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The Boundless Sea


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A titanic history of the three great oceans - the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Indian - and of mankind's relationship with the sea from the first voyagers to the present day.

About the Author

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 Solidariet Italiana in recognition of his work on Italian and Mediterranean history.


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 *
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 *
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 *
This is a book written with deep scholarship, but also with lightness and dexterity...It is the seamless melding of the personal and the universal that makes The Boundless Sea so compelling, as the reader meets explorers, brigands, religious fanatics and adventurers. ... This book must be among the favourites of the year. It is rich, humorous and insightful, and Abulafia, emeritus professor of Mediterranean history at Cambridge, manages the art of letting his readers believe they are every bit as learned as he is for the happy days, or weeks, that reading this behemoth will date. This is a journey that few will want to end. -- Alexander Larman * Observer *
Nothing less than a history of humanity written from the perspective of the sea -- Jerry Brotton * Financial Times *
David Abulafia's 2011 The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean set a standard in Middle Sea scholarship, charting a course from 22,000 BC to today, combining careful detail with epic sweep. This dazzlingly ambitious companion-piece looks far beyond the Strait and Suez, towards seaways older than those of Odysseus but less often explored. ... Readers might reasonably anticipate dull determinism, or boundless angst, but these shallows are avoided by shrewd sensitivity, and the sheer majesty of his subject. ... The Boundless Sea offers depth, zooming from ninth century steering to mirage-humped horizons. ... The sea will always spring surprises, but we plainly need to reimagine our coasts. The Boundless Sea reminds us brilliantly of once brand-new landfalls - times when endless oceans glittered with primordial possibilities. -- Derek Turner * Irish Times *
one of the most ambitious histories, on any theme, published lately... an unparalleled synthesis of human engagement with the oceans. It will be a benchmark - or perhaps the Plimsoll line - against which all future histories of planet Ocean will be judged. -- David Armitage * Times Literary Supplement *
Feast on the magnificent bounty that Abulafia has to offer. -- Gerard DeGroot * The Times *
David Abulafia's The Boundless Sea ... is a majestic and beautifully illustrated account of human interaction with the sea, ranging from the Polynesians of the Pacific in the 1st century to the supertankers and vast cruise ships of our own times. Abulafia writes fluently and with deep humanity across the vast expanse of his subject. -- Ruth Scurr * Spectator Books of the Year *
Cast aside what you think you know about maritime history. In this huge study of the oceans, David Abulafia ... offers a big collection of seafaring stories told with simple elegance. -- Gerard DeGroot * The Times Books of the Year *
It is hard to do justice to the historical sweep and richness of detail of Abulafia's latest epic work of maritime scholarship... this books is nothing less than a human history of humanity written from the perspective of the oceans. -- Tom Barber * Financial Times Books of the Year *
a dazzling history of the oceans ... His sheer breadth is staggering: one moment you're reading about the journeys of Ferdinand Magellan, the next you're onto the rise of cruise liners and container ships. Abulafia handles his vast material with the skill of a master mariner, and his book is one of the year's most bracing and surprising voyages. -- Dominic Sandbrook * Sunday Times Books of the Year *
He has a genius for reframing history, for shaking our assumptions and placing new peoples and concepts under the limelight. In The Boundless Sea Prof Abulafia gives us the story of the world as shaped by the pulse of its maritime trade routes. -- Barnaby Rogerson * Country Life Books of the Year *

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