The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean

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9780195323344: The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean

Connecting Europe, Asia, and Africa, the Mediterranean Sea has been for millennia the place where religions, economies, and political systems met, clashed, influenced and absorbed one another. In this brilliant and expansive book, David Abulafia offers a fresh perspective by focusing on the sea itself: its practical importance for transport and sustenance; its dynamic role in the rise and fall of empires; and the remarkable cast of characters-sailors, merchants, migrants, pirates, pilgrims-who have crossed and re-crossed it.

Ranging from prehistory to the 21st century, The Great Sea is above all a history of human interaction. Interweaving major political and naval developments with the ebb and flow of trade, Abulafia explores how commercial competition in the Mediterranean created both rivalries and partnerships, with merchants acting as intermediaries between cultures, trading goods that were as exotic on one side of the sea as they were commonplace on the other. He stresses the remarkable ability of Mediterranean cultures to uphold the civilizing ideal of convivencia, "living together."

Now available in paperback, The Great Sea is the definitive account of perhaps the most vibrant theater of human interaction in history.

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Review:

Amazon Best Books of the Month, October 2011: In this expansive yet detailed historical gem, David Abulafia covers the full course of human history on the Mediterranean. Beginning more than 20,000 years ago with Cro-Magnon cave dwellers on Gibraltar and stretching to the present, Abulafia treats the Great Sea as “the Liquid Continent,” a place peopled and traveled—where trade, cultural exchange, and empire-building were forces as key to life as currents, tides, and weather patterns. The book deftly illustrates how the Mediterranean was always big enough to keep cultures apart, thus allowing them the space to flourish as unique entities, but that it was never so big that differing cultures couldn’t interact. The result is an epic story of trade and conflict, showing how differences in language, religion, law, and other human flashpoints sparked so much of what we think of today simply as culture. --Chris Schluep


Amazon Exclusive: Author Q&A with David Abulafia

Author David Abulafia

Q: What role did Greek mythology and Homeric poetry play in creating a lasting conception of the Mediterranean?

A: The seas described in Homer's Odyssey are a strange amalgam of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, of east and west. Circe the sorceress seems to live in the east, where the sun rises, while Scylla and Charybdis are often identified with the straits between Sicily and mainland Italy.

Despite those muddles, Homer does provide fascinating testimony to knowledge of the seas among the Greek colonists in Ionia (what is now eastern Turkey), whose dialect was the basis of Homeric Greek. He knew about Phoenician sailors and was not very complimentary about them. Above all, he placed Odysseus' kingdom at the western limits of Greece, on Ithaka, which he portrayed as an island where it was natural to know how to handle boats. What we see is a dawning conception of the extent of the Mediterranean and of the importance of the sea to the early Greeks.

Q: Beyond the historical, military significance of the Mediterranean, what happened culturally that we tend to overlook?

A: The Mediterranean has been a meeting place of many different ethnic and religious groups, inhabiting its shores and islands--in remote antiquity, Greeks, Etruscans, Phoenicians; in later centuries, Jews, Christians and Muslims. Gathering in the port cities around the Mediterranean, such as ancient Marseilles, medieval Palermo and Alexandria, modern Livorno and Smyrna, these groups have interacted not just at the level of high culture but in everyday life. On the one hand you have the transmission of medical and astronomical knowledge from east to west in the Middle Ages, often via Muslim and Christian Spain, and on the other hand you have the peaceful interaction of traders and sailors doing business and respecting one another in the great ports of the Mediterranean. Often they were able to cross the boundaries between warring competitors for control of the sea, moving between Christian and Muslim lands under the protection of local rulers.

Q: Americans and Europeans have vastly different conceptions of the Mediterranean Sea, with most Americans thinking of the Sea and its shores primarily for its appeal as a tourist destination. What role, if any, has the Mediterranean had in shaping the United States?

A: The American involvement in the Mediterranean at the start of the nineteenth century is a fascinating story--not just an episode but something that decisively altered the Mediterranean world. By defeating the rulers of the Barbary regencies (Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli), who detained their trading ships and sailors and demanded extortionate sums of money for their release, the American navy helped clear the Mediterranean of the five-century-long scourge of piracy. This was the first foreign war of the United States after independence, and it was now that the U.S. Navy came into existence. In the 20th century, the strategic significance of the Mediterranean in the Cold War brought the U.S.A.F. to Wheelus airfield in Libya and the conflict between Israel and its neighbors has also brought the U.S. Navy into the Mediterranean. Strategically, the Mediterranean has remained important to the U.S., as we see from the latest events in Libya.

Q: Will the Mediterranean continue to play a key role in the global economy of the 21st century?

A: Much depends on the relationship between northern and southern Europe, and between Europe and North Africa. With the Greek economy in desperate straits and the Italian and Spanish economies under severe strain, and with the Arab countries in turmoil, there is a big question mark over the assumption that rapid economic growth will continue in the region. One solution may be to build closer bonds between northern and southern Mediterranean countries, including free trade concessions to Tunisia and Libya. Tunisia possessed the strongest economy in Africa and it would be a disaster to ignore its great economic potential. Another question arises over Chinese investment and involvement in the Mediterranean, which has begun to accumulate. So we are looking at a particularly uncertain future.

About the Author:


David Abulafia is Professor of Mediterranean History at Cambridge University and the author of The Mediterranean in History.

