailed. For example, Aristotle and Plato must share one measly paragraph between them, but Gorbachev is given a dozen pages. As a result, the book gets more interesting the further you read. The coverage is only so-so for the ancient world; quite good for the Medieval period; and becomes really gripping by the 19th century. Davies attempts to cover all the major developments, but of course his space is limited. He sketches the historical individuals when necessary, but this is certainly not a “Great Man” telling of history. For the most part Davies focuses on economic, political, social, and cultural history, while paying less attention to intellectual and art history. Among the arts, he is strong on music but weak on painting, sculpture, and architecture. The main narrative is broken up by what Davies calls ‘capsules’. These are mini-essays, ranging from half a page to two pages, on a variety of topics that interested Davies; they are set aside in their own boxes, interrupting the flow of the main text. This was Davies’s attempt to give extra color to his narrative, by focusing on little parts of the story that would otherwise be ignored. But I had mixed feelings about the idea. Half of the capsules were fascinating, but I thought many were uninspiring. And it was annoying to constantly be having to put the main narrative on hold, read a little essay, and then return where I left off. I thought it would have been a much better idea if he had left the capsules out completely, developed them into full-length essays, and then released them in their own book. I’d read it. Davies is a writer of high caliber. He can adapt his style to any subject. His prose, although largely devoid of flourish, is consistently strong. In short, he has achieved that allusive aim of popular history writers: to inform and entertain in one breath. Seldom does he come across as seriously biased; but he is not afraid to be opinionated at times, which adds a nice touch of spice to the book: “Chamberlain’s three rounds with Hitler must qualify as one of the most degrading capitulations in history. Under pressure from the ruthless, the clueless combined with the spineless to achieve the worthless.” I did catch two errors worth noting. First, Davies says that Dante called Virgil “The master of those who know,” when that epithet was really applied to Aristotle. Second, in the same sentence Davies calls Picasso, who was born in Andalusia, a “Catalan exile,” but he calls Dalí, who was born in Catalonia, a “Spaniard.” There were probably many more errors that I couldn’t catch, but in general the information seemed reliable. Although this book is a survey history, Davies does have one central concern: the European identity. What does it mean to be a European? Davies doesn’t give any simple answers to this question, but instead traces how the European identity evolved through time. The reason for his concern is obvious. The Soviet bloc had only recently been dismantled, and now the European Union was faced with the task of dealing with these newly freed states. Davies himself appears to be strongly pro-Union; and in that light, this history of both Western and Eastern Europe can be seen as an attempt to give the people’s of Europe a shared past, in the hopes that they might embrace a shared future. It was a bit strange to be finishing this book now. I can still remember the hopeful, enthusiastic tone of that National Geographic article about the new euro. People must have felt that they were entering a new age of European unity. Now the United Kingdom is threatening to leave the European Union, and several other countries are grumbling. The future, as always, is in doubt. Afterthought I finished the book on April 23, which is Book Day here in Spain. Yesterday was the 400th anniversary of Cervantes’s death; and today is the same anniversary for Shakespeare. To celebrate, I went to the Circulo de Bellas Artes, where they were having a public reading of Don Quixote. Everyday people, old and young, were lined up in an auditorium to read a page from that great masterpiece; it will go on for 48 hours. After that, I walked to the Cervantes exhibition in the National Library, where they have dozens of old manuscripts of Cervantes and his contemporaries on display. From there, I walked to the Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians, where Cervantes was buried. I am celebrating the completion of a cycle, and so is Spain. The past is alive and well in Europe.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Gator

