On the Ocean

The Mediterranean and The Atlantic from Prehistory to AD 1500
Barry Cunliffe
Published by Oxford University Press

The engrossing story of the contest between humans and the sea told by one of Britain’s pre-eminent historians. Published by Oxford University Press.

Barry Cunliffe, Emeritus Professor of European Archaeology at the University of Oxford, relates the enthralling story of the development of seafaring on two contrasting seas – the Mediterranean, enclosed and without a significant tide, and the Atlantic, an ocean seemingly without end with frightening tidal ranges.

For humans the sea is, and always has been, an alien environment. Ever moving and ever changing in mood, it is a place without time, in contrast to the land, which is fixed and scarred by human activity. While the land is familiar, even reassuring, the sea is unknown and threatening. By taking to the sea humans put themselves at the mercy of an alien power – the sea may give, but it also takes.

The book begins with hunter-gatherers in the eastern Mediterranean building simple vessels to make their remarkable crossing to Crete, and ends in the early years of the 16th century with sailors from Spain, Portugal and England reaching the limits of the Atlantic Ocean from Labrador to Patagonia. The message is that the contest between humans and the sea has been a driving force, perhaps the driving force, in human history.

Over 200 illustrations and 114 maps accompany the narrative.

Published by Oxford University Press


640 pages

220 illustrations and 114 maps

246 mm x 189 mm

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