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A History of the World in Sixteen Shipwrecks
Stewart Gordon

2015 • 290 pp. 34 illus. 6 1/8 x 9 1/4"
World History / Ships & Shipbuilding History / Naval History

$19.95 Paperback, 978-1-5126-0124-4
$15.99 Ebook, 978-1-61168-754-5

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

"A History of the World in Sixteen Shipwrecks is a great source for readers who seek a broad overview of maritime history.” —The Great Circle, Journal of the Australian Association for Maritime History

Shipwrecks as a window on the history of globalization

Stories of disasters at sea, whether about Roman triremes, the treasure fleet of the Spanish Main, or great transatlantic ocean liners, fire the imagination as little else can. From the historical sinkings of the Titanic and the Lusitania to the recent capsizing of a Mediterranean cruise ship, the study of shipwrecks also makes for a new and very different understanding of world history. A History of the World in Sixteen Shipwrecks explores the age-old, immensely hazardous, persistently romantic, and ongoing process of moving people and goods across the seven seas.

In recounting the stories of ships and the people who made and sailed them, from the earliest craft plying the ancient Nile to the Exxon Valdez, Stewart Gordon argues that the gradual integration of mainly local and separate maritime domains into fewer, larger, and more interdependent regions offers a unique perspective on world history. Gordon draws a number of provocative conclusions from his study, among them that the European “Age of Exploration” as a singular event is simply a myth: over the millennia, many cultures, east and west, have explored far-flung maritime worlds, and technologies of shipbuilding and navigation have been among the main drivers of science and exploration throughout history. In a series of compelling narratives, A History of the World in Sixteen Shipwrecks shows that the development of institutions and technologies that made the terrifying oceans familiar and turned unknown seas into well-traveled sea-lanes matters profoundly in our modern world.

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

"Gordon explains the background of each type of ship, how it was discovered (in the case of the older vessels), how it came to be in its current state, and why it matters. The author emphasizes the importance of each ship: did its discovery contribute to knowledge of a past civilization? What does it reveal about the politics, economics, and culture of the people who created it? Did its loss result in a significant change in maritime regulations, safety, and shipbuilding practices? These are the questions that defined Gordon’s choices, which demonstrate how maritime history is a significant part of world history. . . . Recommended.” —Choice

“This book provides a unique opportunity for the study of world history with focus on global shipping and maritime transit from earliest times to present. Gordon uses details of shipwreck recoveries and their salvaged cargoes as the basis for his concise discussions of wider period issues, such as technology, environment, and societal change, as his tracks from shipwreck sources offer opportunity for follow up discussion and pair well with world history texts. The book as a whole is an engaging series of single chapter reads, as each chapter differs in its documentation, discussion, and varying approach to global history.” —World History Connected

"Innovative approach. . . . Interesting insights."—Naval History

An informative read in a compelling format, allowing the author to widen his focus from specific maritime sites to their broader contexts during the time periods in which they operated. . . . Gordon has succeeded in bringing important wrecks to light and showing that their importance extends far beyond their strictly maritime realms.”—International Journal of Maritime History

"A History of the World in Sixteen Shipwrecks is a great source for readers who seek a broad overview of maritime history.”—Journal of the Australian Association for Maritime History

“The sixteen vignettes provide a thoughtful synthesis of archaeological, historical, economic, cultural, and geographical information into a narrative both captivating and fundamentally critical for understanding our human past, a reminder that water connects—not divides—civilizations.”Sea History

A unique perspective on world history.”—Naval Review

“This book is an easy and interesting read. It would be ideal for introducing the history of shipping to a general reader.”
The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology

“[Gordon] provides a sweeping narrative that stretches eight thousand years and pulls together an interesting set of themes.”

The Historian

"Stewart Gordon has once again offered the reading public an instance of his innovative and accessible style of writing world history, this time using the category of shipwrecks — a tragic but near-universal human experience — as his unit of analysis. From dugout canoes dating to 6000 BC down to 2012, when a modern cruise ship ran aground off the coast of Italy, Gordon lucidly shows how maritime activities reflect the ever-increasing pace of globalization."—Richard M. Eaton, professor of history, University of Arizona

"As an underwater archaeologist, editor and author of books on shipwrecks, I would have thought it impossible to write a history of the world in just sixteen shipwrecks, but Stewart Gordon has not only accomplished it, he did so in a way that should appeal to everyone from armchair explorers to the most dedicated of academicians. Gordon uses the changes in design, construction details, and cargoes of the wrecks to trace the development of ships, international trade, and what was happening in the world over a span of thousands of years. I highly recommend this elegantly written book to anyone who loves history and archaeology, as it will give them a new understanding of the importance of shipwrecks and why their stories actually matter and must be preserved."—Dr. E. Lee Spence, underwater archaeologist, President, Sea Research Society; V.P., International Diving Institute


Short-Listed for the Mountbatten Maritime Award (2015)

STEWART GORDON is a senior research scholar at the Center for South Asian Studies at the University of Michigan and author of eight books, including When Asia Was the World.

Thu, 14 Mar 2019 13:07:58 -0500