    First thing that comes to mind that I’d like to share is this, if you plan on reading Europe you need to set aside a large chunk of time. Europe requires determination and commitment, it’s a huge book, small font, full pages top to bottom side to side. Second thing is how valuable a book it is, Davies gives a wonderful Macro look over the entirety of Europe as we know it, from the ice age to its publication in the late 90’s. This book was mind expanding and it was exactly what I was looking for, First thing that comes to mind that I’d like to share is this, if you plan on reading Europe you need to set aside a large chunk of time. Europe requires determination and commitment, it’s a huge book, small font, full pages top to bottom side to side. Second thing is how valuable a book it is, Davies gives a wonderful Macro look over the entirety of Europe as we know it, from the ice age to its publication in the late 90’s. This book was mind expanding and it was exactly what I was looking for, it quenched my thirst on the topic of history beyond satisfactorily. I won’t lie the damn book is so heavy in subject matter there were times I was ready to give up on it because the task that lie before me was so daunting, and I knew it would take me months to finish but I just kept on keeping on and almost 2 months later I completed one of the most informative books I’ve ever read. I highly recommend tackling Europe if you have time and think you’re ready, do it !

  7. 5 out of 5

    Pete Sikora

    Davies specializes in Polish history and WWII, but took on a continent-sized task. The result is a haphazardly organized mish-mash that loses its way just as its subject emerges as a concept in the 17th and 18th centuries. We get a lot of Eastern European history, at the expense of understanding other nations. My Polish background makes that fine by me. However, by writing too many books, historians run a danger: the need to recycle material. "Europe" is proof. At 1136 pages plus loads of append Davies specializes in Polish history and WWII, but took on a continent-sized task. The result is a haphazardly organized mish-mash that loses its way just as its subject emerges as a concept in the 17th and 18th centuries. We get a lot of Eastern European history, at the expense of understanding other nations. My Polish background makes that fine by me. However, by writing too many books, historians run a danger: the need to recycle material. "Europe" is proof. At 1136 pages plus loads of appendixes, it's a massive tome. It would have been nice to see more modern history - as usual for sweeping histories, the last 50 years are covered in the last 50 pages. "Europe", after all, is a modern phenomenon. There was no "Europe" at all in ancient times - or the middle ages either. Heck, they didn't even have the shape of the continent mapped. Not to mention that it's barely even a real continent anyway. On some level, therefore, the book is untrue to its title. It's really a history of the geographic area we now know as Europe. That's a quibble tho - I hate those dang : titles anyway, so who am I to complain. Still, it should have been more focused on the modern world. On the other hand, it's a good stab at a difficult (impossible?) synthesis. If Davies were a better writer, it'd be really solid a 4. I also suspect that he doesn't really know what he's talking about vis a vis anything other than Eastern Europe. So he can't quite pull it off. 3 side points: 1. the book was written at the height of PC academia. Davies is a tad defensive, albeit understandably. 2. the short breakout segments don't work - they're not compelling enough and as a result are distracting of the narrative, not illuminating. Just like, say, these 2 points stuck into the middle of this review. 3. he makes some attempts to comment on the convergence of communist and fascist ideology. Should have stuck to the history, and avoided the philosophy, because it's a superficial attempt and serves the reader poorly. We get that they both were bad - real bad. No need to try to prove they're basically the same thing, when the governing systems were radically different. But again, tough subject, and I kept reading. There's real merit to taking on the topic. A little grading on the curve is merited. Kudos to Davies for making the attempt. 3 stars.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Liviu

