The Atlantic

The Atlantic

The Atlantic

The Atlantic


From Antiquity to modern times, the Atlantic has been the subject of myths and legends. The Atlantic by Paul Butel offers a global history of the ocean encompassing the exploits of adventurers, Vikings, explorers such as Christopher Columbus, emigrants, fishermen, and modern traders. The book also highlights the importance of the growth of ports such as New York and Liverpool and the battles of the Atlantic in the world wars of the twentieth century.The author offers an examination of the legends of the ocean, beginning with the Phoenicians and Carthaginians navigating beyong the Pillars of Hercules, and details the exploitation and power struggles of the Atlantic through the centuries.The book surveys the important events in the Atlantic's rich history and comprehensively analyses the changing fortunes of sea-going nations, including Britain, the United States and Germany.


Seas and oceans cover roughly two-thirds of the surface of the globe. Since time immemorial they have provided mankind with food. In our own age they have been found to contain a rich diversity of resources whose exploitation remains a matter of contestation. But the waters of the world are more than a prime instance of nature’s munificence, or a handy dumping ground for the refuse of civilization. They can be formidable obstacles to societies lacking the will or the means to cross them. Equally they can be a powerful stimulant to technology and a challenge to the skills of those who, for any reason, seek to use them. They can unite the cultures and economies of widely dispersed and radically different peoples, allowing knowledge, ideas and beliefs to be freely transmitted. The ports that develop along their littorals often have more in common with one another than with the hinterlands of the states or communities in which they are sited.

Yet, since seas are in themselves so rich, and since for centuries they alone gave access to the wealth of many distant regions, land powers have put forward ambitious claims to exercise authority over them. In Europe, the justification or denial of such title has concerned thinkers and apologists since the days of Columbus and Vasco de Gama. Economic, political or strategic necessity, real or imagined, stimulate the growth of navies, fearsome expressions of the power of the modern state. Sea-borne commerce entailed the construction of ships which, however propelled, were long amongst the most expensive and technologically advanced products of contemporary economies. The shipping industries of the world support a labour force whose social organization and way of life differ radically from those of the rest of society.

But there is more to the history of the sea than the impressive chronicle of man’s triumph over the elements, or battles fought, freights carried and ships launched. Everywhere, seas and oceans have had a significant cultural influence on civilizations adjoining them.

These and other themes are explored by Paul Butel in this study of the Atlantic. A scholar internationally acclaimed for his work in fields as diverse as

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