Books by Brian Fagan

Brian Fagan is Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His books include The Little Ice Age; Floods, Famines and Emperors; and The Long Summer. He lives in Santa Barbara, California.


FISHING by Brian Fagan
HISTORY
Released: Sept. 26, 2017

"A multilayered, nuanced tour of 'fishing societies throughout the world' and across millennia."
A study of global cultures that have been nurtured by the wealth from the sea. Read full book review >
HISTORY
Released: April 14, 2015

"Though reminding us of the cruelties still visited upon animals and insisting that we respect them anew—not merely as pets or idealized creatures of the wild—Fagan offers no resolutions to our conflicting attitudes toward them, but his compelling, cohesive book calls for further enlightenment."
Fagan (Emeritus, Anthropology/Univ. of Calif., Santa Barbara; The Attacking Ocean: The Past, Present, and Future of Rising Sea Levels, 2013, etc.) brings consummate skill to this frequently horrifying study of humanity's interaction with animals.Read full book review >
HISTORY
Released: June 6, 2013

"The author's vision and knowledge substantiate his clearly expressed concerns."
Fagan (Emeritus, Anthropology; Univ. of California, Santa Barbara; Beyond the Blue Horizon: How the Earliest Mariners Unlocked the Secrets of the Oceans, 2012, etc.) provides his assessment of rising sea levels. Read full book review >
ELIXIR by Brian Fagan
NON-FICTION
Released: June 7, 2011

"Long and discursive, but a rewarding survey of water's role in history and contemporary politics alike."
Anthropologist Fagan (Cro-Magnon: How the Ice Age Gave Birth to the First Modern Humans, 2010, etc.) spins a tale of water, water everywhere—water that is damn hard to get at, and getting harder to find every day. Read full book review >
HISTORY
Released: March 1, 2008

"An alarm bell ringing out from a distant time."
What happened when the world grew warmer from 800 to 1200 CE. Read full book review >
HISTORY
Released: March 1, 2001

"Largely overcast, despite some patches of sunshine. (29 tables and figures, not seen)"
A compelling subject passably treated by prolific archaeology author Fagan (Floods, Famines, and Emperors, 1999, etc.).Read full book review >
HISTORY
Released: March 1, 1999

Fagan (Time Detectives, 1995, etc.) draws on his archaeology background to intriguingly explore the correlation between unusual climatic shifts and unusual historical events. El Ni§o is a blooming of warm Pacific water, pushing eastward along the tropics, bucking the northeast trade winds. For years it was thought to be a localized anomaly particular to the northern Peruvian coast. Now it is appreciated as a colossal climatic happening that interacts with other climatic systems as part of a global weather machine. Fagan traces El Ni§o from its first reckonings to the large-scale weather predictions made today when satellites detect its upwelling appearance. He then goes on to speculate on how El Ni§o's hell spawn—catastrophic extended drought and biblical storms—may have contributed to the demise of ancient civilizations. Drawing examples from pharaonic Egypt, early Mesopotamia, the Anasazi of North America, the Moche world of northern Peru, and the flamboyant classic Mayans, Fagan describes how these peoples responded to the curveballs (50-year droughts that robbed their artful irrigation works of water, rain that washed away their guano, currents that stole their anchovies) thrown at them by El Ni§o. Some moved; some muddled through, diminished; some had the flexibility to find ways to make the land more productive; others collapsed, their already stressed environment caving in before the climatic assault that additionally undermined the peoples' faith in their divinities and in the omnipotence of their rulers. Lastly, Fagan points to El Ni§o's savagings today of people who are the least equipped to face it: the delta dwellers in their ramshackle huts, the farmers and others at the mercy of landowners and political bosses who thrive on the manipulation of relief aid. It is to Fagan's credit that he doesn't attribute to El Ni§o sole responsibility for the march of history but rather neatly fits its cruel weather into the matrix of circumstances that pushed great civilizations to—and some over—the brink. (20 maps and drawings, not seen) (Radio satellite tour) Read full book review >
HISTORY
Released: Feb. 1, 1995

In a whirlwind tour of 13 archaeological sites around the world, Fagan's sleepy, fact-heavy narrative fails to present major scientific discoveries as much more than the sum of their plodding details. Fagan (Quest for the Past, 1994, etc.) has a solid grasp of the complexities and innovations of the discipline's techniques. Nevertheless, his central point, that archaeologists are now using advanced scientific technology and have transformed themselves from ``diggers to time detectives,'' should come as no surprise to anyone with even a mild interest in science. The book is compelling in those sections where Fagan details the highly specific conclusions that archaeologists draw from mundane bits of evidence (bone-fragment analysis reveals the prehistoric Anasazi of the American Southwest practiced cannibalism) and the use of high-technology instruments to explain the mysteries of ancient civilizations (the use of NASA satellites to determine how the Maya fed their large population). But Fagan undermines his stated purpose by discussing several major discoveries that were based on low-technology innovations (the flotation tank that separates out prehistoric seeds from a site on the Euphrates river) and no technology (the interpretation of Mayan glyphs by creative linguists). Nowhere does the book explain why these particular discoveries were profiled, and not all chapters include explanatory illustrations beyond a map. As such, Time Detectives is plagued by a general sense of incoherence, which is heightened by overgeneralizations, absurd arguments (the ``similarity'' between violent conflict among the pre-Columbian Chumash Indians and present-day homicide statistics), and glaringly obvious statements: ``No single genius `invented' agriculture.'' The most serious flaw is Fagan's failure to communicate the excitement of archaeological research. We are left with a detailed but superficial review of the important findings of several modern archaeologists. (8 pages b&w photos, not seen; 26 line drawings) Read full book review >