    Excellent

  9. 4 out of 5

    John Lucy

    Unless you know a whole lot about Europe already, this is a great book to read for the curious lay person and intellectual or for the student. It's long, clearly, but very much worth it as a book to read on the side. I'm a firm believer that histories should neither be told as stories or as simply a collection of facts, but something in between: Davies does it to near perfection. The writing is smooth and easily understandable for all. And, to his great credit, Davies tries hard at writing the h Unless you know a whole lot about Europe already, this is a great book to read for the curious lay person and intellectual or for the student. It's long, clearly, but very much worth it as a book to read on the side. I'm a firm believer that histories should neither be told as stories or as simply a collection of facts, but something in between: Davies does it to near perfection. The writing is smooth and easily understandable for all. And, to his great credit, Davies tries hard at writing the history without cultural biases or scholarly biases of any sort--obviously this is nearly impossible to do and Davies admits as much in his introduction, which is a great piece of writing in its own right. For people who "don't like" or "don't care" about history, the introduction alone is worth reading. Yet Davies does not fall into the modern trip, either, of exhibiting how evil the "good" guys actually were: the good guys are shown as good and bad, and the bad guys are shown as bad and good--the facts are given the most weight and various forms of historical interpretation are offered, though Davies does always give his own conclusions as well. The end result is that a reader from any country, the U.S. included, can feel proud and embarrassed of their country's exploits with a mostly balanced reading of history. In 1200 pages Davies does an excellent job of compacting the whole of Europe's history, with a strong emphasis on more modern history. All eras are covered but the closer to today the more attention Davies gives. For the lay person, perhaps the best trait of the history are the many capsules throughout that do not and would not fit into the historical narrative but cite interesting tidbits of historical knowledge, particularly cultural knowledge: for instance, ever wonder how vampire legends began? Like the introduction, the capsules are a good means for people who claim to not care about or like history to understand how fun history can be by learning from where certain cultural phenomenons come. Smaller histories are likely to accrue the criticism of having left out material while longer histories are often considered unreadable, and still receive the criticism of leaving out material. While all historians are susceptible to bias by inclusion or exclusion, it would be hard for anyone but a specialist scholar to point out where Davies does not include relevant material. As someone with a fairly good knowledge of European history going into the reading of this book, it's easy to say that Davies includes all the major and minor points of history and then some. The only problem is that Davies sometimes includes pieces of information by merely referencing it, as if he expects the reader to already know what he's talking about. Similarly, Davies is, to his credit, clearly attempting to write a history of Europe for Europeans, and Americans, and not for only one language group, though he is writing in English. What this means is that he often quotes poetry and other things in the native language, which is great, but then at times does not translate, which is not great, either expecting the reader to know French, Russian, German, and Italian particularly, or not caring at all about the reader. In the same vein Davies uses the actual spelling of historical figures' names rather than any accepted Anglicized versions of the names and rarely explains. This is particularly an issue at the beginning of the history with the Romans and Greeks, but continues to be an issue all the way through to approximately the Renaissance portion of the history. Most of the time the reader will figure it out--it would be hard to mistake Julius Caesar, given how much space he receives and that his story should be fairly recognizable for anyone--sometimes a less knowledgeable reader will come across a previously unknown figure and then be taught a spelling that many others wouldn't immediately recognize. All in all, I highly recommend this history. At the very least, read the introduction, the capsules, and the last two or three chapters.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kinga

    *4.5 Ahh! After six months (though really two intense months) of reading I've finally finished this monster of a book! I'm not saying that in quality only in the size of the book. The content itself was actually really enjoyable. Norman Davies divides his chapters between the the ideas and events that take place in the continent during each respective era. He shows how things that happen to one state or part of Europe can have immense effect on another area. I really enjoyed getting the broader p *4.5 Ahh! After six months (though really two intense months) of reading I've finally finished this monster of a book! I'm not saying that in quality only in the size of the book. The content itself was actually really enjoyable. Norman Davies divides his chapters between the the ideas and events that take place in the continent during each respective era. He shows how things that happen to one state or part of Europe can have immense effect on another area. I really enjoyed getting the broader picture which showed the inter-connectivity which allowed me to grasp the fact that many different things happens simultaneously that I probably never would have considered otherwise. Sometimes it's difficult to get that from a book that has a much narrower focus. True to his word, Davies strives to give the lesser known areas the attention they deserve especially when it comes to the Eastern side...and even more especially, the Polish side. This I don't really mind since it is an area of great interest to me, though I feel the need to call the author out on it and compare him to a student who writes an essay and feels the need to include everything he knows on his subject of interest in order to add length or to show his niche expertise. Again, something I personally don't mind as a person with an interest in the country, but I'm not sure how others without that mindset feel. Since the book is older than I am, it was interesting to see how Davies' predictions compared to how history really unfolded. I personally would like to see an updated version which includes material up until my current present day but I doubt that will happen. Long story short, as any historian, Norman Davies shows a certain bias however, Europe does a great job of condensing a whole continent of history into one volume (which is one of his goals if I remember the introduction alright). The book's length should not discourage one from reading it as it is a great work and I will definitely be keeping it on my shelf to refer back to should I ever feel the need.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Joel

