978-0-674-00678-2 / 067400678X

Atlas of the Year 1000

by Man, John

Publisher:Harvard University Press



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About the book:

The title is disingenuously precise. Around the turn of the last millennium, time bore a different complexion; indeed, it was expressed through a variety of calendars. The notion of a millennium would occupy a book in itself (and has: see Stephen Jay Gould's terrific Questioning the Millennium), so rather than box himself in, anthropologist John Man wisely attempts a general appraisal of the late-10th-and-early-11th-century world, and how it hung together.

And it did hang together. Vikings were in Vinland (Canada's Newfoundland today), Basques were roaming the oceans, Polynesians roamed the South Seas, and the Jews were the blood coursing through the new-born community's veins, linking empires with their indomitable trading. Recognizable events included the murder of Malcolm, later to be immortalized in That Scottish Play, the writing of The Tale of Genji, possibly the world's first novel, the Battle of Maldon, and the carving of the Easter Island statues. John Man takes on this developing world methodically, moving across the continents, taking each people in turn and in a couple of pages outlining their status in historical and cultural contexts, past and present. Of course, some are easier to trace than others, with the world dividing into those with a written culture and those without; however, large expanses that were previously a mystery, such as sub-Saharan Africa, are only now starting to turn up illuminative archaeological remains and artifacts. As ever, the past is in the future, and will be for many years to come. There is a lot here to digest. The sweep of this book is refreshingly broad and cosmopolitan--for a more Anglocentric perspective, read Robert Lacey and Danny Danziger's The Year 1000. John Man's brief history of a time is more globally connective, broadsheet rather than tabloid, and while there is inevitably a hint of the textbook about it, liberal use of illustrative maps and photographs breaks up the text at apposite points. In a cluttered field, and at a cluttered time, it delivers an instructive and timely historical bookmark. --David Vincent,

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