A Cultural History of the Sea in the Medieval Age (850-1400)

Couldn’t;t be happier that this project is nearing completion, the set is now advertised and available to preorder from Bloomsbury.

Here’s an appetiser: The cultural history of the sea during the Middle Ages is a young and dynamic field. Born only recently in the literary criticism of European sources – and still flourishing there – this innovative volume nevertheless pushes out beyond this European literary heartland to explore the shape and potential of a cultural history of the sea constructed also from global literatures and oral traditions, and from material things. The chapters in this volume bring together the perspectives and expertise of archaeologists, historians and literary historians with a core focus on Afro-Eurasia and its encircling seas. Together these chapters explore topics as diverse as the evolving visual representation of the seas in Europe, the Islamic world and the Far East; the development of navigation technologies in the seas around Afro-Eurasia; imaginative projections of the sea in cultures ranging from Maori Aotearoa to Europe; a history of maritime and riverine trade networks across medieval Afro-Eurasia and two novel comparative studies, of islands and shores in Mediterranean and Indian Ocean history, and of the archaeology of fishing and fish eating in the North Atlantic and Swahili worlds. Several of these chapters represent world firsts in their willingness to write across such broad seascapes and temporal ranges. Other chapters narrow their focus to provide case studies and transferrable models of topics such as literary evidence for the lived experiences of Mediterranean sea travellers and conflict at sea in the western Indian Ocean. This volume does not pretend to offer a definitive answer to how a more global cultural history of the sea should be written, it offers not “The” but “A” Cultural History of the Sea for the period between 800 and 1450 CE, shaped as much by the parameters of the series itself as by the vision, curiosity and expertise of its editor and individual contributors. In so doing this volume hopes to open fresh dialogues amongst cultural historians of the sea, and to bring new ideas and questions to the greater numbers of non-specialists just now venturing into this field.  

0. Introduction. Charting a Cultural History of the Sea for the Medieval Age 

Elizabeth Lambourn 

1. Knowledges. From Natural Wayfinding to Instrumentation 

Eric Staples 

2. Practices. Cultures and Communities of Fishing between the Medieval Indian Ocean and North Atlantic 

Stephanie Wynne-Jones and Jennifer Harland 

3. Networks. Thicker and Quicker by Water 

Jonathan Shepard 

4. Conflict. Connected Histories Of Maritime Violence in the Western Indian Ocean 

Elizabeth Lambourn 

5. Islands and Shores. Janus-Faced Cultures at the Interstices of Land and Sea 

Roxani E. Margariti 

6. Travelers. Texts and Contexts 

Sharon Kinoshita 

7. Representations. Painting, Mapping, Re-inventing the Seas of the World 

Emmanuelle Vagnon 

8. Imaginary Worlds. Plural Seas, Liminal Foundations, Contested Identities 

James L. Smith