Customer Reviews

59
4.3 out of 5 stars
The Sea and Civilization: A Maritime History of the World
Format: HardcoverChange
Price:$28.34 + Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

44 of 48 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 26, 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Certain topics yield essays that wander along the interests of the author, within the scope of the topic. A history of the Sea and Civilization is basically a survey course, and a large plum tree ripe with fruit for the picking. Regardless of the number of pages, the author is central in what he chooses to write about, and what stays by the shore and never sets sail.

This is a good book. It is well written, a compelling read. The review of the history of the sea is a review of men who go down to the sea in ships. The battles, and the explorers, are here. In some ways, this book re-creates some of Daniel Boorstin's book, the explorers, and in some ways it touches on the course of human history.

The author uses the design of boats, and the ways of navigation, as an entry point for talking about peoples and water. At some points, the focus seems to be on small boating -- canoes, reed mats... and even when we move to Egypt and boats on the Nile, the scope is more boating than it is oceans and power. I did like the way the ocean currents explain strategies of exploration, and the archaeology of the expansion of peoples.

The book opens up into discussions of trade routes, and the projection of might and empire through control of oceans.

One thing I love about this book: the author is aware of, and often shows, every single rock carving, pot, or wall image of an ancient ship ever known to man. He is an encyclopedia of the archaeology of ships. He is learned, and an omnivore.

I had recently read "The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean" by David Abulafia, and enjoyed the length and breadth of that work, while feeling that it grew tired in the telling. Here, with more to write about, I feel this book occasionally gets sketchy, in some of the Pacific chapters, and that the author has perhaps too grand a theme. The feel is more of a survey of human history, rather than a grand theme of human development through the sea.

Yet the swing is hard, even if the result is a double. I thought that the viewing of human civilization through the lens of the sea is a real, although note complete way to look at matters. Why not civilization and rivers, that old chestnut of geography classes? Civilization and the littoral would cover most of human history. The answer is the mystery of the sea, the magic of the sea, which provides a lens for this book, albeit not an entirely satisfactory historical lens.

In short, this is less of a Maritime History of the World, and is rather better described as a History of the Maritime World. And a pretty good one.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 29, 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Man had to take to the water. He is a mobile being that has always moved from place to place seeking food, new land, fleeing aggressors or oppression, looking to trade, or simply curious about what lay over the horizon. From logs, bark, and animal hide, early man noticed that things float.

With great detail Lincoln Paine describes the development of ocean and river travel. From the raft of primitive man as he escapes the shackles of land, down to nuclear-powered ships, the reader follows the quest of opening up new horizons of trade and the cultures they nourished.

This extraordinary comprehensive narrative, packed into a little over 700 pages, did appear overwhelming, but once started I became absorbed in the story of mankind's need and desire to travel across water. The more I read the more I wanted to know and found it hard to put down. This volume will find a place on the shelf with my other history books and will more than likely be used as reference as I continue my lifetime study of history.

I recommend "The Sea and Civilization" to everyone interested in history because so much of civilization has depended on the sea and travel by water. I give it 5 stars.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I like to collect books on how commodities such as salt, cinnamon, cochineal, and indigo were developed in transported from one location to another. However we need to keep in mind that these products even though might have inspired maritime travel it is secondary to those of the people that actually did the traveling.

Lincoln Paine in "The Sea and Civilization" shows how waterways contributed to spreading many of the great cultures of mankind. One of the main parts of the book are the maps. I have a fair knowledge of where things are in the world of today and the world of antiquity. But without a clear picture the names of places are just that the names of places. So pay close attention to the maps in the book will be even more interesting.

The whole book is interesting but if I had to pick a favorite spot it would be the chapter on "The British Global Trade" once again I find it interesting looking at the maps. Conspicuously missing is the Piri Reis map.

There is an extensive bibliography and enough notes to know that Lincoln Paine knows his maritime history. We can also use the bibliography for further reading. Still this book is so compact with information that you will have to probably reread it to remember the small pieces of information that can easily be overlooked.

Green cargoes
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 5, 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Most world histories are centered on the movements of armies, the building of cities, the taming of the land. The sea is at best an incidental part of all that. A few noteworthy events may stick in the reader's mind--the battles of Midway, Trafalgar and the loss of the Spanish Armada--but most of the course of history is land-based. Lincoln Paine changes the vantage point. Traffic on seas, lakes and rivers has equally as much to do with the spread of human civilization. This densely-packed volume begins roughly in the Old Kingdom of Egypt and brings us all the way to the present day.

I was about a hundred pages in when it dawned on me that this is really a textbook--whatever the author's intentions might be. It's a compendium of dates, kings and ship architectures. It wants to be read with a notepad on the side and a highlighter in hand; discussions to follow. The style tends toward the dry: it's impossible to do a quick read-through and then circle back for detail. Comparisons with a truly great naval writer (Samuel Eliot Morison) are not favorable in that regard. I would love to see a reduced version of this book with a more general audience in mind. As fascinating as this material is, it's really hard to stay with it. Reading and absorbing is a commitment of many weeks.

