eBook review copy, 360 pages
An epic adventure ranging from the terror of the Vikings to the golden age of cities: Michael Pye tells the amazing story of how modernity emerged on the shores of the North Sea.
Saints and spies, pirates and philosophers, artists and intellectuals: they all criss-crossed the grey North Sea in the so-called "dark ages," the years between the fall of the Roman Empire and the beginning of Europe's mastery over the oceans. Now the critically acclaimed Michael Pye reveals the cultural transformation sparked by those men and women: the ideas, technology, science, law, and moral codes that helped create our modern world.
This is the magnificent lost history of a thousand years. It was on the shores of the North Sea where experimental science was born, where women first had the right to choose whom they married; there was the beginning of contemporary business transactions and the advent of the printed book. In The Edge of the World, Michael Pye draws on an astounding breadth of original source material to illuminate this fascinating region during a pivotal era in world history.
The Edge of the World: A Cultural History of the North Sea and the Transformation of Europe by Michael Pye is a highly recommended well researched presentation of the impact North Sea travel had during the dark ages and how it lead to modern Western civilization. Pye does an exceptional job of making the historical information accessible and entertaining, as well as informative. The areas of influence covered include the invention of money, the book trade, enemies, settlers, fashion, law, exploring nature to the north, science, women's rights, trading, plague laws, and the invention of cities. Pye uses historical documents and resources to show how the Frisians to the Vikings influenced cultural advances in civilization that can be seen today. Additionally, he references fictional literary works of the times to advance the presentation of historical facts with. The book includes references, notes, and an index.
"They came in glory. They look like something both new and brilliant, but the truth is that they grew out of the light in what we used to casually call the 'dark ages' and the central importance of what we used to call 'the edge of the world'. Around the cold, grey waters of the North Sea, the old, the marginal, the unfashionable made us possible: for much better, and for much, much worse. It is time now to give them all their due."
Pye notes: "This book is about rediscovering that lost world, and what it means to us: the life around the North Sea in times when water was the easiest way to travel, when the sea connected and carried peoples, belief and ideas, as well as pots and wine and coal. This is not the usual story of muddled battles and various kings and the spread of Christianity. It is the story of how the constant exchanges over water, the half-knowledge that things could be done differently, began to change people's minds profoundly. This cold, grey sea in an obscure time made the modern world possible. Consider what had to change after the end of the Roman Empire in order to take us to the start of the cities, states and habits that we now know: our law, our idea of love, our way of business and our need for an enemy in order to define ourselves."
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Pegasus for review purposes.