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The Boundless Sea

by David Abulafia


The Boundless Sea Synopsis

For most of human history, the seas have been the main means of long-distance trade and communication between peoples – for the spread of ideas and religion as well as commerce. This tremendous book begins with the earliest seafaring societies – the Polynesians of the Pacific, possessors of intuitive navigational skills long before the invention of the compass – and ends with the giant liners and container ships of today, which still conduct 80% of world trade by sea.

In between, David Abulafia follows merchants, explorers, pirates, cartographers and travellers in their quests for spices, gold, ivory, slaves, lands for settlement and knowledge of what lay beyond. Avoiding as far as possible a Eurocentric approach, the book deals with the Atlantic waters before Columbus and shows how lucrative trade routes were created that carried goods and ideas along the ‘Silk Route of the Sea’ well before the Europeans burst into the Indian Ocean around 1500.

In an extraordinary narrative of humanity and the oceans, Abulafia shows how maritime networks grew from many separate localities to form a continuum of interconnection across the globe. This is history of the grandest scale, and from a bracingly different perspective.

The Boundless Sea Press Reviews

Nothing less than a history of humanity written from the perspective of the sea -- Jerry Brotton - Financial Times

The Boundless Sea is a work of immense scholarship, a forensic tribute to human enterprise. ... After reading this book your horizons will be wonderfully expanded, and you'll be as eager as the Ancient Mariner to retell its stories... Abulafia's masterpiece has the potential to alter the way we understand the human story and our place within it. -- Horatio Clare - Spectator

His grasp of the material is not so much encyclopaedic as breathtaking ... this is a tour de force. Writing history on this scale is challenging and enormously impressive; the author deserves applause for a magisterial achievement. -- Peter Frankopan - Sunday Times

In its mixture of supreme storytelling, beautifully drawn characters, fearless scope and rigorous scholarship, it ranks with the very best of world histories. ... From Morocco to Hawaii, Australia to the Persian Gulf, he delivers an intense and thrilling tour de force, filled with pirates, kings, scholars, monsters, conquerors, sailors, merchants, adventurers, slavers and slaves, taking us from the age of triremes and longships, hulks and cogs, dhows and junks, galleons and dreadnoughts, all the way up to the container ship. -- Simon Sebag-Montefiore - Daily Telegraph

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9781846145087
Publication date: 03/10/2019
Publisher: Allen Lane an imprint of Penguin Books Ltd
Format: Hardback

Book Information

ISBN: 9781846145087
Publication date: 3rd October 2019
Author: David Abulafia
Publisher: Allen Lane an imprint of Penguin Books Ltd
Format: Hardback
Genres: History,

About David Abulafia

David Abulafia is Emeritus Professor of Mediterranean History at the University of Cambridge, a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College and a former Chairman of the Cambridge History Faculty. His previous books include Frederick II, The Western Mediterranean Kingdoms and The Great Sea, which has been translated into a dozen languages. 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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