So let's consider this as a textbook. As such it's excellent. I can't imagine any serious naval officer not spending a semester with it. It could still benefit from a greater sense of concurrency, since many of the activities happen simultaneously. For example, the last centuries of Ptolemaic Egypt are concurrent with the expansion of river traffic in China. Both economies grew from navigable rivers. I'd love to have seen comparison and contrast. At the very least, a graphic timeline would be quite a plus.

I'm not sure that this is a book for the general reader in history. The material is fascinating, but a little too dense for a quick chapter before bedtime. It's an important topic nonetheless. I'd love to see it spawn a summary volume.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
25 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
What you think of this book is really determined by how you like your history presented. If you like a chronology of events, very detailed and complete, you will fall in love with Lincoln Paine's masterwork. But if you want your history a little more spoon-fed, with the author helping you to draw conclusions and connections, it will be a long and tedious read. I fall more into the second category, thus the 3-stars.

=== The Good Stuff ===

* This is about as complete and well researched book as you will find. I was reading a review copy, with the footnotes still not complete, so it was a bit tough to match up the references and bibliography, but the one or two that I did check were very complete and reputable sources. If you ever wanted to cram the history of civilization into 600 pages, this is about as close as anyone will ever get.

* I love the premise of the book, namely that you should look at the history of maritime technology and navigation, and then work to fit the rest of history into place around it. It is somewhat of a novel concept, but makes for an interesting way to look at things. For example, one of the first chapters examines the flow of metal ores around the area of the middle east. As copper and tin ores are loaded onto boats and shipped across some distances, the bronze age really comes into its own.

* Occasionally, Paine takes a break from the detailed chronology and branches off into a discussion of technology (usually maritime technology) and examines how it came into existence and what effect it had on civilization. I found these passages to be excellent and the best parts of the book. I wish Paine would write a book with just this format (he may have, I will be checking).

=== The Not-So-Good Stuff ===

* I found the book to be a tedious read. While Paine writes in a reasonably easy-to-read style, he is prone to long paragraphs, something I have always disliked. I didn't really do a count, but 300 and 400 word paragraphs seems fairly common.

* The major issue I had with the book was the format. The vast majority of the book is a recitation of facts and events. Paine is incredibly thorough, and he will describe a series of events in incredible detail. It makes for a marvelous historical record, but it is a format that I find makes it tough to absorb much information. I much prefer a more interconnected approach- A and B happen, and therefore C occurs, which naturally leads to an increased emphasis on D, which leads to E. Instead, Paine tends to telling where and when A-E happened, but leaving the reader to draw his own connections and conclusions.

=== Summary ===

Depending on your tastes in history, you may or may not like this book. I have certainly seen few books that were more complete, better researched, or more comprehensive in their looks at history. The emphasis on the history of maritime history as a driver of the rest of history is interesting and a novel approach that caught my interest.

However, my personal taste is for more of a narrative, putting events together in a logical (rather than purely chronological) sequence, and explaining how and why things happened based on previous events.

Even if you are unable to power your way to reading the whole volume, it certainly stands on its own as a decent reference book.
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 18, 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is certainly an ambitious book. In it you'll find a complete history of civilization, global in scope, told from the viewpoint of travel upon the water. As Paine puts it in his introduction, "I want to change the way you see the world map by focusing your attention on the blues that shade 70 percent of the image before you, and letting the earth tones fade." And the history that's told through this watery lens coincides remarkably with a "regular" world history. The same empires and nations are there, the same commerce and conflicts, the same great developments in human existence on our planet, but all told in terms of waterways and seafaring.

Any single-volume book that seeks to tell as much history as this one does is -- inevitably -- not going to be an easy read. In a more narrowly focused history (a history of the American Civil War, for example), the author has the luxury of taking time out from a straight chronology of "this happened and then this happened and then this happened..." to look into the biographies of some notable people and to tell some human-scale stories. These rest stops give the reader a break from the relentless chronology, and also help to put some memorable human faces on the otherwise dry march of events.

But this book doesn't have that luxury, and therefor I'm afraid many readers will find it heavy-going. It is indeed very largely a book of "this happened and then this happened..." One small exception comes when Paine takes time out to discuss some aspect of ship-building technology or navigation science. As a technology-oriented reader, I found these to be both interesting and a welcome respite from the history-as-history, but these breaks were rather sparse and brief.

Thus, especially in the earlier chapters of the book, one is confronted with a rapid-fire litany of empires, dynasties, nations, city-states, wars, alliances, migrations, trade relationships, more wars, and what-all else, much of it only vaguely familiar even to readers with a fair knowledge of history. As I read this book, I had the unfortunate feeling that most of what I read was just going in one eyeball and out the other, so to speak.

But none of this is really a criticism of the writing of this book; Paine does as good a job as anyone could ask of relating this vast and often fascinating narrative in good order, with his attention always on the important role that ships and seafaring played in so many aspects of civilization. I recommend this book to any history buff; I think it truly will change the way you view a map of the world.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 19, 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This review is being made from an uncorrected proof, but I will order the actual work, maps & all, when it comes out.

