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Europe: A History

"Europe" is a magisterial work, sweeping in its analysis, illuminating in its insights and erudite in its scholarship.""Europe" brims with learning, crackles with common sense, coruscates with wit and abounds in good judgement.""A master of broad-brushstroke analysis, Davies navigates through the larger historical currents with the detail necessary to a well-written engaging narrative." -- "Publishers Weekly" (starred review)
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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 Europe‘not 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.)

Historian Davies (Heart of Europe, 1984) is perfect for this ambitious project, a panoramic history of Europe from prehistoric times to the present. He reminds readers that East and West have much in common, beginning with a long, conjoined history of events, personalities, movements, and concepts. Narrative chapters alternate with tableaux of specific events; there are numerous digressive inserts. The prose is elegant throughout; Davies's comments are always insightful and frequently witty. (Of the Western historians' dismissal of the Magyars as "not a creative factor in Western history," he comments: "All this means is that the Magyars did not reach Cambridge.") The author muses on "the extreme contrast between the material advancement of European civilization and the terrible regression in political and intellectual values." At last, a truly pan-European history that rests firmly on solid scholarship and exhibits wisdom and literary elegance; highly recommended.‘David Keymer, California State Univ., Stanislaus

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