The Earth Transformed: An Untold History (Hardcover)
A NEW YORKER BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR • A revolutionary new history that reveals how climate change has dramatically shaped the development—and demise—of civilizations across time
*Detailing many years of extensive research, endnotes for this edition run to more than 200 pages. They are available online via a link contained in the book.*
Global warming is one of the greatest dangers mankind faces today. Even as temperatures increase, sea levels rise, and natural disasters escalate, our current environmental crisis feels difficult to predict and understand. But climate change and its effects on us are not new. In a bold narrative that spans centuries and continents, Peter Frankopan argues that nature has always played a fundamental role in the writing of history. From the fall of the Moche civilization in South America that came about because of the cyclical pressures of El Niño to volcanic eruptions in Iceland that affected Egypt and helped bring the Ottoman empire to its knees, climate change and its influences have always been with us.
Frankopan explains how the Vikings emerged thanks to catastrophic crop failure, why the roots of regime change in eleventh-century Baghdad lay in the collapse of cotton prices resulting from unusual climate patterns, and why the western expansion of the frontiers in North America was directly affected by solar flare activity in the eighteenth century. Again and again, Frankopan shows that when past empires have failed to act sustainably, they have been met with catastrophe. Blending brilliant historical writing and cutting-edge scientific research, The Earth Transformed will radically reframe the way we look at the world and our future.
About the Author
PETER FRANKOPAN is professor of global history at Oxford University. He is the author of The First Crusade: The Call from the East, The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, and The New Silk Roads: The Present and Future of the World. He lives in Oxford.
A MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF 2023: BBC NEWS, SUNDAY TIMES CULTURE, FINANCIAL TIMES, NEW EUROPEAN, GUARDIAN, NEW STATESMAN, THE TIMES (LONDON), AND THE WEEK
"An essential epic that runs from the dawn of time to, oh, six o’clock yesterday."
—Jill Lepore, The New Yorker
"Thanks to Frankopan and the specialists he cites, the triumphalist procession of steles and slabs and coins that have formed the building blocks of history will give way to a deeper consideration of what constitutes a historical source....Again and again the hindsight that Frankopan exploits so intelligently forces us to look afresh at things we thought we knew."
—Christopher de Bellaigue, The New York Review of Books
"Frankopan has brought all of this scholarly work together into a massive book that is comprehensive, well-informed, and fascinating. It has the intellectual weight and dramatic force of a tsunami....This is an endlessly fascinating book, an easy read on an important issue."
—Gerard DeGroot, The Times (London)
"Frankopan shows you how everything fits together...Vast, learned and timely work...The Earth Transformed is Sapiens for grown-ups....It holds lessons for a world grappling with rapid climate change caused by human industry."
—Dan Jones, The Sunday Times
"A dazzling compendium of global research....The value of this book is an act of deep understanding, recognising not only scientifically but culturally and philosophically that we are epiphenomena—not dominators of the Earth but products of it."
—Adam Nicolson, Spectator
"The author succeeds in mastering a seemingly impossible challenge, distilling an immense mass of historical sources, scientific data, and modern scholarship that span thousands of years and the entire globe into an epic and spellbinding story. Humanity has transformed the Earth: Frankopan transforms our understanding of history."
—Walter Scheidel, Financial Times
"Even as temperatures increase, sea levels rise, and natural disasters escalate, our environmental crisis feels difficult to predict and understand. Again and again, Frankopan shows that when past empires have failed to act sustainably, they have met with catastrophe. Blending brilliant historical writing and scientific research, The Earth Transformed will reframe the way we look at our future."
—JP Faber, Coral Gables Magazine
"All historians aiming to tell a narrative face the problem of when exactly to start it. Only Peter Frankopan would go back 2.5 billion years to the Great Oxidation Event."
—Tom Holland, author of Dominion
"Frankopan demonstrates an impressive mastery of anthropological, historical, and meteorological literature, and his scrupulously evenhanded analysis carefully notes uncertainties in scientific and historical evidence. Elegant and cogently argued, this illuminates an age-old and urgently important dynamic."
—Publishers Weekly, starred
"A scholarly assessment of the long-standing human habit of altering the environment to increasingly devastating consequences....The author negotiates the difficult matter of environmental determinism well....A deep, knowledgeable dive into environmental history."
"Mapping historical, anthropological, and economic narratives against mountains of climate data, Frankopan correlates periods of instability to shifts in weather patterns, ocean currents, and seismic events. And if the human species has frequently survived existential peril—the Black Death, the Little Ice Age, volcanic mega-eruptions—the threats to our collective future are massive and unprecedented....Propelled by Frankopan’s global scope and interdisciplinary legwork, the resulting synthesis is ambitious, nervous, and impressive."