- Paperback: 816 pages
- Publisher: Penguin; 01 edition (6 Mar. 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0141977167
- ISBN-13: 978-0141977164
- Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.8 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 44,535 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean Paperback – 6 Mar 2014
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The greatest living historian of the Mediterranean (Andrew Roberts)
A towering achievement. No review can really do justice to the scale of Abulafia's achievement: in its epic sweep, eye for detail and lucid style. (Dominic Sandbrook Sunday Times)
Brocaded with studious observation and finely-tuned scholarship, the overall effect is mesmerising. (Ian Thomson Independent)
A memorable study, its scholarship tinged with indulgent humour and an authorial eye for bizarre detail. (Jonathan Keates Sunday Telegraph)
The story is teeming with colourful characters, and Abulafia wears his scholarship lightly, even dashingly. (Simon Sebag Montefiore Financial Times)
From the Inside Flap
For over three thousand years, the Mediterranean Sea has been one of the great centres of world civilisation. From the time of historical Troy until the middle of the nineteenth century, human activity here decisively shaped much of the course of world history. David Abulafia's The Great Sea is the first complete history of the Mediterranean from the erection of the mysterious temples on Malta around 3500 BC to the recent reinvention of the Mediterranean's shores as a tourist destination.
Part of the argument of Abulafia's book is that the great port cities - Alexandria, Trieste and Salonika and many others - prospered in part because of their ability to allow many different peoples, religions and identities to co-exist within sometimes very confined spaces. He also brilliantly populates his history with identifiable individuals whose lives illustrate with great immediacy the wider developments he is describing.
The Great Sea ranges stupendously across time and the whole extraordinary space of the Mediterranean from Gibraltar to Jaffa, Venice to Alexandria. Rather than imposing a false unity on the sea and the teeming human activity it has sustained, the book emphasises diversity - ethnic, linguistic, religious and political. Anyone who reads it will leave it with their understanding of those societies and their histories enormously enriched.
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Top Customer Reviews
David Abulafia is professor of Mediterranean history at Cambridge and in this book he sets out the presence of the people who have lived around the Mediterranean from around 22000 BC to 2010 AD. This is a history of the people who `dipped their toes in the sea, and, best of all, took journeys across it.' The book is divided into five chronological sections:
The First Mediterranean 22000 BC - 1000 BC
The Second Mediterranean 1000 BC - 600 AD
The Third Mediterranean 600 AD - 1350 AD
The Fourth Mediterranean 1350 AD - 1830 AD
The Fifth Mediterranean 1830 AD - 2010 AD
Each section of the book opens and closes a period of the sea's history during which trade, cultural exchanges and empires act as unifiers before the process stops or reverses. Some of those significant events include the collapse of the Roman Empire, the impact of the Black Death and more recently the building of the Suez Canal.
`The history of the Mediterranean has been presented in this book as a series of phases in which the sea was, to a greater or lesser extent, integrated into a single economic and even political area. With the coming of the Fifth Mediterranean the whole character of this process changed.Read more ›
As history I would put this in the same class as N.A.M. Rodger. Anyone who feels that history merits the very best writing would do well to buy this book, for it absorbs, informs and enchants.
And it's got something for everyone. The publishers' description tells no lies, as The Great Sea does all it claims, and with admirable thoroughness. Its scope is best illustrated by the count of over 130 pages of references, and it has undoubtedly prompted me to read some of its sources. They include many other works of history, whether political, religious or natural, and the author also recommends a couple of cookbooks.
It's disappointing to note reviews signalling a partiality in this work. I discovered none, and I fear that those comments speak more of the sensitivities of the reviewers than of the preoccupations of the author. The truth is that any historian must chart a personal course, and make a convincing case for it. This one won my trust comprehensively.
I have some sympathy with the reviewer who found this such a big read that it had to be broken down into many short installments; fortunately, Abulafia has taken the care to make it just so accessible, and I too took my time over it; well over a year, just a little at a time. Abulafia's style of narative requires patience from the reader, more akin to Noel Malcolm's forensic accounting (see Bosnia: A Short History), than to David Stuttard's filmic reenactment (see Parthenon: Power and Politics on the Acropolis), both of which I admire greatly.
I'm tempted not to put it on the shelf, but to keep it at hand to be referred back to frequently.Read more ›
To cease reading is a pity for the book does contain a wealth of information and once the Common Era is reached both literary style and content liven up considerably. That said the author's own particular interest fields soon become apparent. He writes at length over the impact made by the discovery of yet another shard of pottery and the importance to history of the activities of a local adventurer (often Jewish) but seriously great events can be dismissed in less than a page.
To write a human history of the Mediterranean, condensed into one volume, is a daunting undertaking but the final impression is that the author found the task too demanding and shared the anxiety of certain readers to get to the finishing post.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
a bit disjointed with the emphasis on pottery not the culturesPublished 5 months ago by gary summers
Bought the hardback a couple of years ago and never finished reading it. It's a heavy old tome. Then downloaded it for a Kindle read for a relaxing week's holiday in Crete and... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Grant Langford
A brilliant book. I have purchased both hard and paperback copies, in order that I can annotate the latter.Published on 13 April 2015 by John Russell