    I wavered between 4 and 5 stars, because there are some parts -- mostly in the beginning -- that I forced myself to trudge through. But that was only because my knowledge of Europe outside of the usual stuff is relatively small, and I was just not able to process all the names and places thrown out. I'm taking into account that this book is an insane undertaking, and the fact that I was really into the book for around 800 of its 1136 pages is pretty damn impressive. The little boxes of random as I wavered between 4 and 5 stars, because there are some parts -- mostly in the beginning -- that I forced myself to trudge through. But that was only because my knowledge of Europe outside of the usual stuff is relatively small, and I was just not able to process all the names and places thrown out. I'm taking into account that this book is an insane undertaking, and the fact that I was really into the book for around 800 of its 1136 pages is pretty damn impressive. The little boxes of random asides scattered throughout the book are great, as are the maps and charts and lists packed in the appendices at the end. It really lends itself to being left on the shelf for future reference. And the more intimate stories that end each chapter serve to wrap up things in each section extremely well, making each chapter feel like its own short book. It's fantastic.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Pouria

    I am a non-English speaker with no background in European history and this book was a disaster for me. After reading about a hundred pages I couldn't learn anything from it. It assumes you have a firm background in European history. It just jumps into a time period in history and mentions a lot of names without introducing them or mentioning who or what or where they are. For example early in the book where he is talking about Rome there are a lot of mentions of different emperors, places, peopl I am a non-English speaker with no background in European history and this book was a disaster for me. After reading about a hundred pages I couldn't learn anything from it. It assumes you have a firm background in European history. It just jumps into a time period in history and mentions a lot of names without introducing them or mentioning who or what or where they are. For example early in the book where he is talking about Rome there are a lot of mentions of different emperors, places, people, etc. Emperor X did that and after a defeat in the war Y fled to Z. And he doesn't even explain who Emperor X is, when has he ruled, what the war Y is and why it happened, where Z is. In my opinion this book is only useful as a reference book for people who already know history.

  13. 4 out of 5

    James Murphy

    I've been reading this all year, 2,3, 4 pages a day, slowly digesting. This is magisterial history. It does have sections deep in the past when his history slides into a survey of rulers or social movements. Not surprising in a work so vast and all-encompassing in its scope. I think his narrative of the 20th century astonishing in its insight and analysis. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in reading history.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Richard Newton

    I feel a sense of relief having finished this book. That's not something one would normally feel on finishing what is a good book, but this is such an enormous relentless tome, that it is pretty exhausting. Even though I have read several books in parallel, this one has tired me! Davies covers European history in the full, from the earliest times to the point of completion of the book back in 1991. It is by its nature broad brush history, but Davies includes plenty of small details and historical I feel a sense of relief having finished this book. That's not something one would normally feel on finishing what is a good book, but this is such an enormous relentless tome, that it is pretty exhausting. Even though I have read several books in parallel, this one has tired me! Davies covers European history in the full, from the earliest times to the point of completion of the book back in 1991. It is by its nature broad brush history, but Davies includes plenty of small details and historical anecdotes which bring a sense of realism to the history he is describing. This is a work of phenomenal education and breadth of knowledge. I like the way Davies neither sticks to the history of big events or the history of social trends, but brings both together. I like the coverage of a real European history - from Russia to Ireland, not just western Europe as is so common. There are a few faults. At times it reads more like an encyclopedia as you jump from one part of history to another in the long chapters. The little inserts on items of interest do not always work, and even when they are interesting can disrupt the flow of reading. Some smaller, but very interesting, countries in Europe could complain this focuses too much on the big nations - such as Italy, the UK, France, Germany, Poland and Russia. Additionally, this is a massive book for a paperback - 1,400 pages long with larger than normal pages, which at times just makes it hard to handle. A 2 volume version would have been preferable. This may seem like a minor gripe, but this is not a book to be carried around,. If, like me, you do a lot of reading whilst travelling this book, at least in physical form, is probably a non-starter. Finishing reading this in late 2016 the book reads pretty poignantly given recent events. The ease with which extreme right wing and nationalist parties have risen time and time again in Europe should be a part of history better understood. The ease with which historical "facts" have been manipulated, represented and recreated to suit a particular politic message is something everyone could do with knowing.

