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The Sea: A Cultural History
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This is the book that I have been waiting for - an anthropologist's exploration of man's engagement with the sea. In this brilliant analysis John Mack shows us that innate inquisitiveness has driven humans to challenge the sea, creating one of the great dynamics energizing the human story. The Sea is essential reading for all with an interest in the remarkable story of humankind. -- Barry Cunliffe

About the Author

John Mack is Professor of World Art Studies at the University of East Anglia. He is the author of Museum of the Mind: Art and Memory in World Cultures (2003) and The Art of Small Things (2007).

Reviews

'The ambition of this book is admirable, and Mack manages to achieve an astonishing amount in just a couple of hundred pages ... If there's an ounce of salt in your veins, please read The Sea: A Cultural History. It's learned, fluent and, just like its subject, suitably unpredictable.' - Geographical Magazine 'An inventive look at the oceans and their influence - as barriers, as sources of commerce, life and cultural inspiration - on human civilization and the relations among nations.' - LA Times 'John Mack's fascinating The Sea: A Cultural History brings an anthropologist's intellect to our engagement with the sea.' - Conde Nast Traveller 'a comprehensive survey of the ways in which human societies have interacted with the sea, that vast expanse which has both united and divided the human race ... I was intrigued by the chapter dealing with navigation and I learned so much from it about the fascinating history of the art and science of guiding a ship across the sea ... I defy any reader not to find this book interesting and informative.' - Canberra Times 'John Mack, has looked at the sea through the prisms of culture, literature, art and anthropology ... This is a wonderfully erudite study of the artistic and mythological influences of the sea, with references ranging from the usual suspects Shakespeare, Herman Melville, Joseph Conrad, J.M.W. Turner to such "unseaworthy" writers as diverse as Victor Hugo, Bruce Chatwin and Dr Samuel Johnson.' - Sydney Morning Herald 'This is a deeply learned book, looking at the oceans and the way sailors interact with them ... adds another dimension to the history of humanity on a part of the planet easily ignored.' - The Australian 'Mack's dry wonderment about the watery part of the globe smacks of learned curiosity of the eighteenth-century naturalist, enthralled by his subject; but unlike his twenty-first-century counterparts, Mack is too rigorous a thinker to universalize his curiosity ad absurdum ... his teasing out of how the sea is viewed in literature and the arts, from the prints of Hokusai to the writings of Jonathan Raban, are the finest points of this book.' - The New Republic 'The book is truly intelligent and international in its scope and a thorough engagement with it would benefit any serious scholar of the maritime world.' - Sea History Magazine With any luck, most of us will be at sea by now. Anyone who is not may like to put their noses into The Sea: A Cultural History which sets out to tell the story of seas as places in their own right rather than expanses of meaningless water separating chunks of useful land ... There is a lot to think about here, much of it expressed in new ways.' - Marine Quarterly '[Mack] interprets a great variety of observations with the insights of a confident anthropologist ... Mack's account is full of fascinating details and intriguing general speculations ... Having learned more about the sea, readers will find, oddly enough, that they know more about the land and even about themselves.' - Eastern Daily Press 'This is the book that I have been waiting for - an anthropologist's exploration of man's engagement with the sea. In this brilliant analysis John Mack shows us that innate inquisitiveness has driven humans to challenge the sea, creating one of the great dynamics energizing the human story. The Sea is essential reading for all with an interest in the remarkable story of humankind.' - Barry Cunliffe, University of Oxford '"I am a part of the sea and the sea is part of me," muses a Torres Straits elder, and John Mack brings readers to just such recognition of their own places in the world. In his able hands, seas become places and not merely The Great Between. They have their own histories, and demand sophisticated technologies of exploration, exploitation, and intellectual fathoming. Through many years of museum scholarship, Mack has perfected a grand, sweeping vision matched by delight in deepest detail, and here he tells compelling stories about "ships as societies," "sea gypsies," and the hundred named "seamarks" in open water known to residents of Mabuiag Island. Welcome aboard!' - Allen F. Roberts, Professor in the Department of World Arts and Cultures, University of California, Los Angeles

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