Book Review: A Short History of Seafaring by Brian Lavery

Originally published as The Conquest of the Ocean in 2013 with the American edition titled as A Short History of Seafaring and published in 2019.

Interestingly, the original publication is a hardback and contains colored photos and illustrations, whereas this edition is a paperback with the exact same images and maps, except only in black and white. Perhaps something of a downside to those looking for a more immersive (and colorful) read.

A fairly good single-volume history of the development of humankind’s maritime enterprise. The book is very readable and well-illustrated as expected of something published by DK. In some ways, this book is similar to Lincoln Paine’s The Sea and Civilization, except less detailed and more geared towards young adult readers or the layperson.

The book covers the breadth of world history from prehistoric to modern times and ends with an examination of piracy off the Horn of Africa. The chapters are broken down into small sections ranging from about 5 – 10 pages in length which is easy for the reader to digest, but also provides a decent amount of detail. As a result, the main historical turning points in maritime history get pretty good coverage.

By no means is this an eye-opening or groundbreaking history. In fact, it’s very derivative, but it’s well-illustrated and contains a good assortment of maps to help the reader. The only major criticism I have is that this edition is totally in black-and-white. As a result, I’ve actually sold this edition and purchased the hardcover edition (The Conquest of the Ocean) just for the colored illustrations and photos.

Overall, it’s a good, quick read and easy reference for those looking for an introduction into the history of our maritime world.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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