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Professor of the Primitive: Brian M. Fagan
Book Reviews
© 2013 James LaFond
Brain Fagan is the author of numerous books on archaeology and anthropology. He is best known for his The Little Ice Age, which was adapted for a History Channel documentary. I loved the documentary and have not yet read the book. Below I am reviewing the three books that I have read by Mister Fagan, who has a nice clean unobtrusive writing style, and does not come off as a dry academic.
Without Mister Fagan’s work I would have had a very difficult time writing the portions of The Sunset Saga dealing with the ice age and pre-contact native peoples around the world.
The Journey from Eden
The Peopling of Our World
Brain M. Fagan
Thames and Hudson, 1990, London, 256 pages
This is a good, solid, readable effort at remotely tracking our ancestors. Fagan is very good when it comes to migratory deductions and expounding on the limits of archaeology. That said, he keeps his speculations very conservative. He is no ancient astronaut theorist. The book does spend some time debating two theories that are no longer debated, in light of the DNA evidence discovered since the book was written.
The Complete Ice Age
How Climate Change Shaped the World
Edited by Brian Fagan
Thames and Hudson, 2009, London, 240 pages
This is a beautiful full-sized book with every angle of the Ice Ages tackled by Mister Fagan and the other authors. This is a visually pleasing and valuable resource for anyone interested in climate and prehistoric Europe. There is even a discussion of a test done on Neanderthal bones that permits chemists to understand what animals made up what portion of their diet!
Clash of Cultures
Brian M. Fagan
W.H. Freeman and Company, 1984, NY, 318 pages
This is the best book on the subject of cultural annihilation—better even than Guns, Germs and Steel and its sequel by Jared Diamond. First off the cover reproduces a stunning painting of a Maori warrior. The book maintains a solid thematic tone as the author recounts the early interactions of European explorers and invaders with native cultures in eight distinct regions. He pays much attention to the missionary question and does not at all come off sounding like an advocate for the ‘noble savage’, a subject he dedicates an entire chapter to.
This is a first contact book written by a man who understands how societies are structured, and has an uncommon grasp of the nuances implicit in cross-cultural contacts. If we were discovered by aliens and had to send a negotiation team, I would suggest Mister Fagan as our committee leader. I am reading this book for the fourth time and cannot recommend it enough.
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