“The Sea: A Cultural History”
By John Mack in 2011
Reaktion Books, 2014
“If there’s an ounce of salt in your veins, please read The Sea: A Cultural History. It’s learned, fluent and, just like its subject, suitably unpredictable,” writes Geographical about John Mack’s book that was written in 2011 and is a wonderful addition to my sea library, casting a wide net of many disciplines to understand the sea as a major part of who we are.
John Mack is Professor of World Art Studies at the University of East Anglia in the city of Norwich, United Kingdom. His other books include Museum of the Mind: Art and Memory in World Cultures (2003) and The Art of Small Things (2007) which celebrates the art of the miniature. In the 1980s author has worked in various inland parts of eastern Africa with an opportunity to spend time along the Swahili coast of Kenya and latterly Tanzania, and has made ethnographical survey on the island of Madagascar.
From the back cover of the book:
“There is nothing more enticing, disenchanting, and enslaving than the life at sea,” wrote Joseph Conrad. There is certainly nothing more integral to the development of the modern world. In “The Sea”, John Mack considers those great expanses that both unite and divide us, and the ways in which human beings interact because of the sea, from navigation to colonization to trade.
Much of the world’s population lives on or near the coast, and people inhabit and engage with the sea in a variety of ways. “The Sea” explores the diversity of seas themselves, maritime technologies, especially the practice of navigation, and different cultures surrounding the sea an seafarers, and shows how the two realms of land and sea are never completely separate.
Casting a wide net, “The Sea” uses histories, maritime archeology, anthropology, art history, biography and literature to provide an innovative and experiential account of the waters that surround us.”
“The ambition of this book is admirable, and Mack manages to achieve an astonishing amount in just a couple of hundred pages,” writes Geographical. As my main focus is the sea in literature, I’m really thrilled to read this and will write my own review afterwards. And because there is an ounce of salt in my veins.