The Great Sea by David Abulafia – review. David Abulafia’s history of the Mediterranean takes in ancient empires and modern tourists. For over three thousand years, the Mediterranean Sea has been one of the great centres of civilization. David Abulafia’s The Great Sea is the first complete. The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean is an award-winning book by the British historian David Abulafia. First published in , it is a history of.

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Would-be Roman emperors 2. That was when I got irritated enough to stop reading.

The Great Sea – Hardcover – David Abulafia – Oxford University Press

It is both negative — you can’t grow things on it, or build on it — and positive: Medieval ports were often a wildly varied melting pot of peoples from all across Europe, the Middle East, and Northern Africa, with Turks, Arabs, Jews, Italians, Greeks, and others all rubbing shoulders together and keeping the lines of trade flowing across the waters.

Ranging 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. The first Neanderthal bones were actually found much earlier than the ones in the Neander Valley; “Neanderthal Man” should really be called “Gibraltar Woman”.

At the same time, this book hhe way too long. It is enjoyable, and it is knowledgeable, but I am not sure if it serves a purpose, ie. The Greek and the unGreek 3: The book never felt long, and virtually every page is evidence of the author’s deep knowledge about, and deep love for, the sea.

It’s a bit too dense for my taste but an excellent resource. This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. The focus is on larger societal trends and changes, the interactions between the peoples, cities, and nations surrounding the Mediterranean and how these entities and interactions evolved over time. True to its title, The Great Sea really is a “human” history of the Mediterranean, full of fascinating details and entertaining anecdotes about the cultural, religious, commercial, intellectual, political and military activities of countless people over the centuries.


Nevertheless he did influence younger writers to write vavid comprehensive world zea and it clearly reflects on how important this book was in giving ideas for developing History as a science even further. This is actual stuff about actual stuff, and I find it interesting.

The history of the Mediterranean is one of human triumph and tragedy that repeats over and over again simply because human beings are human beings. History’s usual roll-call of tyrants and plutocrats are here, but alongside them are men and they are almost always men of modest means, shaping the world as we know it by accident rather than design.

It’s reasonably fluidly written, but definitely a book to read for information rather than joy of reading. The envoys of Dionysios the tyrant were mocked at the BC Olympic Games because he was — well, a tyrant would that we had the balls to do the same today. What a legacy Professor Abulafia has left the world. He has taken on a grand subject, and has related and interpreted it with authority, exactitude, and verve. Don’t try to speed read it and have some maps and google handy to check up on the wealth of details that you will encounter here.

While the author is very learned, he is also very wise and strikes a good balance between detail and general themes. This might not be such a bad thing, though. Du Bois, and Wilson J. Abulafia exhibits the command and discipline required to reign in his history, event though even after the reigning in, it is still a sprawling beast of a book. This had a useful and unusual perspective on European history, and it did surprisingly well with dealing with huge swathes of time and technology and cultures.

Everything the author writes is probably academically sound, but it’s incredibly dull reading. The religions and lifestyles of the inhabitants further inland may be different, but the pale blue of the fishing-boats; the eyes painted on the prows of the smaller vessels; the smell of frying sardines everywhere — these are constants, and I suspect that they have been so since antiquity.

And the plate above that shows a pullulating mass of humanity, not looking terribly diverse at all, sunbathing at Lloret de Mar in Catalonia, which I am old enough to remember as a quaint little resort.


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 BC to AD. Abulafia’s almost panoptic account of the Mediterranean from 22, BC down to the present day is bewildering in the breadth of its content, and at times it suffers from the inherent difficulty presented by any ssea narrative so vast in its geographical remit.

The history of piracy. As the book approaches modern times and written records become more plentiful and trustworthy, Abulafia occasionally details the life of a specific individual as a way of illustrating larger trends. Sep 15, Aristotle Tziampiris rated it it was amazing.

The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean

In the great population displacements after World War II, this almost entirely vanished. There is so much here that you risk brain overload.

Also writing a year history of the “Old World” in way is quite a daunting cavid to put into pages. For example, I learned much more about the rise of Spain to eventual European dominance in conflict with France, the Italian commercial republics, and the Ottoman Empire. I saw that this had received a favorable review in the Economist so I treat a copy, but was hesitant to plunge in – it is a rather long volume.

A gorgeous mosaic that pleads for the diversity and cultural exchange to which the shores of an inner sea lend themselves so well.

Accessibility links Skip to article Skip to navigation. A massive study but at the same time a joy to read.

I could do that safe in the knowledge that I am not missing any arguments by doing so. It is held together beautifully even though it is a tough job to give structure and coherence to a limited abuafia like this and still keep it true to the original promise to the reader that it is going to be a history of a specific region.

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