The Western Mediterranean and the World - Teofilo F. Ruiz - ebook

The Western Mediterranean and the World ebook

Teofilo F. Ruiz

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From the Straits of Gibraltar to Sicily, the European northern Mediterranean nations to the shores of North Africa, the western Mediterranean is a unique cultural and sociopolitical entity which has had a singular role in shaping today's global society. The Western Mediterranean and the World is the fascinating story of the rise of that peculiar world and of its evolution from the end of the Western Roman Empire to the present. Uniquely, rather than present the history of the region as a strict chronological progression, the author takes a thematic approach, telling his story through a series of vignettes, case studies, and original accounts so as to provide a more immediate sense of what life in and around the Mediterranean was like from the end of the Roman Empire in the West to the present immigration crisis now unfolding in Mediterranean waters. Emphasizing the development of religion and language and the enduring synergies and struggles between Christian, Jews, and Muslims on both shores of the western sea, Dr. Ruiz connects the region to the larger world and locates the development of Mediterranean societies within a global context. * Describes the move from religious and linguistic unity under Roman rule to the fragmented cultural landscape of today * Explores the relationship of language, culture, and geography, focusing on the role of language formation and linguistic identity in the emergence of national communities * Traces the movements of peoples across regions and their encounters with new geographical, cultural, and political realities * Addresses the emergence of various political identities and how they developed into set patterns of political organization * Emphasizes the theme of encounters as seen from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish perspectives While it is sure to become a definitive text for university courses on Mediterranean history, The Western Mediterranean and the World will also have great appeal among scholars of the Mediterranean as well as general readers of history.

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The Blackwell History of the World

Title Page



Series Editor's Preface


Chapter [1]: The Western Mediterranean: Sites of Encounter and Cultural Production

Writing the History of the Mediterranean

Mediterranean Historiography

How Then to Write a History of the Mediterranean?

Overview and Contents

Themes and Chapters

Part I: Geography, History, and Cultural Contexts

Chapter [2]: The Imperatives of Geography and Climate: Sea and Land in the Western Mediterranean

The Mediterranean World: The Western Mediterranean

Tide, Storms, and Windless Days in the Western Mediterranean

A Cruel and Unpredictable Sea (at times)

The Protests Against the Sea

A Cruel Sea Revisited

A Peaceful Sea (at times)


Climate: Rain and Winds

Climate and History

Shores, Mountains, and Plains

Mountains and Movement


The Alps


Chapter [3]: History in the Mediterranean: From Unity to Fragmentation, circa 450 CE until the Early Modern World

The Western Mediterranean in History: An Introduction

The Western Mediterranean: Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages

The European Western Mediterranean

Towards Frankland

Onwards to Italy

The North African Western Mediterranean: The Coming of Islam

The Western Mediterranean: Between Islam and Christianity, 660s–1492

Spain: Between Islam and Christianity


The Western Mediterranean on the Eve of the Modern World

Islam in Sicily

Norman and Hohenstaufen Sicily, circa 1068–1253




Chapter [4]: History in the Mediterranean: The Making of the Modern World


North Africa

North Africa in the Modern World: Colonialism and Decolonization

Across the Straits and the Making of Modern Spain




Chapter [5]: Religions of the Western Mediterranean: Unity and Fragmentation in the Religious History of the Sea

Mass Conversion

Large-Scale Conversions in the Western Mediterranean

The Triumph of Christianity in the Mediterranean

The Western Mediterranean: A Muslim Lake

Conversion and Further Islamic Incursions into Western Europe

The Sounds of Religion in the Western Mediterranean

Waldensians and Albigensians

Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy in Medieval Islam and Judaism

Mediterranean Religious Practices Revisited

Religion in the Early Modern and Modern Mediterranean

Chapter [6]: Religions of the Western Mediterranean: Conversos and Renegades

Conversos and Renegades: Changing Religions

Changing Faith in the Western Mediterranean

The World of Solomon ha-Levi (Pablo de Santa María) and Other Notable Conversos or Renegades

Women and Conversion

Belief, Unbelief, Syncretism, and Religious Relativism

Towards Modernity

Chapter [7]: Language, Culture, and Community in the Western Mediterranean

Languages and Language Communities in the Western Mediterranean

The Enduring Presence of Latin


Linguistic Communities in the Early Medieval Mediterranean

Prestige Languages and the Rise of Vernacular Speech in the Western Mediterranean

Language Development across the Mediterranean

Latin, Hebrew, and the Lingua Franca: Languages and Community


Part II: Mediterranean Encounters

Chapter [8]: Encounters I: Traveling in the Western Mediterranean

Traveling in the Western Mediterranean

The Western Mediterranean as a Site of Encounter

Voyages: The Experience of Travel

Traveling in the Mediterranean: Muslims on the Northern Shores

Traveling from Dar al-Islam into Christian Land

Al-Idrīsī and Iberia

North Africa in 1325

Muslims in the West Reconsidered

The Modern Traveler

The Voices of Immigrants

Chapter [9]: Encounters II: The Mediterranean as a Site of Conflict, Movement, and Encounter

