In 1521, Suleiman the Magnificent, Muslim ruler of the Ottoman Empire at the height of its power, dispatched an invasion fleet to the Christian island of Rhodes. This would prove to be the opening shot in an epic struggle between rival empires and faiths for control of the Mediterranean and the center of the world. In Empires of the Sea, acclaimed historian Roger Crowley has written his most mesmerizing work to date–a thrilling account of this brutal decades-long battle between Christendom and Islam for the soul of Europe, a fast-paced tale of spiraling intensity that ranges from Istanbul to the Gates of Gibraltar and features a cast of extraordinary characters: Barbarossa, “The King of Evil,” the pirate who terrified Europe; the risk-taking Emperor Charles V; the Knights of St. John, the last crusading order after the passing of the Templars; the messianic Pope Pius V; and the brilliant Christian admiral Don Juan of Austria. This struggle’s brutal climax came between 1565 and 1571, seven years that witnessed a fight to the finish decided in a series of bloody set pieces: the epic siege of Malta, in which a tiny band of Christian defenders defied the might of the Ottoman army; the savage battle for Cyprus; and the apocalyptic last-ditch defense of southern Europe at Lepanto–one of the single most shocking days in world history. At the close of this cataclysmic naval encounter, the carnage was so great that the victors could barely sail away “because of the countless corpses floating in the sea.” Lepanto fixed the frontiers of the Mediterranean world that we know today. Roger Crowley conjures up a wild cast of pirates, crusaders, and religious warriors struggling for supremacy and survival in a tale of slavery and galley warfare, desperate bravery and utter brutality, technology and Inca gold. Empires of the Sea is page-turning narrative history at its best–a story of extraordinary color and incident, rich in detail, full of surprises, and backed by a wealth of eyewitness accounts. It provides a crucial context for our own clash of civilizations.
empires of the sea
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Empires of the Sea brings together studies of maritime empires from the Bronze Age to the Eighteenth Century. The volume develops the category of maritime empire as a specific type of empire in both European and 'non-western' history.
“The rise and fall of Venice’s empire is an irresistible story and [Roger] Crowley, with his rousing descriptive gifts and scholarly attention to detail, is its perfect chronicler.”—The Financial Times The New York Times bestselling author of Empires of the Sea charts Venice’s astounding five-hundred-year voyage to the pinnacle of power in an epic story that stands unrivaled for drama, intrigue, and sheer opulent majesty. City of Fortune traces the full arc of the Venetian imperial saga, from the ill-fated Fourth Crusade, which culminates in the sacking of Constantinople in 1204, to the Ottoman-Venetian War of 1499–1503, which sees the Ottoman Turks supplant the Venetians as the preeminent naval power in the Mediterranean. In between are three centuries of Venetian maritime dominance, during which a tiny city of “lagoon dwellers” grow into the richest place on earth. Drawing on firsthand accounts of pitched sea battles, skillful negotiations, and diplomatic maneuvers, Crowley paints a vivid picture of this avaricious, enterprising people and the bountiful lands that came under their dominion. From the opening of the spice routes to the clash between Christianity and Islam, Venice played a leading role in the defining conflicts of its time—the reverberations of which are still being felt today. “[Crowley] writes with a racy briskness that lifts sea battles and sieges off the page.”—The New York Times “Crowley chronicles the peak of Venice’s past glory with Wordsworthian sympathy, supplemented by impressive learning and infectious enthusiasm.”—The Wall Street Journal
Between the end of the Seven Years war in 1763, and the abolition of slavery within its Empire in 1833, Britain's maritime engagement with the wider world was transformed. The essays in this book explore different aspects of that transformation, and in so doing assess the significance and complexities of Britain's maritime world in this key period, which was characterized by the contradictory and competing forces of revolution and reaction, 'liberty' and imperialism, war and peace, enlightenment and enslavement. They were originally delivered as lectures in a series jointly sponsored by the Institute of Historical Research and by the Centre for Imperial and Maritime Studies at the National Maritime Museum.
For six centuries the Republic of Venice was a maritime empire, its sovereign power extending throughout much of the eastern Mediterranean – an empire of coasts, islands and isolated fortresses by which, as Wordsworth wrote, the mercantile Venetians 'held the gorgeous east in fee'. Jan Morris reconstructs the whole of this glittering dominion in the form of a sea-voyage, travelling along the historic Venetian trade routes from Venice itself to Greece, Crete and Cyprus. It is a traveller's book, geographically arranged but wandering at will from the past to the present, evoking not only contemporary landscapes and sensations but also the characters, the emotions and the tumultuous events of the past. The first such work ever written about the Venetian ‘Stato da Mar’, it is an invaluable historical companion for visitors to Venice itself and for travellers through the lands the Doges once ruled.
Warfare at Sea, 1500-1650 is the first truly international study of warfare at sea in this period. Commencing in the late fifteenth century with the introduction of gunpowder in naval warfare and the rapid transformation of maritime trade, Warfare at Sea focuses on the scope and limitations of war before the advent of the big battle fleets from the middle of the seventeenth century. The book also compares the social history of seamen and the early officer corps in several European countries and includes discussion on Spain, Portugal, France, Venice, the Ottoman Empire and the Baltic states.
Britain's empire was sustained by shipping. These studies are concerned with a range of enterprises, both home and colonial, in which shipping was involved, relating to goods, people, ideas.
In the second half of the eighteenth century, the Russian Empire-already the largest on earth-expanded its dominion onto the ocean. Through a series of government-sponsored voyages of discovery and the establishment of a private fur trade, Russians crossed and re-crossed the Bering Strait and the North Pacific Ocean, establishing colonies in Kamchatka and Alaska and exporting marine mammal furs to Europe and China. In the process they radically transformed the North Pacific, causing environmental catastrophe. In one of the most hotly-contested imperial arenas of the day, the Russian empire organized a host of Siberian and Alaskan native peoples to rapaciously hunt for fur seals, sea otters, and other fur-bearing animals. The animals declined precipitously, and Steller's sea cow went extinct. This destruction captured the attention of natural historians who for the first time began to recognize the threat of species extinction. These experts drew upon Enlightenment and Romantic-era ideas about nature and imperialism but their ideas were refracted through Russian scientific culture and influenced by the region's unique ecology. Cosmopolitan scientific networks ensured the spread of their ideas throughout Europe. Heeding the advice of these scientific experts, Russian colonial governors began long-term management of marine mammal stocks and instituted some of the colonial world's most forward-thinking conservationist policies. Highlighting the importance of the North Pacific in Russian imperial and global environmental history, Empire of Extinction focuses on the development of ideas about the natural world in a crucial location far from what has been considered the center of progressive environmental attitudes.
Drawing on a vast array of official correspondence, merchant's letters, ship's logs, and graphic material from archives and research libraries in Canada, France, and the United States, Kenneth Banks details how France, as the most powerful nation on the Continent and possessing a tradition of maritime interest in the Americas and West Africa dating back to the earliest years of the sixteenth century, seemed destined to take a leading role in exploiting and settling the Americas and establishing posts in West Africa. That it largely failed to do so can be explained in large part by problems emanating from information exchange in an early modern authoritarian state. Banks provides a historical context for the role of communications in the development of the imperial nation-state and offers an Atlantic World perspective on the growing body of literature revising the historical role of absolutism.