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The Sea and Civilization: A Maritime History of the World [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover]

Lincoln Paine
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 29 2013

A monumental retelling of world history through the lens of maritime enterprise, revealing in breathtaking depth how people first came into contact with one another by ocean and river, lake and stream, and how goods, languages, religions, and entire cultures spread across and along the world’s waterways, bringing together civilizations and defining what makes us most human. 

Lincoln Paine takes us back to the origins of long-distance migration by sea with our ancestors’ first forays from Africa and Eurasia to Australia and the Americas. He demonstrates the critical role of maritime trade to the civilizations of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Indus Valley. He reacquaints us with the great seafaring cultures of antiquity like those of the Phoenicians and Greeks, as well as those of India and Southeast and East Asia, who parlayed their navigational skills, shipbuilding techniques, and commercial acumen to establish thriving overseas colonies and trade routes in the centuries leading up to the age of European expansion. And finally, his narrative traces how commercial shipping and naval warfare brought about the enormous demographic, cultural, and political changes that have globalized the world throughout the post–Cold War era.

This tremendously readable intellectual adventure shows us the world in a new light, in which the sea reigns supreme. We find out how a once-enslaved East African king brought Islam to his people, what the American “sail-around territories” were, and what the Song Dynasty did with twenty-wheel, human-powered paddleboats with twenty paddle wheels and up to three hundred crew. Above all, Paine makes clear how the rise and fall of civilizations can be linked to the sea. An accomplishment of both great sweep and illuminating detail, The Sea and Civilization is a stunning work of history.


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Review

"Elegantly written and encyclopedic in scope, with an expert grasp of the demands of seamanship in every age, The Sea and Civilization deserves a wide readership. For landlocked historians, it will be a powerful stimulus to dip their toes—and perhaps their pens—in saltwater and for readers a forceful reminder that the urge to "go down to the sea in ships" has shaped civilizations and cultures in every period and in every part of the globe."

The Wall Street Journal

"A magnificently sweeping world history that takes us from the people of Oceania and concludes with the container. In contrast to most books on maritime history, the majority of The Sea and Civilisation covers the history of the world before Columbus sailed the ocean blue and at least as much of the narrative focuses on Asia as it does on Europe."

Ben Wilson, The Telegraph
 
"Paine is full of such illuminating facts. . . [He] forestalls any western bias with excellent chapters on Asian expansion. . . 'The sea held no promise for slaves, coolies, indentured servants, or the dispossessed', Paine reminds us, and while it is 'fickle and unforgiving, it is a fragile environment susceptible to human depredation on a scale unimaginable to our ancestors'. And yet, whose heart does not sing out when they see the sea? Our last resort, it still holds its promise and its power."

Philip Hoare, New Statesman
 
"Herzog once remarked: 'The feeling crept over me that my work, my vision, is going to destroy me, and for a fleeting moment I let myself take a long, hard look at myself . . . to see whether my vision has not destroyed me already. I found it comforting to note that I was still breathing.' That same quality of an all-consuming vision oozes from Paine’s book. His passion is to tell the story of the sea. History is seldom written with that kind of passion today."

—Gerard DeGroot, The Times 

“Even though the Earth’s surface is 70% water, historical narratives are usually land-centered. Paine (Ships of the World) shifts emphasis from land to water in order to correct this imbalance, an approach that takes the reader through history via the seas . . . Paine’s highly detailed work encompasses a wide array of topics, from trade and the influence of the sea on warfare and political coalitions, to ship building techniques through the ages, to piracy and slavery.  . . . Paine has compiled an invaluable resource for salty dogs and land-lubbers alike.”

Publishers Weekly, starred review

"The most enjoyable, the most refreshing, the most stimulating, the most comprehensive, the most discerning, the most insightful, the most up-to-date—in short, the best maritime history of the world.”

