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The Middle Sea: A History of the Mediterranean [Hardcover]

John Julius Norwich
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Book Description

5 Oct 2006
This is a vast subject - vast in time (from the oldest surviving pyramid which dates from 2686 BC to the Great War of 1914-18); vast in geography (from Gibraltar to Jerusalem); vast in culture, including as it does the civilizations of the Phoenicians, the Ancient Egyptians, Greece, Carthage, Rome, well as the Borgias and the Medicis, Mohamed and El Cid, Nelson and Lawrence of Arabia, Napoleon in Egypt and Byron in Greece. It is the achievement of John Julius Norwich that he encompasses so much, yet succeeds throughout in weaving story after story, thus holding the reader's attention. "The Middle Sea" is not a dry record of facts; it is not an academic book and nor it is the kind of book one uses to look things up. It is a gloriously engrossing traditional history book about characters from the past: dissolute Popes and wily Emperors, noble-hearted Generals and Queens who were powers behind the throne. The author's greatest strengths, perhaps, are naval and military history: from the Crusades to the expulsion of the Moors from Spain, from Trafalgar to Gallipoli. Towns are beseiged and sacked, kingdoms are won and lost. The narrative covers the glories of Constantinople and Venice, and the stirring history of the islands of the Mediterranean - Malta, Sicily, Crete and Cyprus.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus; 1st Edition edition (5 Oct 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0701176083
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701176082
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 16.4 x 4.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 519,086 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Lord Norwich's control of his vast and complex subject matter is
-- Economist

"The Roman achievement is succinctly and well surmised" -- Spectator

"an ambitious, informative and effortlessly entertaining history
of the Mediterranean." -- Ham & High Series

"an expertly paced, occasionally exhilarating read...may even
prove a landmark in popular history-telling"
-- Sunday Telegraph

"monumental work" -- Economist.

Chosen by Adrian Hardiman - Supreme Court Judge.
-- The Irish Times Books of the Year.

Infectiously enthusiastic, good-humoured, unassumingly erudite -- The Scotsma] The Scotsman

Book Description

A magnificent undertaking: a one-volume narrative history of the Mediterranean Sea from Ancient Egypt to 1919, written in the racy readable prose for which John Julius Norwich is famous. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book 30 Jan 2010
An excellent book, why o why do historians allow their editors to provide third rate maps and appendices to these books? The maps in the back are useful if you do not know where Rome is or Constantinople or Sicily, but they fail to illustrate where many cities mentioned in the book are. So this was a frustrating let-down for Mr Norwich's excellent narrative
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strengths - and weaknesses 11 Nov 2012
By Mrs
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I read this in the kindle edition, and my comments relate to the format rather than the content.

It seems to demonstrate both the strengths and the weaknesses of electronic publishing.

Strengths - 5 stars. The paper version is long, heavy and probably not easily maneuvrable. In electronic format, it is light and can be held in one hand. In addition, the font size can be changed to cope with deteriorating light (a blessing for old eyes).

Weaknesses - 1 star. I could not find an easy way to shift between the text and the maps/genealogies. Furthermore, unlike the font, there is no scope to increase the size of the maps, so they were virtually unusable. A further disadvantage is that the footnotes (which I imagine appeared on each page of the paper version) were placed at the end of each chapter. Since virtually all were numbered "1" it was difficult to attach the footnote to the relevant text, not least because the links often didn't work.

As a result, it was not easy to get full benefit from the contents of the book.

It seems to be the sort of text which is ideal for electronic publishing, as long as the editors are prepared to put some effort into converting it sensibly.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but not a masterpiece 8 Sep 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Overall an extremely interesting subject and very entertaining content, but superficial at times while too detailed over topics and chapters that are certainly neither the most relevant nor the most interesting. Why would the author talk legnthily about some obscure Austrian or Bavarian little princes while never mentioning any Algerian dey or pasha by name, when the Regency of Algiers for example is mediterranean par-excellence. Overall very euro-centric, and at times dangerously biased towards a folkloric and outdated view of the interaction between Mediterranean cultures as a battle between the cross the the crescent.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
By Carole
John Julius Norwich is a kind of modern day Gibbon in terms of his considerable literary style, but is a far better historian than Gibbon.

All of his books are excellent reads, as well as being admirably well informed and with a huge number of interesting and colourful details.

