Fire: A Brief History

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University of Washington Press, Jul 1, 2011 - Technology & Engineering - 224 pages

"The fate of humanity, like the fate of the earth, is tied to the fires that have made the world as we know it the fires whose history is told as well in this book as it has ever been told before. If one wants to understand just how completely the story of the human past is also the story of fire on earth, there is no better place to start than this small book." William Cronon

Here, in one concise book, is the essential story of fire. Noted environmental historian Stephen J. Pyne describes the evolution of fire through prehistoric and historic times down to the present, examining contemporary attitudes from a long-range, informed perspective. Fire: A Brief History surveys the principles behind aboriginal and agricultural fire practices, the characteristics of urban fire, and the relationship between controlled combustion and technology. Pyne describes how fire s role in cities, suburbs, exurbs, and wildlands has been shaped by an industrialized, urban way of thinking.

Fire: A Brief History will be of value to readers interested in the environment from the standpoint of anthropology, geography, forestry, science and technology, history, or the humanities.


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A poignant and elucidating portrayal of the entwined evolution of fire and humanity. Everyone has something to learn about themselves as they gather 'round this flame.


Creating Combustion
Fire Colonizing by Hominids
Controlling the Spark
Cultivating Fuel
Fire Colonizing by Agriculture
Building Habits for Fire
Fire and Technology
Fire Colonizing by Europe
Stoking the Big Burn
Burning Beyond the Millennium
Selected Sources and Further Reading

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About the author (2011)

Stephen J. Pyne is a professor at Arizona State University. The author of ten acclaimed books on environmental history, he won the 1995 "Los Angeles Times'" Robert Kirsch Award for his career contribution to arts & letters. He lives in Glendale, Arizona.

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