The Edge of the World: A Cultural History of the North Sea and the Transformation of Europe
This most excellent book details how ideas changed the history of the world. The author tells why the burning of the massive peat bogs of northwestern Europe caused Holland to be a butter exporter; how punctuation made books able to transmit ideas; how the modern use of money evolved from Frisian merchants; how the plague laws were the forerunner of our passports and regulations on movement; how the Hansa associations set the stage for modern commerce; how and why law became so important; and how the Viking invasions and settlement rearranged the social and political order of countries. Each of the many ideas is presented with a reason for why it started, how it grew, and how it shaped the modern world. The ideas transcend nations and peoples and land, surprisingly, in the middle of our own time. It is a very refreshing look at history, bypassing the petty politics of nations in favor of the power of ideas. The writer moves quickly through supporting examples, ferreting out fun little facts. It is easy to get caught up in the narrative; it is never boring and is very thought provoking. I recommend this book very highly.