  15. 4 out of 5

    David Buccola

    Davies “history” of Europe is clearly tainted by the Western biases of the Cold War. At nearly every point in Europe’s history Davies spends enormous time and effort to shit on Russian civilization in all its forms. As I trudged through the book it almost became comical anytime Russia was mentioned. And, in case the careful reader missed it, Davies sums it up near the end of this massive tome, “Russia was uniquely mean and mendacious...and brought death and misery to more humans than any state i Davies “history” of Europe is clearly tainted by the Western biases of the Cold War. At nearly every point in Europe’s history Davies spends enormous time and effort to shit on Russian civilization in all its forms. As I trudged through the book it almost became comical anytime Russia was mentioned. And, in case the careful reader missed it, Davies sums it up near the end of this massive tome, “Russia was uniquely mean and mendacious...and brought death and misery to more humans than any state in history.” That’s an easy statement when you ignore the large majority of European slaughter, whether in India, the Congo or the Americas. But the bias is so deep that it’s hard to believe that Davies thinks he’s written an objective history here. For instance, he refers to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan but there’s no mention of the US invasion of Vietnam. In fact the invasion of South Vietnam by US forces is instead portrayed as an “increase of commitments to South Vietnam.” A commitment to round up locals in concentration camps, bomb damns, starve peasants...that’s a real commitment to war crimes that is never even hinted at by Davies. In another section as he’s once again bemoaning the duplicitous and barbaric nature of Russia Davies falsely claims that the Security Council of the UN “was paralyzed most often by Soviet Vetos; while technically true it’s a difference of seven vetoes between the US and the Soviet Union: 68 for the USSR and 61 for the USA. Clearly it’s not a huge difference and the two superpowers were equally bad at allowing any sense of democracy within the UN structure that curtailed their imperialistic tendencies. It’s not to say there isn’t plenty of useful information here. Davies does a good job of tackling a huge amount of history here. The movements of different groups across Europe and how they settled and where they settled is fascinating. But it’s so biased that it’s hard to rate this higher than one star.

  16. 4 out of 5

    carl theaker

    A quite fascinating entirely readable intro to European history. At over 1200 pages it's quite a tome, but it does cover a lot of ground, pre-history to 1992, nomadic-tribes to the end of the Cold War. Along with plenty of maps, charts, and a few sections of photos, there are 1 page Capsules sprinkled throughout, which delve into a particular subject a little deeper. Davies is a scholar on Poland, so if you find the section on that area a little long, you've never learned so much about Lithuania A quite fascinating entirely readable intro to European history. At over 1200 pages it's quite a tome, but it does cover a lot of ground, pre-history to 1992, nomadic-tribes to the end of the Cold War. Along with plenty of maps, charts, and a few sections of photos, there are 1 page Capsules sprinkled throughout, which delve into a particular subject a little deeper. Davies is a scholar on Poland, so if you find the section on that area a little long, you've never learned so much about Lithuania in your life, that's probably why. In the later chapters he speculates on a few subjects that aren't quite 'history' yet, exposing some of this leanings.Overall a goodread and a good reference, easy to go back andread a section or two or a favorite Capsule. Certainly plenty of interest piquing areas to inspire you to investigate a subject more.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Elijah Meeks

