Brian Fagan is a leading authority on the complex relationship between the environment, climate change, and human society. Fagan has some fifty 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 places today’s contentious climate crisis in a crucial historical context. In describing how humans have adapted to their planet over the eons, he offers invaluable lessons for how to overcome our own environmental hurdles.
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 view, offers a preview of today’s global warming. The Christian Science Monitor called The Great Warming “a riveting work that will take your breath away and leave you scrambling for a cool drink of water.”
Climate science is at the heart of Fagan’s work, as he uses the lessons of archaeology and anthropology to demonstrate how powerfully our destiny is entwined with our planet’s. In Cro-Magnon: How the Ice Age Gave Birth to the First Modern Humans, Fagan walks us through how prehistoric humans—arguably the most adaptable and inventive population that ever existed—evolved in response to climate change. 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 affect the lives of millions of people 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
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. 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. With Fishing: How the Sea Fed Civilization, Fagan unpacks the essential but often-overlooked role that fishing played in the development of human civilizations.
Fagan’s newest book is A Little History of Archaeology. In short, engaging chapters, A Little History relates the stories of great archaeologists and their most impactful discoveries, from Ice Age art and Mayan ruins to the first settlements at Jamestown. Fagan uses these discoveries to trace the development of archaeology from a realm of enthusiastic amateurs to a modern science of enormous relevance to our rapidly changing world. Historian Francis Pryor calls the book “the perfect introduction to archaeology and its rich and exciting history. Brian Fagan is a renowned excavator and author of numerous best-selling books on the subject, but this is not a textbook: it reads like a thriller and is impossible to put down.”
His next book is What We Did In Bed: A Horizontal History, out in September 2019. Coauthored with Nadia Durrani, it is a delightful romp through the sometimes obscure, often zany, and frequently hilarious story of beds, from straw pallets to water beds. It’s the book for anyone who has wondered just how comfortably Neanderthals slept, why King Louis XIV ruled from bed, and about the sex in Pompeii brothels—to say nothing of the Great Bed of Ware.
Fagan is 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.