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Great Sea, The Hardcover – May 17 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 768 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (May 17 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713999349
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713999341
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 5.2 x 24 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #320,188 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


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

About the Author

David Abulafia is Professor of Mediterranean History at the University of Cambridge, and a fellow of Gonville and Caius College, and was until recently Chairman of the Cambridge History Faculty. His previous books include Frederick II and The Western Mediterranean Kingdoms. He is a member of the Academia Europaea, and in 2003 was made Commendatore dell'Ordine della Stella della Solidarieta Italiana in recognition of his work on Italian and Mediterranean history.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Vlad Thelad TOP 500 REVIEWER on April 12 2012
Format: Hardcover
Here is a history book with overwhelming details and scholarly depth, and yet it is an easy and pleasurable read. Abulafia intersperses comments and opinions that are both witty and opportune, increasing the appeal of his narrative. This is as thorough an account of the history of the Mediterranean as one could possible dream of, covering the civilizations and peoples whose interactions, be it through trade or war, or both, have given life to centuries of vibrant existence to this body of water and its shores. To top it all, we also get a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern view of the histories of Europe, the Balkans, Eurasia, the Middle East and North Africa. This is a highly recommendable, remarkable and truly fascinating book.
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Format: Hardcover
This book, the cover tells me, `is the first complete history of the Mediterranean from the erection of the mysterious temples on Malta around 3500 BC to the recent invention of the Mediterranean's shores as a tourist destination'. I was immediately fascinated: how does a history of a sea read? People interact with the sea in a number of ways, but they don't live on it. What facts become important, which aspects of human civilisation will feature, and why?

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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My learned colleagues whose reviews are above have me at a disadvantage: they already knew something of the subject matter before starting to read. I didn't. I bought this book because I knew next to nothing about Mediterranean history, and wanted to learn. The author assumes that the reader is already familiar with the dozens of tribes which litter the early history of the region. What is perhaps worse, the book lacks adequate maps. Without at least one chart for each era, showing the name of each area and the identity of the group resident in it, the beginner is left completely without orientation in time and space.
In another lifetime I was a university mathematics professor, and it seemed to me that British texts and references in my subject were more demonstrations of the authors' erudition than an attempt at explication. Perhaps that approach extends to monumental works of history.
If you already know lots of Mediterranean history, this may be a good book. It is not for the uninitiated.
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