    This is an amazing, magisterial text that I always find myself opening. Though Davies let's his anti-Soviet sentiment affect not only his modern interpretations and he ignores the Romanized and Hellenized culture of the Middle East, it's still the finest overview of classical Europe that I've ever read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Synve

    Interesting, comprehensive book. He does a good job of covering all of Europe´s history in one volume. However, I did notice some incorrect facts in the book (for instance about Scandinavia which I know best), and this probably means there are many more incorrect facts I didn´t notice. So I don´t recommend trusting the book 100%.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mieczyslaw Kasprzyk

    I loved the balance Davies brought into the book - no longer was Eastern Europe left to the sidelines but it was returned to its rightful place , in there , in Europe! I Loved the little packaged bits that looked that topics in more detail... Brilliant. The best history of Europe yet!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sense Of History

    Extraordinary history of Europe. Brilliant, especially for its attention to eastern Europe, although written just after the opening of the Iron Curtain in 1989. The "lemma's" that accompany the chronological story are perfect complementaries that give depth to the narrative.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Pierce

    The sine qua non reference for European history. Particularly valuable for covering more than France, Germany, Italy, and Britain.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Piers

    A truly epic work. Having 20-odd years of perspective since this book was published really brings home just how big a millstone around the neck of Europe our collective and individual history is. I found myself sighing in recognition of so many of the follies of modern British and European politics, seeing how we simply refuse to learn the lessons of experience. I've seen some quite sniffy reviews of this claiming it to be unduly weighted towards Poland at the expense of other parts of Eastern Eu A truly epic work. Having 20-odd years of perspective since this book was published really brings home just how big a millstone around the neck of Europe our collective and individual history is. I found myself sighing in recognition of so many of the follies of modern British and European politics, seeing how we simply refuse to learn the lessons of experience. I've seen some quite sniffy reviews of this claiming it to be unduly weighted towards Poland at the expense of other parts of Eastern Europe, but I can't say that particularly bothered me as an "outsider" to that. What did take some of the shine of it for me is there are a few sections of quite insipid "X tribe went here and displaced Y tribe who went there..." that just didn't really have enough context to see the significance. Also, my copy had a printing error so about 20 random pages near the middle of the book were missing. It's such an epic sweep that I'm not sure if I missed anything important or not, but having gone to the effort of reading all of this tome I wanted to read, well, all of it! Takes real commitment to get through, but if you're in any way interested in Europe now or in the past, this is well worth the effort.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    2.5 I knew this book was going to be a survey of European history and not a deep dive into any specific topic, and Davies makes it very clear in his intro that he isn’t a fan of that type of history. I still wish he had gone more into detail in some areas; he assumed a level of baseline knowledge for all time periods and locations he discusses, which is of course an argument for his “style” of history. I also felt like some topics were irrelevant. He takes a few pages to talk about cheese and ho 2.5 I knew this book was going to be a survey of European history and not a deep dive into any specific topic, and Davies makes it very clear in his intro that he isn’t a fan of that type of history. I still wish he had gone more into detail in some areas; he assumed a level of baseline knowledge for all time periods and locations he discusses, which is of course an argument for his “style” of history. I also felt like some topics were irrelevant. He takes a few pages to talk about cheese and how much of it Charlemagne had shipped to him but then barely mentions the division of Ireland or the Troubles. Surely, the violence in Northern Ireland is more important than the cheese! I also found his structure jarring; it seemed that he had trouble deciding if he wanted to approach history chronologically or thematically once he got to the industrial revolution. The author also seemed to have strong biases that made me uncomfortable at times and felt out of place in a survey of history. Lastly, I found that he didn’t quite deliver his promise of a look at all of Europe. While he does reference Eastern Europe and Russian frequently he rarely included Scandinavia or Ireland. I did learn a lot from this book in the end though.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Victor Negut

