Book Review: 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed, by Eric H. Cline

I watched Cline’s lecture on the topic (see below) and found it fascinating, so wanted to follow up with reading more details. This book should be required reading to anyone interested in the bronze age and antiquity.

What to Expect

Cline starts with an over-view of the collapse of the Late Bronze Age, and then challenges the common view of what might have caused it. The view that droughts caused famine, which mobilised people in the Western Mediterranean looking for greener pastures, and their attacks on the Eastern Mediterranean caused the collapse is a too simplistic.

Cline starts by examining the interconnected cultures and kingdoms of the Late Bronze Age from the fifteenth century BCE, the global trade and political connections between them. Going forward along the centuries to the twelfth century BCE, he examines all the historical records around the Aegean, Egypt, Anatolia, Levant, and Mesopotamia – as well as all the calamitous events that people faced towards the end of the period and leading to the collapse.

I would suggest that you watch this lecture on YouTube. If you find it interesting and thought provoking, you can delve into the book to learn the subject in greater detail:

What I liked

I liked Cline’s balanced style, at once both rigorous and approachable. This book makes it easy for a non-academic to follow all the resources and reasoning, and understand the period that much better. It is certainly a very enjoyable non-fiction, one that encourages the reader to delve deeper into the fascinating period of the Trojan War and Egypt’s greatness.

What to be aware of

This isn’t a text-book on the Late Bronze Age, but a treatise about what might have led to the collapse. It presents the world on a global level, from diplomatic embassies and trade routes, rather than focusing on the details of individual cultures and their internal events.

Also, don’t expect a “smoking gun”, a simplistic explanation that neatly ties everything together. Rather, Cline paints a picture of a hyper-complex world, which fell apart when faced with concurrent, multiple stress factors.

Summary

Highly recommended to anyone who thinks we can still learn something from history. Cline not only describes the collapse of the Late Bronze Age, but also makes it relevant to this modern day and age. Get your copy, and see if it changes your view on today’s world.

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