His writing is lively and is far more polished and characterful than most academic historians can manage and that is a good thing for all of us who are not students any more, although his books are good for history students who want to explore wider areas than their own specialisations.

This is one of the grand theme books that Norwich does so well, he is best on the machinations of the Italian peninsula here, a tangled topic at the best of times, but he brings clarity and wit to explaining the struggles of the Guelphs and Ghibelines as well as the dynastic intricacies of the Angevins, Normans, Aragonese and others.

He doesn't get bogged down in so much detail that the broad sweep journey is in danger of stalling, which for a casual reader is refreshing.

I own all of John Julius Norwich's books and this one is a good addition to his considerable and distinguished canon.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brillant overall... 10 Sep 2008
By Spartan
This is not a indepth review but a general sweep of the history of the mediterranean!

You should read this if you are unsure how to get into a particular area of history...please read, you will lover it...
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars THE MIDDLE SEA - JOHN JULIUS NORWICH 30 Jan 2008
I'll be honest; I preferred Braudel's `The Mediterranean' and bought this solely on my enjoyment of Norwich's style. The former concentrates on a smaller time frame (The reign of the Hapsburg king Philip II) but looks at how geography, geology, topography have affected the lives of its inhabitants. The latter doing what the author does best concentrates more on personality zooming from ancient Greece to (curiously) Lawrence of Arabia
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Vade Mecum for the Mediterranean 14 Dec 2009
While it may be too wide ranging for the bedside of some, it cannot fail as a companion on a Mediterranean trip.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Old School History 30 Sep 2011
John Julius Norwich likes his history big and old school. Not for him the earnest details of the lives of medieval peasants or women's role in early industrial societies. Oh no, John likes nothing more than a good old fashion punch-up between kings and wannabe rulers. And for that matter so do I.

One has to admire the ambition of Lord Norwich as he attempts get through some 4000 years of history in around 700 pages. Bored with the story of the Visigoths? Don't worry too much as in a couple of pages they'll be gone. The narrative rattles around at such a pace it could read like a `Bob Hale' sketch script from Horrible Histories (which are brilliant by the way).

I can understand why some readers might have been looking for some analysis or attempts to understand the key driving forces in Mediterranean history. But no; as one set of monarchs or Popes passes away the next gang appear and we are into another round of wars and massacres. All the horror and bloodshed though are recounted in the author's rather aloof but opinionated style. Rulers may do horrendous things but Lord Norwich judges them on whether they were effective or not. What's amazing is that somehow he manages to hold this narrative together and, on a personal note, kept this reader thoroughly entertained and informed throughout.

There so much to going on throughout it is hard to pick the highlights but for me the stand-out sections are those on the Crusades and the mini-biography of the Emperor Fredrick II.

Lord Norwich chooses to bring this history to a close with the end of the First World War. In doing so he notes that go on further would possibly have doubled the length of the work to include the Second World War and so much else in the 20th Century.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
too much history to cram into a small book, but ok as a sampler
Published 1 month ago by Gordon Toumaniantz
5.0 out of 5 stars Top notch service
I am very pleased with the first rate service I have recieved from World of Books. Item arrived very quickly and I was given the book with a smile from a very pleasant courier. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Ian Gaches
5.0 out of 5 stars THE MIDDLE SEA John Julius Norwich
AS with his other populist history narratives, this book by John Julius Norwich flows easily for the less scientific history reader, giving a broad picture of the movement of... Read more
Published on 23 May 2012 by Father P. J. Addison
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
This book is truly a remarkable achievement, like the civilisations that lived along the shores of the Mediterranean. Read more
Published on 12 May 2011 by Matt
3.0 out of 5 stars Clinically Forensic, but dry
If you want a highly detailed, clinically forensic book about the history of Mare Nostrum and the countries surrounding it, you cannot go wrong by buying this book. Read more
Published on 26 Aug 2010 by Sirius
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't be fooled by non-specific, sycophantic praise...
This book has a very interesting blurb: "The Mediterranean has nutured three of the most dazzling civilizations of antiquity, witnessed the birth or growth of three of our greatest... Read more
Published on 29 Jun 2010 by aplivings
4.0 out of 5 stars Very thorough but still a good read
It's a great subject for a history as it covers so many different cultures. It's fascinating to see how the balance of power changed over the centuries and to find out why. Read more
Published on 18 Mar 2010 by CES London
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