—Felipe Fernández-Armesto, author of Millennium: A History of the Last Thousand Years

“Paine deftly navigates the complexities of global culture to create an eminently readable account of mankind's relationship to the sea. Both profound and amusing, this will be a standard source for decades to come.”

—Josh Smith, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, editor of Voyages
  
The Sea and Civilization presents a fresh look at the global past. Bringing to bear a formidable knowledge of ships and sails, winds and currents, navigation techniques and maritime law, Lincoln Paine offers a lively tour of world history as seen from the waterline. The result is a fascinating account, full of little-known episodes and novel insights. A major contribution.” 

—Kären Wigen, Stanford University, author of A Malleable Map

"'I want to change the way you see the world.' This brave ambition is brilliantly realized by Lincoln Paine in this single volume. Thoroughly researched, clearly argued, eminently accessible—we have at last a responsible and persuasive explanation of the inextricable connection between the ocean and world civilization."

—Peter Neill, Director, World Ocean Observatory 

"The Sea and Civilization meticulously and systematically reconstructs the maritime history of the world from diverse historic records, archaeology, contemporary travelogues, languages, literature, religious texts and folklore. . . In this book we get to see some of the beautiful and interesting plates without traversing the museums and libraries of the world. . . That oceans teach us, above all, about the unity of human existence on this planet seems to be the take away from The Sea and Civilization."

The Hindu (India)

About the Author

 Lincoln Paine is the author of four books and more than fifty articles, reviews, and lectures on various aspects of maritime history. He lives in Portland, Maine, with his wife, Allison.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By bernie TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
I like to collect books on how commodities such as salt, cinnamon, cochineal, and indigo were developed in transported from one location to another. However we need to keep in mind that these products even though might have inspired maritime travel it is secondary to those of the people that actually did the traveling.

Lincoln Paine in "The Sea and Civilization" shows how waterways contributed to spreading many of the great cultures of mankind. One of the main parts of the book are the maps. I have a fair knowledge of where things are in the world of today and the world of antiquity. But without a clear picture the names of places are just that the names of places. So pay close attention to the maps in the book will be even more interesting.

The whole book is interesting but if I had to pick a favorite spot it would be the chapter on "The British Global Trade" once again I find it interesting looking at the maps. Conspicuously missing is the Piri Reis map.

There is an extensive bibliography and enough notes to know that Lincoln Paine knows his maritime history. We can also use the bibliography for further reading. Still this book is so compact with information that you will have to probably reread it to remember the small pieces of information that can easily be overlooked.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great Book but Difficult to Rate March 13 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This historical account is commendable because it undertakes a very formidable task, namely, to describe and compare naval architecture with the history of the world. The undertaking melds Gibbon and naval archaeology and hopes that the reader appreciates the effort. In evaluating the success of the book, I am torn between two realities. Personally, after a career as master in the merchant navy along with a degree in Literature that included numerous courses in history, I would assign the work 5 stars without hesitation, because it is carefully argued and logically construed. However, the detail may not appeal to the majority of readers, so I have hedged my evaluation accordingly. In general , I would recommend this as a very good reference text, and if you like detail , a superb historical text.
Wilhelm
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4.0 out of 5 stars No doubt about Utility and Fun Nov. 30 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I had doubts about the utility of this book - until I found good reasons for looking up events. As a researcher in maritime history I have found the book helpful, especially so with the end notes, bibliography and index.

Fun to open at random and find a good reading topic.

Maurice D Smith
Curator Emeritus
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  47 reviews
39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good book, on too great a topic. Aug. 26 2013
By Patrick McCormack - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Certain topics yield essays that wander along the interests of the author, within the scope of the topic. A history of the Sea and Civilization is basically a survey course, and a large plum tree ripe with fruit for the picking. Regardless of the number of pages, the author is central in what he chooses to write about, and what stays by the shore and never sets sail.

This is a good book. It is well written, a compelling read. The review of the history of the sea is a review of men who go down to the sea in ships. The battles, and the explorers, are here. In some ways, this book re-creates some of Daniel Boorstin's book, the explorers, and in some ways it touches on the course of human history.

