A History of the World in Twelve Shipwrecks

St. Martin’s. Apr. 2024. 304p. ISBN 9781250325372. $32. HIST
Gibbins (Atlantis Legacy) presents stories about 12 shipwrecks, drawn from his 40 years of experience in maritime archaeology. Light on specifics about archaeological methods, this book is not for specialists. Instead, he uses the shipwrecks as touchstones to weave portraits of the political and economic contexts under which the ships sailed. With each chapter featuring a singular ship, the book journeys from the Bronze Age to World War II; it meanders through ancient Egypt, classical Greece, early Byzantium, Tang China, 11th-century Vikings, Europe in the Middle Ages, and the ill-fated Franklin Expedition. Readers are shown much more than naval history: there are also artifacts and details about maritime architecture that successfully depict the world of each ship’s crew and passengers. Written in accessible language found in Gibbins’ best-selling novels, the book’s chapters are rich in historical aspects and will appeal to a mass audience.
VERDICT Gibbins’s intimate knowledge of underwater archaeology and his appealing writing style make this book attractive to fans of popular history and narratives with maritime themes. Give to readers who enjoyed David Grann’s The Wager.
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