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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.
“[F]ascinating and beautifully written. . . . Paine steps back from [a] Eurocentric view to tell the story of maritime travel through the entire sweep of human history. For thousands of years, people have been launching themselves onto water to fish, trade, fight, and explore—and doing so in ways that have profoundly shaped human institutions and the rise and decline of civilizations . . . with its richness of detail, [The Sea and Civilization] offer[s] an eloquent vision of how the sea served as a path to the modern world.” —G. John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs
“[A]mbitiously capacious . . . visually, [The Sea and Civilization] spans from vessels recorded in primitive pictographs to modern photographs, and verbally it addresses every regional arena of mercantile and naval activity as it elevates awareness of seas and rivers as conduits between states and peoples throughout human history. . . . So comprehensive and knowledgeable a history as Paine’s offers a sturdy keel for any maritime history collection.” —Gilbert Taylor, Booklist
“A sprawling, readable history of the world from the sailor’s point of view—and not just on the oceans of the world but also its lakes and rivers . . . a lucid, well-written survey that covers a lot of ground—well, fathoms.” —Kirkus Reviews
“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