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The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilizationby Brian M. Fagan
Synopses & Reviews
"The Long Summer," writes Brian Fagan in his introduction, "is about rising vulnerability. It is the 15,000-year story of how, time and again, humans in their relationship with climate reached a threshold and, without hesitation, crossed it."
Humanity evolved in a climate very different from the present one in an Ice Age in which glaciers covered much of the world. Starting about 15,000 years ago, temperatures began to climb, the glaciers began to recede, and sea levels began to rise. Civilization and all of recorded history occurred in this warm period, the era known as the Holocene. This is the long summer of the human species. Until very recently, however, we had no detailed record of climate changes during the Holocene. Now we do, and Brian Fagan shows us how climate functioned as what historian Paul Kennedy described as one of the "deeper transformations" of history a more important factor than we have heretofore understood. The interaction of climate and history is not a matter of a single pivotal event, but an intricate dance of challenge and response involving changing ecosystems, technologies, and evolving political, cultural and social systems. For all the changes, the long-term pattern is consistent: the entire history of civilization has been a continual process of trading up of accepting vulnerability to large climate stresses in exchange for resistance to smaller ones. In The Long Summer, Fagan shows how a thousand-year chill caused by the sudden shutting off of the Gulf Stream led people in the Near East to abandon hunting and gathering to take up the cultivation of plant foods; how the catastrophic flood that created the Black Sea drove settlers deep into Europe; how a subsequent warming and drying of the Sahara forced its cattle-herding peoples to take up a less hazardous life along the banks of the Nile; how the Roman Empire extended north in Gaul only as far and for as long as the climate allowed sustained cereal farming; and how a period of increased rainfall in East Africa in the sixth century spread rat populations and the bubonic plague throughout the Mediterranean, and how this is in turn spurred massive migrations that helped shape modern Europe and the Middle East. Continuing the groundbreaking synthesis widely acclaimed in The Little Ice Age and Floods, Famines and Emperors, The Long Summer illuminates for the first time the centuries-long pattern of human adaptation to the demands and challenges of an ever-changing climate-demands and challenges that are still with us today.
From the author of The Little Ice Age, a wide-ranging and surprising look at how climate changes have affected the whole of human history
Humanity evolved in an Ice Age in which glaciers covered much of the world. But starting about 15,000 years ago, temperatures began to climb. Civilization and all of recorded history occurred in this warm period, the era known as the Holocene-the long summer of the human species. In The Long Summer, Brian Fagan brings us the first detailed record of climate change during these 15,000 years of warming, and shows how this climate change gave rise to civilization. A thousand-year chill led people in the Near East to take up the cultivation of plant foods; a catastrophic flood drove settlers to inhabit Europe; the drying of the Sahara forced its inhabitants to live along the banks of the Nile; and increased rainfall in East Africa provoked the bubonic plague. The Long Summer illuminates for the first time the centuries-long pattern of human adaptation to the demands and challenges of an ever-changing climate-challenges that are still with us today.
About the Author
Brian Fagan is Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. A former Guggenheim Fellow, he has written many internationally acclaimed popular books about archaeology, including The Little Ice Age, Floods, Famines, and Emperors, and The Long Summer. He lives in Santa Barbara, California.
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