We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Vestal Fire

An Environmental History, Told through Fire, of Europe and Europe’s Encounter with the World

By Stephen J. Pyne

Publication Year: 1997

Published by: University of Washington Press

Praise, Title Page, Copyright

pdf iconDownload PDF (34.3 KB)
pp. i-iv


pdf iconDownload PDF (28.9 KB)
pp. vii-x

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (60.2 KB)
pp. xi-xiv

Vestal Fire, simply put, is Stephen Pyne's masterpiece. In it, he offers nothing less than a retelling of all of European history from a vantage point no other historian has ever adopted so consistently before: that of the fire which in Pyne' s view bums at the very heart of Western civilization. Fire, he argues, was pivotal . ...

Author's Note

pdf iconDownload PDF (106.3 KB)
pp. xv-xvii

read more

Prologue: Quest for Fire

pdf iconDownload PDF (63.9 KB)
pp. 3-6

Before there was Europe, there was fire. When Europe was little more than a crustal slab amid vast oceans, there was oxygen, spewed first from the seas like foam, baptizing every nook of planetary surface with its reactive chemistry. There were also terrestrial plants, seasonally or at least episodically dried and cured and available for burning. And ...

Book 1: Elements

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (288.1 KB)
pp. 9-24

Whatever its larger mysteries, fire is a physical process. It is a chemical reaction, not an object. It has no existence apart from the fuel and oxygen that feed it, and the heat that kindles and sustains it. The story of fire is the story of how each of those elements came to be, and how it is they ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (422.2 KB)
pp. 25-48

During the early Pleistocene, perhaps 1.6 million years ago, Homo erectus evolved among the hominids, and soon thereafter, probably, he captured fire. Lightning now had to compete with hominids for control over combustion. With steadily increasing mastery, the torch, not the lightning bolt, kindled the fire ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (528.6 KB)
pp. 49-78

Anthropogenic fire did not remain a wanderer among the wilds. It was too precious to trust to the opportunism of lightning, and too dangerous to abandon to the vagaries of wind and scrub. If humans wanted fire at will, and wanted to be shielded from wildfire, they would have to oversee flame themselves. The ...

read more

Book 2: Europe

Throughout Europe there was a common culture of fire that transcended the fire legacy bequeathed by nature. European fire was, first and last, anthropogenic fire, not the fire from heaven ...

read more

Eternal Flame: Fire in Mediterranean Europe

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.2 MB)
pp. 81-146

The Mediterranean is a place, a climate, a biota, and a paradigm. The shape of the place and the contours of its climate have changed mightily over the eons, but on the scale of human endeavor they appear as immutable facts of nature. Biota and paradigm are more mobile and, more pertinently, they are inextricably ...

read more

Controlled Combustion: Fire in Central Europe

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.3 MB)
pp. 147-209

The great reality of central Europe is that temperature, not precipitation, defines its seasons, and that while precipitation follows broad gradients-heavier along the coast, lighter toward the Eurasian interior-its annual distribution is relatively constant. Of course there are uncommon places and exceptional times. ...

read more

Wild Hearth: Fire in Boreal Europe

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.2 MB)
pp. 210-273

Its geography is a formidable collage of wet and dry. The last of Europe to emerge from Pleistocene ice and sea, the Nordic subcontinent became a stony matrix for innumerable rivers, lakes, mires, wetlands, spongy peat, and a littoral rising like a lithic raft as its burdens were lifted away. The air, too, mixed ...

read more

Flaming Front: Fire in Eurasian Europe

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.3 MB)
pp. 274-342

Russia reversed Europe's geography, as it seemed to invert Europe's history. If Baron van Haxthausen's judgment is extreme ("Whoever would travel in Russia, earnestly study the condition of the country, and observe its national life with unprejudiced eyes, must first of all forget everything he has read in ...

read more

Spot Fires: Fire in Atlantic Europe

pdf iconDownload PDF (935.9 KB)
pp. 343-395

The European diamond shaped narratives of colonization as well as geographic lines of force. Moving north and south meant cutting across the grain of European geography. For agriculture, progress was slow, and adaptations frequent. At the mediterranean and boreal poles the valences that bonded mixed agriculture ...

Book 3: Earth

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (1.1 MB)
pp. 399-462

As Delos and Ithaca and Sardinia had helped Europeans colonize the Mediterranean, as Gotland and Aland and innumerable skerries had the Baltic, and as the Faeroes and Shetlands had the North Sea, so the Atlantic isles readied Europe's voyagers for the islands of the world ocean, and through them, the ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (1.2 MB)
pp. 463-531

The colonization of Europe was a prelude to Europe's colonization of other continents. Perhaps more than any of its other creation stories, the Aeneid is a paradigm of that process. The Odyssey was a struggle to return home; the Aeneid, the relocation and rededication of that home to distant lands. Revealingly, the ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (202.3 KB)
pp. 532-543

A world war fought on its soil and the postwar loss of empire did little to diminish Europe's influence on global fire. In 1987, excluding the USSR, Europe contributed only 0.3 percent of the global biomass burned, and 90 percent of that was concentrated in Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece. Yet Europe

read more

Epilogue: Beyond the Realm of Fire

pdf iconDownload PDF (69.7 KB)
pp. 544-547

What was Europe? As the second millennium approached its end, Europe had no ready answer. The European Union struggled with the most mundane questions, each caught like flies in webs of spidery institutions and encased in bureaucratic cocoons. Its eastern frontier was, once again, a kaleidoscope of ethnic ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (680.0 KB)
pp. 549-582


pdf iconDownload PDF (73.1 KB)
pp. 583-586


pdf iconDownload PDF (1.0 MB)
pp. 587-633


pdf iconDownload PDF (443.8 KB)
pp. 635-659

E-ISBN-13: 9780295803524
E-ISBN-10: 0295803525
Print-ISBN-13: 9780295979489
Print-ISBN-10: 0295979488

Publication Year: 1997