Sunday, January 03, 2016

The Edge of the World:  a cultural history of the North Sea and the transformation of Europe

by Michael Pye

OMG I loved this book! It's the sort of history book I adore, though not the best kind for thorough learning, a book that revels in details and unexpected connections, the sort of things for which a textbook has no room. The writing is engaging and intelligent, and the presentation of information is more artful than methodical.

In another context, I wrote a one-sentence blurb about this book; one of my best blurbs ever, IMHO: "A highly readable anecdotal narrative history of civilization around the North Sea from 476 to 1492 that skitters around the timeline in various thematic chapters, each a lens through which the author examines the importance of sea travel as the impetus and/or vehicle for social changes and technological developments."

If you're preoccupied with diversity and subverting the dominant paradigm, this book probably is not for you. By which I don't mean that it's pushing some sort of hegemonic agenda per se, only that it's very tightly focused on a particular time period in a certain place, and that place just happens to be the source of many globalized ideas and cultural norms and aspirations that, it could easily be argued, historically have not been disseminated in a way that is respectful of indigenous societies or sensitive to the differing narratives of the oppressed.

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