But nothing is perfect, and there are several important questions to ask: Who's the intended audience? Is this a reference work or a narrative with a purpose? At 784 pages, is the length defendable? As an author of long and involved history books myself, I read this work from cover to cover, but how many readers will do that? And if the book is not read from front to back, how useful is it? Do the chapters stand on their own?

In short, what I am saying is that I found the book captivating, if a little tedious, but worth the read and as a book to have on a shelf for reference. But my knowledge of history, from ancient to modern, is encyclopedic, an advantage that few readers will have. When I finished the text I read the bibliography twice, to see if there were any works listed that I should add to my library. To my amazement there were almost a score. That's how much new or seldom referenced material there was in this book, and for that the author is to be congratulated.

The author starts out by stating that he wants to change the way we see the world -- a very ambitious goal. He doesn't entirely succeed because politics and national leaders have been primarily focused on terrestrial gains and control, and only seldom has history been about control of the seas. In addition, trade (business) rather than governmental actions have been the driving force behind the development of sea power, and governments have followed rather than led in this arena. Nor are "Great Men" frequently on the stage in maritime history, whereas they are on land. Progressives will not know what to make of this work, as merchants and traders bring about cataclysmic events that force leaders of countries to act to protect their economies, their positions, and their power. Maritime history is a very "people oriented" history, a stage on which the actors are more often unknown than known. Who were the leaders of the Sea People, the Vikings, the Spanish fleets, the Royal Navy, and even the Union Navy in the Civil War, not to mention the events and people discussed by the author in the Far and Near East?

There are many passages where I said "that is really seminal", but perhaps too many for the popular or casual academic reader. Frequently the author gets into the weeds, details that probably do not advance his narrative, but weeds that are by themselves interesting. Does the reader need to know about Rhodian Sea Law, or that the Byzantine navy in the early middle ages developed the "dromon", a single-banked oar-powered ship that replaced the larger war vessels of antiquity?

In all, this work deserves to be closely read -- a project far beyond most readers. Much of the material will be new to the reader, not the least because the time frame covers three thousand years, and all the major continents, oceans and seas. Nonetheless, I wish the author well, and thank him for his effort. We are all the better for it -- particularly those who will stay the course and read this very serious work.

Highly recommended.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 16, 2014
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I gave this to Husband for Christmas, expected it to be one of the typical obscure niche books he collects. I was very surprised at how very interesting and accessible it was for even a musician. If you have a curious bent, I recommend you give this a try.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Magisterial is not a word I often use to describe a book, but "The Sea and Civilization" richly merits the adjective.

Beginning with speculations of the earliest sea voyages, progressing through the earliest written records through the present day, humankind's traversal of the waters was revolutionary as early cultures interacted, traded, colonized and conquered.

Author Lincoln Paine is not only as master of maritime research, but a writer of the first order. Though loaded with detail, this history never slows, never gets boring. (I intend to read it a second time simply because there is so much detail.)

One aspect that comes through is the bravery of the seafarers through the 19th Century. Death and disabling injuries were extremely common in ships through the beginnings of the modern era.

Paine laments of the loss of the port city where sailors, traders, stevedores and common citizens interacted. Today's factory like container ports employ few, the sailors from once exotic locales may not even leave their ships for the few hours they are in port.

Paine points out the past, present and future importance of navies and open trade routes

Overall, even if you have no specific interest in maritime history, but do enjoy the study of history in general, this is a book that belongs on your shelf.

Jerry
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Nearly three-quarters of the Earth's surface is covered in water yet written history tends to concentrate upon events on land. This is probably not too surprising. Events on land have a solidity and even a permanence that seems not to be reproduced by those occurring on the eternally changing sea. This lengthy, well-written maritime history makes a serious attempt to rectify the imbalance. There are many subjects for the author's attention. The early exploration of the Earth by sea borne voyagers whose courageous travels led to the colonization of far-flung land masses and islands was of primal importance. The birth of sea borne and river borne trade had crucial impacts on the growth of early economies. The creation and evolution of sea-going navies went hand-in-hand with the development of the early nation state. The modern era is defined by naval power and concomitant economic and political empire. The strongest case can be made that the modern world was born and nurtured by the sea. Maritime history is the history of the modern world. Author Lincoln Paine writes clearly and with a passionate love for his subject. He conveys his sense of excitement to the reader, which is a good thing given the book's length and its depth of detail. If you love history and/or stories about the sea as I do, you will enjoy this book. The Sea and Civilization is a superb maritime history that is definitely worth your attention.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
     
 
Customers who viewed this also viewed
A History of the World in 12 Maps
A History of the World in 12 Maps by Jerry Brotton (Paperback - October 28, 2014)
$14.99


 
     

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.

Your Recently Viewed Items and Featured Recommendations 
 

After viewing product detail pages, look here to find an easy way to navigate back to pages you are interested in.