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The Black Sea: A History Paperback – September 22, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0199283941 ISBN-10: 019928394X Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews


"King is eloquent in bemoaning the ecological destruction caused by post-Second World War industrialization. The general reader and the specialist will read King's book with pleasure and profit. May it encourage other scholars to turn their attention to a much neglected region."--The International History Review

"This is a book of enormous scope that excels in innovation and fresh insight.... A book covering 2700 years in 276 pages would appear to face formidable obstacles. Charles King, however puts all doubts to rest. His argument does not waver and his strokes of insight surprise us on every page. This is one we all ought to read.--Peter Weisensel, The Russian Review

About the Author

Charles King is the Ion Ratiu Chair of Romanian Studies and Associate Professor in the School of Foreign Service and the Department of Government at Georgetown University.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (September 22, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019928394X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199283941
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 0.7 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #525,553 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Charles King is Professor of International Affairs and Government at Georgetown University. He is the author of six books on European history and politics, including Midnight at the Pera Palace: The Birth of Modern Istanbul (W. W. Norton, 2014), Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams (W. W. Norton, 2011), which received the National Jewish Book Award, and The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus (Oxford University Press, 2008). He lectures widely on eastern Europe, social violence, and ethnic politics, and has worked with broadcast media including CNN, National Public Radio, the BBC, the History Channel, and MTV. A native of the Ozark hill country, King studied history and politics at the University of Arkansas and Oxford University, where he was a Marshall Scholar.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Barbara H on April 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As an amateur historian I have moved beyond purely narrative history, such as David McCullough, but neither am I a scholar drawn to pot sherd dating. This history falls nicely between the two extremes.

King's premise is that the Black Sea can be viewed as a historical and cultural entity given it's role in regional trade. He lays out how various civilizations developed along its shores from antiquity, beginning with shore-hugging navigation to cross-sea trade in more recent history. This approach illustrates patterns of and insight into the rise and fall of societies around the Black Sea.

However, the delivery falls a bit short of the promise laid out in the introduction. The Black Sea was not the Meditteranean. Geography, as he points out, limited the development of purely Black Sea civilizations, and prevented homogenization of their societies. In addition, much of the history of these societies was dominated by outside forces -- such as the Romans, the Persians, and the Mongols. In the end, the idea of a Black Sea history as a stand-alone exercise is too much of a stretch to be credible.

King makes a very good point, however, when he points out the danger these civilizations courted if they failed to secure the Black Sea for their own trade. Time and again, he shows how empires had their territory chipped away by their Black Sea neighbors once those empires stopped securing key ports.

One of the delights of this book is that he deals with these Black Sea societies in their own right. Too often regional histories such as those of Rome/Byzantium will only mention rulers such as Mithridates when he becomes a military threat.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Charles King combines meticulous research with engrossing storytelling to produce a work that is at once intellectually rigorous and readable. Ambitious in its scope, the book traces the history of the Black Sea from the time of Greek trading colonies to the modern regional powers and environmental issues that characterize the sea and the states and peoples that surround it today. Not limiting itself to a narrow analysis, The Black Sea puts this region into a global perspective, and is a valuable read for anyone who is interested in this important part of the world, or in the past and future of regional confrontation and cooperation.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 2, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As you would expect Mr. King takes your from Greeks, to Romans, to Byzantines, to Ottomans, etc. Overall I thought it was as thorough of an introduction over a 2000+ year time frame as you can expect from a book under 300 pages. The focus is always the sea and the littoral, so by necessity vast chunks of time can be covered very rapidly. Mr. King makes it an enjoyable read, although he liberally uses 'GRE' words; I was often using the dictionary on my Kindle (I swear my vocabulary has expanded because of that thing).

What I didn't expect from the book is a topic I found most engrossing. I assumed that the last 1/3 of the book would be about communism after WWI and its impact on the region. Of course the author covers this but not in any great detail. Instead the book shifts to discussing ethnicity, religion, nationalism and how these dynamics interplay in the states surrounding the Black Sea region. The entire movement of ethnic groups, some of whom had called regions in the Balkans, Ukraine, Crimea, and Turkey home for centuries, is a largely unknown tragedy of the late 19th and early 20th century.

Many have heard of the Armenian genocide. But what about Tatars, Circassians, or Pontic Greeks? While their forced migrations were not perhaps as brutal, the thought of entire groups deported to create ethnic purity within a state is deplorable. The reality is that we still deal with the fallout of these events 100 years later.

I really enjoyed this book.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By P.K. Ryan on August 13, 2008
Format: Paperback
A more accurate title for this book would probably be 'The Black Sea Region' as it is more a history of the surrounding territories and peoples than the sea itself. This is not to say that King doesn't describe the sea itself, but it just seemed to have a much more marginal role in the work than I had expected. Nevertheless, I thought the book was quite good. King starts off by giving us the physical origins of the sea. Although it seems to be agreed upon that the sea was once a lake, how exactly it became a sea is still apparently a matter of debate. Drawing upon recent evidence, King concludes that the Black Sea was formed by rising water levels in the adjacent Mediterranean Sea which overflowed into the lower level lake. Apparently, the sea has always been very turbulent which has been testified to by countless sailors throughout the ages. King swiftly moves on to the history of the region, which is a fascinating chronological account of both the indigenous inhabitants and subsequent foreign inavaders throughout the centuries. The result is a story of constantly shifting populations and empires including a vast array of peoples such as the Greeks, Romans, Scythians, Thracians, Rhos (Russians), Byzantines, Bulgars, Turks, Khazars, and Tatars. Much of the latter half of the second millennium consisted of the Russian and Ottoman Empires battling for control of the sea and region. King also gives a good analysis of the regional transition from empire to nationalism in the 20th century, as well as the "pipeline politics" of today. All in all, I think King does a good job at describing this often neglected region which, as witnessed by the recent conflict between Russia and Georgia, continues to be very relevant today. A very informative and satisfying read.
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