Synopses & Reviews
is Stephen Pyne's masterpiece. In it, he offers nothing less than a retelling of all of European history from a vantage point no other historian has ever adopted so consistently before: that of the fire which in Pyne's view burns at the very heart of Western civilization." --from the Foreword by William Cronon
Stephen Pyne has been described as having a consciousness "composed of equal parts historian, ecologist, philosopher, critic, poet, and sociologist." At this time in history when many people are trying to understand their true relationship with the natural environment, this book offers a remarkable contribution--breathtaking in the scope of its research and exhilarating to read.
Pyne takes the reader on a journey through time, exploring the terrain of Europe and the uses and abuses of its lands as well as, through migration and conquest, many parts of the rest of the world. Whether he is discussing the Mediterranean region, Russia, Scandinavia, the British Isles, central Europe, or colonized islands; whether he is considering the impact of agriculture, forestry, or Enlightenment thinking, the author brings an unmatched insight to his subject.
Vestal Fire takes its title from Vesta, Roman goddess of the hearth and keeper of the sacred fire on Mount Olympus. But the book's title also suggests the strengths and limitations of Europe's peculiar conception of fire, and through fire, of its relationship to nature. Between the untamed fire of the wilderness and the tended fire of the hearth lies a never-ending dialectic in which human beings struggle to control natural forces and processes that in fact can sometimes be directed but never wholly dominated or contained.
"Stephen Pyne's Vestal Fire is an astounding tour de force, even by this writer's demandingly high standards: nothing less than a total history of the western conception, practice, and response to fire through (at least) three millennia." -- Simon Schama, author of Landscape and Memory
Stephen J. Pyne is professor of history at Arizona State University. He is the author of nine other books, including Fire on the Rim: A Firefighter's Season at the Grand Canyon.
Paper edition reprint of a 1997 work, part of a suite of books that narrates the story of the impact of humanity's attempt to control fire. In this volume focused on European history, Pyne (history, Arizona State U.) sweeps through over 3,000 thousand years chronicling how flames have been harnessed
"Stephen Pyne's "Vestal Fire" is an astounding tour de force, even by this writer's demandingly high standards: nothing less than a total history of the western conception, practice and response to fire through (at least) three millennia. " -Simon Schama, author of "Landscape and Memory". "This is environmental history at its best - a subtle but provocative new blend of the human and the natural, of culture and nature, of society and environment ...and a rattling good story." - Michael Williams, Oxford University ""Vestal Fire" is a magisterially comprehensive environmental history of fire in Europe and most of the rest of the world. It is a splendidly written capstone of Stephen Pyne's "Cycle of Fire", a work of more than twenty years' duration." -William H. Goetzmann, author of "Exploration and Empire". Stephen J. Pyne, a noted environmental historian, is a professor in the Biology and Society Program at Arizona State University. Among his many books are the five volumes comprising the "Cycle of Fire", of which "Vestal Fire" is the most recent.