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How nature has shaped history
Clive Finlayson is also author of al-Andalus, an equally evocative, wonderfully illustrated, personal tribute to the Iberian Peninsular which he modestly sums up as "the story of olives, tuna, cork forests, vultures, wolves and humans".
This "story" embraces the multi-lateral disciplines of history, geography and ecology.
The historical element spans some five million years, from the opening of the Strait of Gibraltar to the present day; its geographical breadth takes in the old territory of al-Andalus, from Tarifa and Gibraltar in the south to the Cantabrian Mountains and the Pyrenees in the north; and its ecological scope extends from the coastal marshes of Doñana to the peaks of the Sierra Nevada.
However, this is also the story of the countless individuals who had an impact on the land and its surrounding waters - from the earliest fishermen through the Romans to the tuna industry controllers of today - and it vividly relates the medieval struggle between Islam and Christianity and the role of the landscape in that struggle.
From a loving appreciation of the richness of the Peninsular's wildlife to an intriguing account of the last Neanderthal, this book will strike a warm chord of interest in all Hispanaphiles. But beyond the visual luxury and the detective work there emerges a strong intent as fellow academic, José Carrión, Professor of Evolutionary Botany at the University of Murcia, notes, with the following subtle analogy:
"The main purpose of the book is to make an argument for a compelling association between biodiversity and human past and future. The emphasis is on making readable a modern approach to historical ecology; how to cook chance and constraint, and make the meal enjoyable. Ultimately this book is about the thin, though not straight, line that exists between the fate of humans and the fates of other living beings. The final taste is that something crucial is at stake".
Author's Note: Clive Finlayson is a Gibraltar-born biologist and his work has included research into the ecology of birds and that of the Neanderthals. He has been Director of the Gibraltar Musuem since 1991 and is also the territory's Director of Heritage.