The Edge of the World How the North Sea Made Us Who We are

by Michael Pye

Biography / Autobiography History

The Edge of the World How the North Sea Made Us Who We are Synopsis

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.

The Edge of the World How the North Sea Made Us Who We are Press Reviews

'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

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9780670922321
Publication date: 06/11/2014
Publisher: Viking an imprint of Penguin Books Ltd
Format: Hardback

Book Information

ISBN: 9780670922321
Publication date: 6th November 2014
Author: Michael Pye
Publisher: Viking an imprint of Penguin Books Ltd
Format: Hardback
Genres: Biography / Autobiography, History,

About Michael Pye

Michael Pye is the author of The Edge of the World: How the North Sea Made Us Who We Are.

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