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4.1 out of 5 stars22
4.1 out of 5 stars
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 30 January 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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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 8 September 2012
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 Overall very euro-centric, and at times dangerously biased towards a folkloric and outdated view of the interaction between Mediterranean cultures as a battle between the cross the the crescent.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 30 September 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. Written in 2006, his final words are almost regretful that the Middle Sea has lost its dignity to become a just a destination for holiday makers and so many of its great harbours are now marinas for yachts. It is certainly happier for the locals that it is now ambre solaire that stain it's waters rather than blood. However, at the time of writing this review the Arab Spring had just seen political change sweep the North African states along the Med's shore and Greece's debt looks like it may bring down the whole European economy. Despite the author's misgivings, clearly the Mediterranean is still centre stage in World history.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 12 May 2009
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 7 February 2015
I really have read everything that John Julius Norwich has written starting with his history of Venice and including his Christmas Crackers. He is the best writer of narrative history alive. He and David Howarth are the paradigms of this rather neglected aspect of history. The ability to tell a "ripping yarn" that happens to be factual beats any thriller writer in my opinion. JJN's previous magnum opii on the histories of Norman Sicily, Venice and Byzantium, all of which are 5 star in my opinion, makes him the ideal author of this history of the Mediterranean sea.
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on 22 June 2015
the book is superb, well written, not overloaded with historical details, witty. A great read for leisure, enterntainment, as well as learning. Finally a fully digestable, yet informative, account of the crusades, the risorgimento, the spanish struggles of the 18th and 19th century. at last is the african coast part of the mediterranean, too :DDD highly recommendable to practically anyone, be your knowledge of history basic or advanced, you'll enjoy this new approach to history of the region.
in fact, it would be absolutely perfect, had it not been for 3 slight flaws - the love for Venice, the British presence, and Winston Churchill. The lack of criticism for Venice approaches the critical level by the end fo 16th century, but is later constrained. the British presence leads to a lengthy account of the battle of Gibraltar, whose significance seems just a fraction exagerated (well, I've never even heard about it until now), and to Winston is attributed the power to prevent the Russian revolution. With all respect to Winnie, preventing the inevitable was out of his reach, but it has it's good point - maybe the Author should turn to study of the Baltic, which might result in another thoroughly enjoyable piece of historical writing :)))
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 11 November 2012
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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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 30 January 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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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 14 December 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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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 10 September 2008
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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