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The Edge of the World
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Featured in New York Times: 100 Notable Books of 2015 Michael Pye's The Edge of the World is an epic adventure: from the Vikings to the Enlightenment, from barbaric outpost to global centre, it tells the amazing story of northern Europe's transformation by sea. 'An utterly beguiling journey into the dark ages of the north sea. A complete revelation . . . Pye writes like a dream. Magnificent' Jerry Brotton, author of A History of the World in Twelve Maps This is a story of saints and spies, of fishermen and pirates, traders and marauders - and of how their wild and daring journeys across the North Sea built the world we know. When the Roman Empire retreated, northern Europe was a barbarian outpost at the very edge of everything. A thousand years later, it was the heart of global empires and the home of science, art, enlightenment and money. We owe this transformation to the tides and storms of the North Sea. The water was dangerous, but it was far easier than struggling over land; so it was the sea that brought people together. Boats carried food and raw materials, but also new ideas and information. The seafarers raided, ruined and killed, but they also settled and coupled. With them they brought new tastes and technologies - books, clothes, manners, paintings and machines. In this dazzling historical adventure, we return to a time that is largely forgotten and watch as the modern world is born. We see the spread of money and how it paved the way for science. We see how plague terrorised even the rich and transformed daily life for the poor. We watch as the climate changed and coastlines shifted, people adapted and towns flourished. We see the arrival of the first politicians, artists, lawyers: citizens. From Viking raiders to Mongol hordes, Frisian fishermen to Hanseatic hustlers, travelling as far west as America and as far east as Byzantium, we see how the life and traffic of the seas changed everything. Drawing on an astonishing breadth of learning and packed with human stories and revelations, this is the epic drama of how we came to be who we are. 'A closely-researched and fascinating characterisation of the richness of life and the underestimated interconnections of the peoples all around the medieval and early modern North Sea. A real page-turner' Chris Wickham, author of The Inheritance of Rome: A History of Europe from 400 to 1000 'Elegant writing and extraordinary scholarship . . . Miraculous' Hugh Aldersey-Williams, author of Periodic Tales and Anatomies 'Splendid. A heady mix of social, economic, and intellectual history, written in an engaging style. It offers a counterpoint to the many studies of the Mediterranean, arguing for the importance of the North Sea. Exciting, fun, and informative' Michael Prestwich, Professor of History, Durham University 'Bristling, wide-ranged and big-themed...at its most meaningful, history involves a good deal of art and storytelling. Pye's book is full of both.' Russell Shorto, New York Times 'Beautifully written and thoughtfully researched... for anyone, like this reviewer, who is tired of medieval history as a chronicle of kings and kingdoms, knights and ladies, monks and heretics, The Edge of the World provides a welcome respite.' Prof Patrick J Geary, Wall Street Journal
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About the Author

Michael Pye has written eleven previous books, translated into eleven languages, including two British bestsellers and two New York Times 'Notable Books of the Year'. He took a First and various prizes in Modern History at Oxford, and was then for many years a highly successful journalist, columnist and broadcaster in London and New York. He now lives between London and rural Portugal.

Reviews

It's fascinating to understand [these] historical trends and ideas -- Jeremy Corbyn An utterly beguiling journey into the dark ages of the north sea. A complete revelation . . . Pye writes like a dream. Magnificent -- Jerry Brotton, author of 'A History of the World in Twelve Maps' A closely-researched and fascinating characterisation of the richness of life and the underestimated interconnections of the peoples all around the medieval and early modern North Sea. A real page-turner -- Chris Wickham, author of 'The Inheritance of Rome: A History of Europe from 400 to 1000' Elegant writing and extraordinary scholarship . . . Miraculous -- Hugh Aldersey-Williams, author of 'Periodic Tales' and 'Anatomies' Splendid. A heady mix of social, economic, and intellectual history, written in an engaging style. It offers a counterpoint to the many studies of the Mediterranean, arguing for the importance of the North Sea. Exciting, fun, and informative -- Michael Prestwich, Professor of History, Durham University Brilliant. Pye is a wonderful historian . . . bringing history to life like no one else. Who knew that the Irish invented punctuation? -- Terry Jones A masterly storyteller * Vogue * Pye has a great journalist's eye for a story and the telling anecdote as well as a great historian's ability to place it in the bigger picture. Here he fuses those talents in a hugely eclectic study of the very first stirrings of modernity in northern Europe -- Alexander McCall Smith Pye draws on a dizzying array of documentary and archaeological scholarship, which he works together in surprising ways . . . He advances on several fronts at once, following the overlapping currents of customary, religious and empirical ways of thinking. He writes about difficult concepts with vivid details and stories, often jump-cutting from exposition to drama like a film. It's complicated, but fun * Economist * Hugely enjoyable. it is the measure of Pye's achievement that he can breathe life into the traders of seventh-century Frisia or the beguines of late-medieval Flanders as well as into his more celebrated subjects . . . Grey the waters of the North Sea may be; but Pye has successfully dyed them with a multitude of rich colours -- Tom Holland * Guardian * A dazzling historical adventure * Daily Telegraph * An extraordinary book . . . Pye makes astonishing discoveries. Brevity is the bane of the reviewer; the best books are impossible to summarise in just 900 words. That's especially true with a treasure chest like this one . . . The end result is brilliantly illuminating. Pye's creativity brings light to this once dark time * The Times * A multi-layered book that demands time to read and be digested but rewards by giving one plenty to chew on * Observer * Excellent. The Edge of the World does what good non-fiction should, in making the reader see the world in a different light * Scotland on Sunday * An inspiring book, full of surprises . . . this is the kind of book that can open up new vistas. It might just rekindle a sense that Britain really is a North Sea nation and not just a rootless post-Imperium searching for a niche in the global emporium * Independent * Bristling, wide-ranging and big-themed ... Pye's view of the North Sea and European history succeeds in reorienting our thinking about the past * New York Times Book Review * A joy to read and reread. Pye challenges all our notions of the Dark Ages and shows the vast accomplishments completed long before the Renaissance. This book must be ranked right up there with the works of Mark Kurlansky and Thomas Cahill as a primer of the steps that led to modern civilization * Kirkus, starred review * An eye-opening reexamination of of Europe during the Dark Ages, and delightfully accessible. Pye's style is leisurely yet authoritative, scholarly but engaging; his approach resembles that of a docent leading a group through a vast museum, with each section devoted to a different aspect of society * Publishers Weekly * Refreshing. Pye excels at painting a unique portrait of the political, economic, and cultural transformation that has occurred on the shores of the North Sea. His frequent use of primary sources as well as fictional literary works gives the work an ethereal nature * Library Journal * Wonderful - well researched and beautifully written; he weaves in glorious anecdotes that show the Viking world as it should be seen -- Dr Peter Frankopan, Director, The Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research

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