The author uses the design of boats, and the ways of navigation, as an entry point for talking about peoples and water. At some points, the focus seems to be on small boating -- canoes, reed mats... and even when we move to Egypt and boats on the Nile, the scope is more boating than it is oceans and power. I did like the way the ocean currents explain strategies of exploration, and the archaeology of the expansion of peoples.

The book opens up into discussions of trade routes, and the projection of might and empire through control of oceans.

One thing I love about this book: the author is aware of, and often shows, every single rock carving, pot, or wall image of an ancient ship ever known to man. He is an encyclopedia of the archaeology of ships. He is learned, and an omnivore.

I had recently read "The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean" by David Abulafia, and enjoyed the length and breadth of that work, while feeling that it grew tired in the telling. Here, with more to write about, I feel this book occasionally gets sketchy, in some of the Pacific chapters, and that the author has perhaps too grand a theme. The feel is more of a survey of human history, rather than a grand theme of human development through the sea.

Yet the swing is hard, even if the result is a double. I thought that the viewing of human civilization through the lens of the sea is a real, although note complete way to look at matters. Why not civilization and rivers, that old chestnut of geography classes? Civilization and the littoral would cover most of human history. The answer is the mystery of the sea, the magic of the sea, which provides a lens for this book, albeit not an entirely satisfactory historical lens.

In short, this is less of a Maritime History of the World, and is rather better described as a History of the Maritime World. And a pretty good one.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mankind's Courageous Venture Across Water Sept. 29 2013
By Michael P. Lefand - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Man had to take to the water. He is a mobile being that has always moved from place to place seeking food, new land, fleeing aggressors or oppression, looking to trade, or simply curious about what lay over the horizon. From logs, bark, and animal hide, early man noticed that things float.

With great detail Lincoln Paine describes the development of ocean and river travel. From the raft of primitive man as he escapes the shackles of land, down to nuclear-powered ships, the reader follows the quest of opening up new horizons of trade and the cultures they nourished.

This extraordinary comprehensive narrative, packed into a little over 700 pages, did appear overwhelming, but once started I became absorbed in the story of mankind's need and desire to travel across water. The more I read the more I wanted to know and found it hard to put down. This volume will find a place on the shelf with my other history books and will more than likely be used as reference as I continue my lifetime study of history.

I recommend "The Sea and Civilization" to everyone interested in history because so much of civilization has depended on the sea and travel by water. I give it 5 stars.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "By the Sea, By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sea" - Harold R. Atteridge Nov. 3 2013
By bernie - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I like to collect books on how commodities such as salt, cinnamon, cochineal, and indigo were developed in transported from one location to another. However we need to keep in mind that these products even though might have inspired maritime travel it is secondary to those of the people that actually did the traveling.

Lincoln Paine in "The Sea and Civilization" shows how waterways contributed to spreading many of the great cultures of mankind. One of the main parts of the book are the maps. I have a fair knowledge of where things are in the world of today and the world of antiquity. But without a clear picture the names of places are just that the names of places. So pay close attention to the maps in the book will be even more interesting.

The whole book is interesting but if I had to pick a favorite spot it would be the chapter on "The British Global Trade" once again I find it interesting looking at the maps. Conspicuously missing is the Piri Reis map.

There is an extensive bibliography and enough notes to know that Lincoln Paine knows his maritime history. We can also use the bibliography for further reading. Still this book is so compact with information that you will have to probably reread it to remember the small pieces of information that can easily be overlooked.

Green cargoes
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A view from the boat Nov. 4 2013
By Personne - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Most world histories are centered on the movements of armies, the building of cities, the taming of the land. The sea is at best an incidental part of all that. A few noteworthy events may stick in the reader's mind--the battles of Midway, Trafalgar and the loss of the Spanish Armada--but most of the course of history is land-based. Lincoln Paine changes the vantage point. Traffic on seas, lakes and rivers has equally as much to do with the spread of human civilization. This densely-packed volume begins roughly in the Old Kingdom of Egypt and brings us all the way to the present day.