    I categorized this as a History of Everything because it follows that formula. It seems more like an author showcasing their mastery over historical narrative while providing surprisingly little depth in analysis. Sometimes i love this as in the case of Yuval Harari but most of the time I think it fails to deliver. To its credit, Norman Davies is an excellent writer and there is little to fault in this telling of history. He even puts a disclaimer in the introduction, to say that this work is un I categorized this as a History of Everything because it follows that formula. It seems more like an author showcasing their mastery over historical narrative while providing surprisingly little depth in analysis. Sometimes i love this as in the case of Yuval Harari but most of the time I think it fails to deliver. To its credit, Norman Davies is an excellent writer and there is little to fault in this telling of history. He even puts a disclaimer in the introduction, to say that this work is unique only in compilation, not in content. But in my opinion the compilation is vague in scope and If you are reasonably familiar with European history (especially that of Eastern Europe) there is not much content either, in this nearly 1500 page tome.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Gerry

    Feeling very accomplished, after just over five months, to have finished reading this massive history of Europe, which opens in the mists of pre-history and closes at the dawn of the European Union in 1993. My goal was to gain a perspective on the broad outlines of European history, and Davies' book accomplished that quite well. I often found myself turning to Google for a more detailed explanation of specific terms or events, and annotating the text with that information. I will keep this book Feeling very accomplished, after just over five months, to have finished reading this massive history of Europe, which opens in the mists of pre-history and closes at the dawn of the European Union in 1993. My goal was to gain a perspective on the broad outlines of European history, and Davies' book accomplished that quite well. I often found myself turning to Google for a more detailed explanation of specific terms or events, and annotating the text with that information. I will keep this book in my collection as a valued reference.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tania

    No. DNF at 10%

  27. 5 out of 5

    Darren Goossens

    Europe: A History by Norman Davies Pimlico, 1997. 1365 pages (review from http://darrengoossens.wordpress.com/2... ) This is probably the single biggest volume I have ever read. It has many fans, and rightly so. European history is rather like translations of Homer and films of Shakespeare; each English (speaking) generation needs to have its own. I have read a handful of histories of Europe, and each time a new one comes along it allows itself to believe it has shaken off a few more shibboleths, se Europe: A History by Norman Davies Pimlico, 1997. 1365 pages (review from http://darrengoossens.wordpress.com/2... ) This is probably the single biggest volume I have ever read. It has many fans, and rightly so. European history is rather like translations of Homer and films of Shakespeare; each English (speaking) generation needs to have its own. I have read a handful of histories of Europe, and each time a new one comes along it allows itself to believe it has shaken off a few more shibboleths, seen a little more clearly, and perhaps approached nearer to some kind of truth, or at least accuracy. This book, getting on for 20 years old now, is still I think the best recent European history; well, the best one widely available in English in Australia… First, we have to ask ‘what is Europe?’ Davies is inclusive, and a great strength of the book is the relative prominence it gives to the Eastern half of the promontory (Europe is not a continent, it is a great big promontory of Asia — more than any other continent, Europe is a cultural rather than geographic entity). We even get a textbox on the Khazars. There is no reason why France should get more pages than Poland in a European history, yet many books hardly go east of Prussia. I suppose few European histories written by authors from east of the Rhine, let alone the Vistula get translated into English… Davies has written extensively on Eastern Europe, and is the perfect author to give the east its due. As I’ve noted before, I have an interest in the empire referred to as Byzantine, simply because I find it fascinating. Old European histories would say how the Roman Empire fell in 476, and I still recall being surprised when I found out that that simply was not true, just an artefact of a reprehensibly skewed view of the past. The Eastern Roman Empire persisted until (at least) 1453, a direct, if many-times transformed, descendant of the Republic of 500BC. It truly was a bulwark against Islam — and I make no judgement on whether a Christian Europe is a better or worse thing than an Islamic one, I simply note that Europe most likely would be Islamic had the Byzantines crumbled sooner — and for that alone needs to be properly integrated into a European history. Davies does this. Russia, Poland, the Ottomans, they all are given reasonable weight. It is a good book, a good popular history. It is very long, but repays the time taken to read it — a task assisted by the author’s direct, unaffected prose which is a model of clarity. I hardly ever noticed Davies’s words, which I think is, in a book like this, a high compliment. And, thought I live in Australia, it is my history, or at least a large chunk of my history. I am a white Australian. My antecedents, at least over the last few centuries, come equally from the British Isles and the Continent (and of course not ‘The Continent’ of Australia). I work as a scientist in the tradition of ‘Western’ science, built up by Europeans from Socrates to Newton and on to today. I am aware that crucial contributions came from elsewhere — our system of numerals is essentially from India, our words algorithm, algebra and others illustrate the role of scholars from the Islamic world (though don’t forget that has included Spain and much of the Balkans at various times). I work in a University of an essentially European model, in a country governed using the ‘Westminster‘ system, writing in English. Europe: A History gives me a broader, deeper view than any other book I have read that claims the same territory. Were I to construct a top 10 list of my favourite books, it would be in there. Hmm…

