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A grand sweep of history by the late Fernand Braudelone of the twentieth centurys most influential historiansMemory and the Mediterranean chronicles the Mediterraneans immeasurably rich past during the foundational period from prehistory to classical antiquity, illuminating nothing less than the bedrock of our civilization and the very origins of Western culture.
Essential for historians, yet written explicitly for the general reader, this magnificent account of the ebb and flow of cultures shaped by the Mediterranean takes us from the great seas geologic beginnings through the ancient civilizations that flourished along its shores. Moving with ease from Mesopotamia and Egypt to the flowering of Crete and the early Aegean peoples, and culminating in the prodigious achievements of ancient Greece and Rome, Braudel conveys in absorbing detail the geography and climate of the region over the course of millennia while brilliantly explaining the larger forces that gave rise to agriculture, writing, sea travel, trade, and, ultimately, the emergence of empires. Impressive in scope and gracefully written, Memory and the Mediterranean is an endlessly enriching work of history by a legend in the field. Fernand Braudel's Memory and the Mediterraneanis a panoramic and singular history, a comprehensive synthesis, of that region from pre-historic times to the beginning of the Byzantine Empire. Braudel's concerns are not the usual turning points such as battles and political upheaval. Instead, he focuses on regional and sub-regional vicissitudes (climate, topography, geologic cataclysms, the very currents of the sea itself) and their legacies, especially commerce, to trace the reasons behind the risings and falls of the greater Mediterranean's scores of ancient cultures. What, for example, were the ramifications of Egypt's lack of forests? How did the discovery of bitumen and the development of concrete affect, respectively, the Phoenicians and the Romans? Memory and the Mediterraneanis complex and demanding but in the end, rewarding. Its point of view is at once Olympian, humble, and richly commonsensical. --H. O'Billovitch