I was about a hundred pages in when it dawned on me that this is really a textbook--whatever the author's intentions might be. It's a compendium of dates, kings and ship architectures. It wants to be read with a notepad on the side and a highlighter in hand; discussions to follow. The style tends toward the dry: it's impossible to do a quick read-through and then circle back for detail. Comparisons with a truly great naval writer (Samuel Eliot Morison) are not favorable in that regard. I would love to see a reduced version of this book with a more general audience in mind. As fascinating as this material is, it's really hard to stay with it. Reading and absorbing is a commitment of many weeks.

So let's consider this as a textbook. As such it's excellent. I can't imagine any serious naval officer not spending a semester with it. It could still benefit from a greater sense of concurrency, since many of the activities happen simultaneously. For example, the last centuries of Ptolemaic Egypt are concurrent with the expansion of river traffic in China. Both economies grew from navigable rivers. I'd love to have seen comparison and contrast. At the very least, a graphic timeline would be quite a plus.

I'm not sure that this is a book for the general reader in history. The material is fascinating, but a little too dense for a quick chapter before bedtime. It's an important topic nonetheless. I'd love to see it spawn a summary volume.
22 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Who, What, Where, When....But Not Much Why Sept. 18 2013
By Andy in Washington - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
What you think of this book is really determined by how you like your history presented. If you like a chronology of events, very detailed and complete, you will fall in love with Lincoln Paine's masterwork. But if you want your history a little more spoon-fed, with the author helping you to draw conclusions and connections, it will be a long and tedious read. I fall more into the second category, thus the 3-stars.

=== The Good Stuff ===

* This is about as complete and well researched book as you will find. I was reading a review copy, with the footnotes still not complete, so it was a bit tough to match up the references and bibliography, but the one or two that I did check were very complete and reputable sources. If you ever wanted to cram the history of civilization into 600 pages, this is about as close as anyone will ever get.

* I love the premise of the book, namely that you should look at the history of maritime technology and navigation, and then work to fit the rest of history into place around it. It is somewhat of a novel concept, but makes for an interesting way to look at things. For example, one of the first chapters examines the flow of metal ores around the area of the middle east. As copper and tin ores are loaded onto boats and shipped across some distances, the bronze age really comes into its own.

* Occasionally, Paine takes a break from the detailed chronology and branches off into a discussion of technology (usually maritime technology) and examines how it came into existence and what effect it had on civilization. I found these passages to be excellent and the best parts of the book. I wish Paine would write a book with just this format (he may have, I will be checking).

=== The Not-So-Good Stuff ===

* I found the book to be a tedious read. While Paine writes in a reasonably easy-to-read style, he is prone to long paragraphs, something I have always disliked. I didn't really do a count, but 300 and 400 word paragraphs seems fairly common.

* The major issue I had with the book was the format. The vast majority of the book is a recitation of facts and events. Paine is incredibly thorough, and he will describe a series of events in incredible detail. It makes for a marvelous historical record, but it is a format that I find makes it tough to absorb much information. I much prefer a more interconnected approach- A and B happen, and therefore C occurs, which naturally leads to an increased emphasis on D, which leads to E. Instead, Paine tends to telling where and when A-E happened, but leaving the reader to draw his own connections and conclusions.

=== Summary ===

Depending on your tastes in history, you may or may not like this book. I have certainly seen few books that were more complete, better researched, or more comprehensive in their looks at history. The emphasis on the history of maritime history as a driver of the rest of history is interesting and a novel approach that caught my interest.

However, my personal taste is for more of a narrative, putting events together in a logical (rather than purely chronological) sequence, and explaining how and why things happened based on previous events.

Even if you are unable to power your way to reading the whole volume, it certainly stands on its own as a decent reference book.
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