  28. 5 out of 5

    Alyse Rađenović

    Not without merit but very biased

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lyn Elliott

    I have been reading this for over a year, and will probably go on reading it for the rest of my life. For anyone wanting to understand the patterns of Europe over a long time frame, this is the most interesting book I have come across. Davies discusses the concept of 'Europe' as a starting point - in itself a fascinating exercise. His Europe includes the Slavic countries and the Balkans. As he speaks and reads at 9 languages, including several Slavic languages, he is able to access sources that I have been reading this for over a year, and will probably go on reading it for the rest of my life. For anyone wanting to understand the patterns of Europe over a long time frame, this is the most interesting book I have come across. Davies discusses the concept of 'Europe' as a starting point - in itself a fascinating exercise. His Europe includes the Slavic countries and the Balkans. As he speaks and reads at 9 languages, including several Slavic languages, he is able to access sources that most scholars who write in English can't access, let alone analyze and incorporate into a mighty overview. He is opinionated, often cheerfully. He is consciously Welsh, which means he writes from a perspective apart from the dominant English view and is frequently critical of it. This seems to me to entirely healthy. The structure is mildly irritating. Text boxes interrupt the flow throughout, and often seem to be vignettes or asides that Davies couldn't resist but couldn't tie into the main narrative. No doubt there are specialist texts that deal more completely with any period or region of Europe than this. But Davies is ideal for quick trips into questions like 'what were the effects of the French Revolution and Empire on Europe in ensuing decades' and 'how did the counter-reformation affect art'. Judt is much better on C20 ideas, especially post World War II. Davies' 'Europe' is a book I'll keep dipping into for years.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Chris Abel

    For several years, history has been the primary focus of what I read. Having not had a formal course in history since high school, I decided to read this book in order to build a general base of knowledge which can inform my future book choices. Given the length of the book, and the time commitment that it will likely require to complete, I've decided to split it into sections, and then temporarily put the book aside after reading each section. Over the past month (early Aug. - early Sept. 2010), For several years, history has been the primary focus of what I read. Having not had a formal course in history since high school, I decided to read this book in order to build a general base of knowledge which can inform my future book choices. Given the length of the book, and the time commitment that it will likely require to complete, I've decided to split it into sections, and then temporarily put the book aside after reading each section. Over the past month (early Aug. - early Sept. 2010), I finished the first section: the introduction, the chapter on European prehistory, and the chapters on Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. Although I am very much enjoying the book, I am finding it somewhat lacking in its recitation of the basic historical facts. I am finding myself going to Wikipedia frequently to supplement my reading. In the chapter on Ancient Greece, if felt to me as if Davies assumed that the reader would already be familiar with the basic facts, dates, and battles of the Persian and Peloponnesian Wars. Even worse, he jumped right into the middle of the Second Punic War at the end of the chapter without explaining who Hannibal was and how he had gotten to northern Italy. The following chapter on Ancient Rome was better in this regard, but I still found myself consulting Wikipedia frequently.

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