Erudite, wide-ranging, a work of dazzling scholarship written with extraordinary flair, Civilizations redefines the subject that has fascinated historians from Thucydides to Gibbon to Spengler to Fernand Braudel: the nature of civilization. To the author, Oxford historian Felipe Fernández-Armesto, a society's relationship to climate, geography, and ecology are paramount in determining its degree of success. "Unlike previous attempts to write the comparative history of civilizations," he writes, "it is arranged environment by environment, rather than period by period or society by society." Thus, for example, tundra civilizations of Ice Age Europe are linked with those of the Inuit of the Pacific Northwest, the Mississippi Mound Builders with the deforesters of eleventh-century Europe. Civilizations brilliantly connects the world of ecologist, geologist, and geographer with the panorama of cultural history.
J. R. McNeill The New York Times Book Review Startling comparisons and imaginative characterizations...Fernández-Armesto wanders around the globe and across 10,000 years of history putting things together that by conventional methods are always kept apart...
George Scialabba The Boston Globe This is a history that highlights not warfare but farming, fishing, hunting, and herding...Civilizations does this so engagingly and so compellingly that many of its readers will henceforth find themselves thinking about the past in the latter categories...Stupendously informative and elegantly written, Civilizations is an embarrassment of riches.
John Gamino The Dallas Morning News Brilliant and brilliantly provocative...Mr. Fernández-Armesto [is] the best candidate we have to succeed Toynbee.