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Sicily: Three Thousand Years of Human History Hardcover – May 19, 2006


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This solid narrative of the Mediterranean island emphasizes how its location has subjected it to one wave of conquest after another. Benjamin (The World of Benjamin Tudela), who has lived in Sicily for the past decade, traces Sicilian history back to the indigenous Neolithic cultures, which dated from 7000 B.C. up through the first millennium B.C. The Greeks and the Carthaginians fought one another to exhaustion, leaving Sicily a prey to the Romans, who converted it into a rich granary of estates worked by (often rebellious) slaves. Muslims from Africa succeeded the Romans in the seventh century A.D., and they in turn gave way to Norman French, the best rulers the island ever had. From the famous rebellion of the Sicilian Vespers in 1282, Aragonese, Hapsburg and Bourbon Spaniards ruled, until Garibaldi used the island as a springboard for his unification of Italy in the 1860s. In this engaging read, Benjamin ably explains the temperament and culture of modern-day Sicilians, through the island's checkered political climate; its rugged and seismic terrain (the still-active Mt. Etna looms to the east); its poor soil and scant rainfall; as well as the mass emigration it endured in the 19th and 20th centuries. (June)
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From Booklist

Given its central location within the Mediterranean basin, the island of Sicily has found itself involved in just about all the major events that have shaped Europe, Africa, and Asia over three millennia. First came the Phoenicians, who had established their outpost at Carthage. They gave way to Greeks and their culture. Romans took the island as one of their first conquests on the road to hegemony. The crumbling Roman Empire left a void that first German tribes and then Arab settlers filled. Normans succeeded the Arabs and ushered in a golden age under the great king Roger. Other European colonial powers vied for dominance until Italy's eventual unification. The instability, friction, suspicion, and ethnic tumult caused by these successive waves of conquerors laid a foundation for the Mafia, whose rules of secrecy and assurances of protection worked to advantage in the island's rugged, inaccessible interior. Benjamin recounts all this history in easy prose unencumbered by academic pretension, making this an ideal history for the nonspecialist. Public libraries with significant Italian American populations will find this history in special demand. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Steerforth; First Edition edition (May 19, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586421018
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586421014
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.9 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #453,135 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Book Happy on April 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book is valuable because it covers a lot of territory and has a number of strengths, but it also has many weaknesses. The author does not seem to have a firm grasp of Sicily's Greek history and, even worse, seems to be lost when it comes to the Romen period. She even says something to the effect that "nothing much happened" in Sicily during the Roman Empire once Augustus won the civil war. She also misunderstands Frederick II, Sicily's most reknowned ruler, considered to be the greatest king of the Middle Ages. She is on firmer ground when covering the periods of French and Spanish domination and the Bourbon court in Naples. Her account of the creation of modern Italy (& its incorporation of Sicily) is excellent. As for modern Sicily, she provides a good account of the Mafia and of politics, but little else. There is very little relating to cultural subjects, e.g., food, folk arts, literature. Most of the book relates to politics and to large-scale economic issues.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Andrew B. Obin on September 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Not a bad summary of the sicilian history but the book is poorly written. Reads like an unispired Ph. D. thesis. It is at its strongest when it deals with the early sicilian history, modern history (the last 100 years or so) is not dealt with particularly well and does not appear to be well researched.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Anthony Costanza on April 13, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm only up to the 1700s, which is a little over half way through this thick book, however I am stuck! I can't put the book down! This author does an AMAZING job seamlessly transitioning from one era to the next, citing nearly every ruler of Sicily and what their rein was like, how long it lasted, how the people dealt with certain dilemmas, etc. AMAZING BOOK. If you want a good book on Sicily, this has got to be the best. If I could give a 6th star I would. Cheers
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Vv on September 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Fascinating, well-researched, comprehensive AND wonderfully written with sprinklings of humor. Didn't think a history book would become my best summer reading!
V. Mauro
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Gilberto Villahermosa on September 12, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book tremendously! It's well written, insightful, and interesting. For too many years the Italian government in Rome, the Catholic Church, and the Mafia did everything they could to keep the island's population subservient. The Sicilian peasant was overworked and denied sufficient food and even water to thrive. Fortunately, thanks to the courage of Sicilians themselves, the island began to prosper economically in the 1960s and 70s. Having read this excellent history, I would very much like to visit the island.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Dott Ram on November 12, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Terrible. Badlly written, appalling grasp of sentence construction and an even worse grasp of facts. A dry romp through Sicilan history with huge gaps and a complete lack of understanding of the evnts of 'modern' Sicily. Her grasp of Italian is weak to say the least. Entirely centred on the west of the island, I doubt MsBenjamin has even been to the east - she certainly has basic facts about the 1693 earthquake completely wrong, and has no idea about the Mafia. it really is a very poor attempt - written by someone who has been to Italy on holiday and considers themselves an expert. Do not waste your money - there are loads of better books than this.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bug on June 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I have read and studied history for many years as a student in college, and as well as a lawyer for the last 40 years. My family is from Enna Province, Nicosia, Sicily. For the first time in my 75 years, after reading Ms. Benjamin's fine chronicle, have I truly understood Sicily, its culture, and multi-diverse ethnic background.I highly recommend her work as I truly learned and enjoyed it. The book is what I call a very easy read.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Charles F. Gulotta on September 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
My Grandfather emigrated from Sicily during the 1890's and this book provided some very good insight into his reasons for leaving. The book revealed some family insights I had oftened wondered about. Anyone with a relative from Sicily would find this book of interest. Of particular interest is the long rich ancient history of Sicily which I knew little about.

If you have the time it is well worth the read. I will give it as a gift to some of my relatives.
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