History looks strikingly different when the viewing angle is canted away from the ordinary. Writing the history of the Baltic region means bringing into a common frame the histories of Sweden, Finland, the Baltic states, Russia, Poland, Prussia, and Denmark, for the Baltic has been a battleground, a transport corridor, and a treasure linking the nine countries. From the moment Central Asian tribes drove the Sami of Finland into the Arctic North, around 500 BC, until March 2004, when Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania formally entered the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, drama has swirled about the Baltic Sea. Viking marauders, defenders of the faith dispatched by the early popes, and the soldiers of great empires -- Danish, Lithuanian, Swedish -- have swept over the region, each in their own time. Even before Peter the Great, however, the looming shadow has been Russia. Palmer explores all this in an easy, compact fashion, incorporating along the way the Baltic echo of everything from Martin Luther's Reformation to the French Revolution to Europe's great wars.