Brian Fagan is a leading authority on the complex relationship between the environment, climate change, and human society. Fagan has 46 books under his belt, including eight college textbooks familiar to two generations of archaeology students. For audiences ranging from business executives to high school students, he positions today’s contentious climate crisis in a crucial historical context, and describes how humans have adapted to environmental changes over the eons.
In his bestseller The Great Warming: Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations, Fagan paints a vivid and disturbing picture of the power of climate change to disrupt and irrevocably alter the course of human history. The book offers a compelling and eminently readable narrative of the rise of Earth’s surface temperature five hundred years ago—a shift that changed the climate worldwide and, in Fagan’s opinion, offers a preview of today’s global warming.
Fagan’s next book, Cro-Magnon: How the Ice Age Gave Birth to the First Modern Humans, turns to prehistoric humans—the most adaptable and inventive population that had ever existed, according to his argument. Barnes & Noble Review calls it “highly entertaining and instructive…the re-imagining of the past is entertainingly done, and a great deal of science, especially climate science, is accessibly introduced on the way.”
In his latest books, Fagan has turned his eye to one of humanity’s most essential resources. Elixir: Humans and the History of Water visits the brilliant water management of classical Greece, the innovative Roman aqueducts, the magnificent gardens of Islamic engineers, and the challenges of taming Chinese rivers to tell the story of the world before the Industrial Revolution turned water into a seemingly limitless resource. From this largely vanished world, Fagan draws timeless lessons about the vital importance of water conservation for our society today.
Beyond the Blue Horizon: How the Earliest Mariners Unlocked the Secrets of the Ocean delves into the very beginnings of humanity’s long and intimate relationship with the sea. From bamboo rafts in the Java Sea to the caravels of the Age of Discovery, Fagan crafts a captivating narrative of humanity’s urge to seek out distant shores, of the daring men and women who did so and of the mark they have left on civilization.
The Attacking Ocean: The Past, Present and Future of Rising Sea Levels focuses on rising global sea levels, showing how societies of the past adapted to rising waters and how the rising sea levels of today impact the lives of millions of city dwellers and farmers around the world.
“A fascinating history of the sea’s impact on human societies over the last 15,000 years as sea level rose since the last Ice Age. Rich in the kind of details that only an archaeologist of Fagan’s caliber can bring to the subject…”
—Bruce Parker, author of The Power of the Sea
As prolific as ever, Fagan published two books in 2015: The Intimate Bond: How Animals Shaped Human History and Lord and Pharaoh: Carnarvon and the Search for Tutankhamun. With Fishing: How the Sea Fed Civilization (2017), Fagan returns to humans’ relationship with water, exploring the essential but often-overlooked role that fishing played in the development of human civilization. William H. Marquardt of the Florida Museum of Natural History called Fishing “a stunning achievement,” while The Economist dubbed it “an admirable primer for the enthusiast and a welcome tool for the historian—as well as a salutary reminder of the lessons of inaction.”
Fagan is at work on a new book with coauthor Nadia Durrani: What We Did in Bed, a personal and anthropological history of the bed.
Fagan is currently Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at the University of California at Santa Barbara, where he has taught since 1967. He was born and educated in England, and spent six years as Keeper of Prehistory at the Livingstone Museum in Central Africa. In addition to his books, Dr. Fagan has contributed more than 100 papers to scientific journals and has served as an archaeological consultant to the National Geographic Society, Time/Life, Encyclopedia Britannica, and Microsoft Encarta.
For more information about Dr. Brian Fagan, please visit brianfagan.com.