“The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean”
By David Abulafia in 2011
Penguin Books, 2014
Big addition to my Sea Library – first complete history of the Mediterranean Sea, written by David Abulafia, one of the greatest living historians of the Mediterranean. Almost 800 pages, including more than 70 illustrations in color.
“My hope is that those who pick up this book will enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it,” author writes in the preface.
I’m really glad I have this book, dedicated to one beautiful and special sea, The Great Sea, the salt water cradle of civilization.
“at its heart, this is a history of mankind – gripping, wordly, bloody, playful”
Simon Sebag Montefiore, Financial Times
“The Mediterranean we know now was shaped by Phoenicians, Greeks and Etruscans in antiquity, by Genoese, Venetians and Catalans in the Middle Ages, by Dutch, English and Russian navies in the century before 1800,” David Abulafia writes in the preface and adds, “there is some strength in the argument that after 1500, and certainly after 1850, the Mediterranean became decreasingly important in wider world affairs and commerce.”
David Abulafia is an influential English historian with a particular interest in Italy, Spain and the rest of the Mediterranean. He is a Professor of Mediterranean History at the University of Cambridge. His previous books include The Discovery of Mankind. In 2013 he was awarded a British Academy Medal for The Great Sea, which also received the Mountbatten Maritime Award.
From the back cover of the book:
“For over three thousand years, the Mediterranean Sea has been one of the great centers of civilization. David Abulafia’s “The Great Sea” is the first complete history of the Mediterranean, from the erection of temples on Malta around 3500 BC to modern tourism. Raging across time and the whole extraordinary space of the Mediterranean from Gibraltar to Jaffa, Genoa to Tunis, and bringing to life pilgrims, pirates, sultans and naval commanders, this is the story of the sea that has shaped much of world history.”
“No review can really do justice to the scale of Abulafia’s achievement: in its epic sweep, eye for detail and lucid style. His books is full of intrepid explorers, anxious pilgrims, enterprising merchants, ambitious politicians and terrified refugees … such a treasure trove … With almost every page rich in humanity and insight, it is the history book of the year so far, and seems certain to become the definitive account of the great sea at the centre of western history.”
Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times
In the preface David Abulafia mentions those who helped him to accomplish this big book that he “enjoyed writing” so much. He mentions his wife Anna, who “tolerated growing mountains of books on the ancient and modern Mediterranean in a house already full of books on the medieval Mediterranean”. I am smiling and adding The Great Sea to my growing mountain of sea books.