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Descripción Oxford University Press Lond, New York/Oxford/London. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: New. 816 pages. Hardcover with dustjacket. New book. EUROPEAN HISTORY. Situated at the intersection of Europe, Asia, and Africa, the Mediterranean Sea has been for millenia the place where religions, economies, and political systems met, clashed, influenced and absorbed one another. David Abulafia offers a fresh perspective by focusing on the sea itself: its practical importance for transport and sustenance; its dynamic role in the rise and fall of empires; and the remarkable cast of characters--sailors, merchants, migrants, pirates, pilgrims--who have crossed and recrossed it. Ranging from prehistory to the 21st century, The Great Sea is above all the history of human interaction across a region that has brought together many of the great civilizations of antiquity as well as the rival empires of medieval and modern times. Interweaving major political and naval developments with the ebb and flow of trade, Abulafia explores how commercial competition in the Mediterranean created both rivalries and partnerships, with merchants acting as intermediaries between cultures, trading goods that were as exotic on one side of the sea as they were commonplace on the other. He stresses the remarkable ability of Mediterranean cultures to uphold the civilizing ideal of convivencia, "living together," exemplified in medieval Spain, where Christian theologians studied Arabic texts with the help of Jewish and Muslim scholars, and traceable throughout the history of the region. Brilliantly written and sweeping in its scope, The Great Sea is itself as varied and inclusive as the region it describes, covering everything from the Trojan War, the history of piracy, and the great naval battles between Carthage and Rome to the Jewish Diaspora into Hellenistic worlds, the rise of Islam, the Grand Tours of the 19th century, and mass tourism of the 20th. It is, in short, a magnum opus, the definitive account of perhaps the most vibrant theater of human interaction in history. Features * A magisterial account of the human history of the Mediterranean Sea from the Copper and Bronze Ages through modern times. * David Abulafia is an accomplished expert in the field, having spent over a decade as Professor of Mediterranean History at the University of Cambridge * Destined to replace all other books on the subject, this book will stand out as the definitive history of the Mediterranean David Abulafia is Professor of Mediterranean History at Cambridge University and the author of The Mediterranean in History. "This magnificent book .is teeming with colourful characters. Over the course of nearly 800pp, we follow faiths; sail with fleets; trade with bankers, financiers and merchants; raid with pirates and observe battles and sieges; watch cities rise and fall and see peoples migrate in triumph and tragedy. But at its heart, this is a history of mankind - gripping, worldly, bloody, playful - that radiates scholarship and a sense of wonder and fun, using the Mediterranean as its medium, its watery road much travelled." - Simon Sebag-Montefiore, Financial Times "This memorable study, its scholarship tinged with indulgent humour and an authorial eye for bizarre detail, celebrates the swirling changeability at the heart of that wonderful symbiosis of man and nature which once took place long Mediterranean shores" - Jonathan Keates, The Sunday Telegraph "An Everest of a book, brocaded with studious observation and finely-tuned scholarship.the effect is mesmerising, as detail accumulates meticulously." - Ian Thomson, The Independent "David Abulafia's marvellous history of the Mediterranean is an excellent corrective to oversimplified views of geopolitics." - The Economist "New, highly impressive book.magisterial work." - Prospect "Engagingly written, precisely documented, and liberally studded with tales of the fantastic and absurd, the book has much to offer the casual reader and is indispensible for specialists in the region." - Publ. book. Nº de ref. de la librería 76335X1

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Descripción 2011. HRD. Estado de conservación: New. New Book. Shipped from US within 10 to 14 business days. Established seller since 2000. Nº de ref. de la librería VU-9780195323344

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Descripción Oxford University Press, United Kingdom, 2011. Hardback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Connecting Europe, Asia, and Africa, the Mediterranean Sea has been for millennia the place where religions, economies, and political systems met, clashed, influenced and absorbed one another. In this brilliant and expansive book, David Abulafia offers a fresh perspective by focusing on the sea itself: its practical importance for transport and sustenance; its dynamic role in the rise and fall of empires; and the remarkable cast of characters-sailors, merchants, migrants, pirates, pilgrims-who have crossed and re-crossed it. Ranging from prehistory to the 21st century, The Great Sea is above all a history of human interaction. Interweaving major political and naval developments with the ebb and flow of trade, Abulafia explores how commercial competition in the Mediterranean created both rivalries and partnerships, with merchants acting as intermediaries between cultures, trading goods that were as exotic on one side of the sea as they were commonplace on the other. He stresses the remarkable ability of Mediterranean cultures to uphold the civilizing ideal of convivencia, living together. Now available in paperback, The Great Sea is the definitive account of perhaps the most vibrant theater of human interaction in history. Nº de ref. de la librería AAC9780195323344

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Descripción Oxford University Press, United Kingdom, 2011. Hardback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Connecting Europe, Asia, and Africa, the Mediterranean Sea has been for millennia the place where religions, economies, and political systems met, clashed, influenced and absorbed one another. In this brilliant and expansive book, David Abulafia offers a fresh perspective by focusing on the sea itself: its practical importance for transport and sustenance; its dynamic role in the rise and fall of empires; and the remarkable cast of characters-sailors, merchants, migrants, pirates, pilgrims-who have crossed and re-crossed it. Ranging from prehistory to the 21st century, The Great Sea is above all a history of human interaction. Interweaving major political and naval developments with the ebb and flow of trade, Abulafia explores how commercial competition in the Mediterranean created both rivalries and partnerships, with merchants acting as intermediaries between cultures, trading goods that were as exotic on one side of the sea as they were commonplace on the other. He stresses the remarkable ability of Mediterranean cultures to uphold the civilizing ideal of convivencia, living together. Now available in paperback, The Great Sea is the definitive account of perhaps the most vibrant theater of human interaction in history. Nº de ref. de la librería AAC9780195323344

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