Stretching 1,200 kilometres across six countries, the colossal mountains of the Alps dominate Europe, geographically and historically. Enlightenment thinkers felt the sublime and magisterial peaks were the very embodiment of nature, Romantic poets looked to them for divine inspiration, and Victorian explorers tested their ingenuity and courage against them. Located at the crossroads between powerful states, the Alps have played a crucial role in the formation of European history, a place of intense cultural fusion as well as fierce conflict between warring nations. A diverse range of flora and fauna have made themselves at home in this harsh environment, which today welcomes over 100 million tourists a year.
Leading Alpine scholar Jon Mathieu tells the story of the people who have lived in and been inspired by these mountains and valleys, from the ancient peasants of the Neolithic to the cyclists of the Tour de France. Far from being a remote and backward corner of Europe, the Alps are shown by Mathieu to have been a crucible of new ideas and technologies at the heart of the European story.