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.
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. He devises a chronological spiral around the world, starting with a recounting of ancient times, before covering the same areas in medieval times, and so on up to the modern era. 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. Of particular interest are the intricate alliances and shifting loyalties of ancient Mediterranean cultures, the outsized role of the relatively tiny Spice Islands, the impact the Vikings had on cultural exchange across coastal Europe, and the influence of religion on areas as diverse as trade and maritime law. Readers expecting a naval history will receive much more: a thorough history of the people, the ports, and the cultural activity taking place on the water. Paine has compiled an invaluable resource for salty dogs and land-lubbers alike. Photos, illus., & maps.