Christian Travelers in the Lands of Islam

The Itineraries or Travels of Benjamin of Tudela and Ibn Jubayr

Literary Travels and Encounters

Recent Travelers

Traveling the Modern Mediterranean

The Sinews of Commerce


Trade Revisited

Maritime Routes In and Out of the Mediterranean: Ships' Places of Origin

The Global Mediterranean Trade




Chapter [10]: Between Two Worlds: Iberia, Sicily, Tunis, Algiers, and Marseille1

Sites of Encounter


Seville as a Site of Encounter and Cultural Production

Seville Cathedral

Virgins and Saintly Tombs

The Alcázar

Palermo and Sicily

Palermo and Sicily Today


Djerba and La Goulette


North Africa and Iberia as Parts of Dar al-Islam


Marseille's Imaginary




Chapter [11]: On the Waters of the Western Mediterranean: Islands and Towns

Small Islands on the Sea

A Large, Neglected, and yet Important Island: Sardinia

Towns and Villages on the Shores of the Western Sea

Towns of Silt, Sea, and Land


Chapter [12]: Epilogue: The Western Mediterranean and the World

The Mediterranean, The Atlantic, and the World

The Demise of the Western Mediterranean in the Age of Exploration


The Mediterranean and the Atlantic

The Two Seas in the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period

Religion, Conflict, and New Technologies of Seafaring and Cartography

The Rise of the Atlantic and the Decline of the Mediterranean

Aftermath: From the Atlantic to the Mediterranean

Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century Immigration




End User License Agreement

List of Tables

Table 2.1

Table 2.2

Table 9.1

Table 9.2

Table 9.3

List of Illustrations

Figure 2.1

Map 3.1

Map 3.2

Figure 3.1

Figure 3.2

Figure 3.3

Map 4.1

Figure 4.1

Map 8.1

Map 8.2

Map 9.1

Figure 10.1

Figure 10.2

Figure 10.3

Figure 10.4

Figure 10.5

Figure 10.6

Figure 10.7

Figure 11.1

Figure 11.2

Figure 11.3

Figure 11.4

Figure 11.5

Figure 11.6

Figure 11.7

Figure 11.8



Table of Contents

Begin Reading

Part 1

Chapter 1







































































































































































































































































































































































The Blackwell History of the World

General Editor: R.I. Moore

A History of Latin America Available in third edition as ‘A History of Latin America to 1825’ Peter Bakewell

The Birth of the Modern World C.A. Bayly

The Origins of Human Society Peter Bogucki

A History of Russia, Central Asia and Mongolia: Volume I David Christian

A History of Australia, New Zealand and the PacificDonald Denoon, Philippa Mein-Smith & Marivic Wyndham

A History of South-East Asia Anthony Reid

A History of China Morris Rossabi

The Western Mediterranean and the World Teofilo F. Ruiz

A History of India Second Edition Burton Stein

A History of Japan Second Edition Conrad Totman

The Western Mediterranean and the World

400 CE to the Present

Teofilo F. Ruiz

This edition first published 2018© 2018 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, except as permitted by law. Advice on how to obtain permission to reuse material from this title is available at

The right of Teofilo F. Ruiz to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with law.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Ruiz, Teofilo F., 1943- author.

Title: Western Mediterranean and the world : 400 CE to the Present / Teofilo F. Ruiz.

Description: 1 | Hoboken, NJ : Wiley-Blackwell, 2017. | Series: Blackwell history of the world ; 2331 | Includes bibliographical references and index. |

Identifiers: LCCN 2017013708 (print) | LCCN 2017019348 (ebook) | ISBN 9781118871423 (pdf) | ISBN 9781118871430 (epub) | ISBN 9781405188173 (hardback) | ISBN 9781405188166 (paper)

Subjects: LCSH: Western Mediterranean–History. | BISAC: HISTORY / Europe / General.

Classification: LCC DE80 (ebook) | LCC DE80 .R86 2017 (print) | DDC 909/.09822–dc23

LC record available at

Cover image: Iryna1/GettyimagesCover design by Wiley


To my sonsDaniel F. Ruiz,David F. Ruiz, 1966–2016

Series Editor's Preface

There is nothing new in the attempt to grasp history as a whole. To understand how humanity began and how it has come to its present condition is one of the oldest and most universal of human needs, expressed in the religious and philosophical systems of every civilization. But only in the last few decades has it begun to appear both necessary and possible to meet that need by means of a rational and systematic appraisal of current historical knowledge. Until the middle of the nineteenth century, history itself was generally treated as a subordinate branch of other fields of thought and learning – of literature, rhetoric, law, philosophy, or religion. When historians began at that time to establish its independence as a field of scholarship in its own right, with its own subject matter and its own rules and methods, they made it in practice not the attempt to achieve a comprehensive account of the human past, but the history of Western Europe and of the societies created by European expansion and colonization. In laying the scholarly foundations of their discipline they also reinforced the Enlightenment's belief in the advance of “civilization” (and, more recently, of “western civilization”), and made it in this form, with relatively minor regional variations, the basis of the teaching of history almost everywhere for most of the twentieth century. Research and teaching of the histories of other parts of the world developed mainly in the context of area studies like those of ancient Greece and Rome, rooted in philology, and conducted through the exposition of the canonical texts of their respective languages.

While those approaches prevailed, world history as such remained largely the province of thinkers and writers principally interested in constructing theoretical or metaphysical systems. Only towards the end of the twentieth century did the community of academic historians begin to recognize it as a proper and even urgent field for the application of their knowledge and skills. The inadequacy of the traditional parameters of the discipline is now widely acknowledged, and the sense is growing that a world facing a common future of headlong and potentially catastrophic transformation needs its common history. The realization of such a history has been delayed, however, by simple ignorance on the one hand – for the history of enormous stretches of space and time has until very recently been known not at all, or so patchily and superficially as not to be worth revisiting – and on the other by the lack of a widely acceptable basis upon which to organize and discuss what is nevertheless the enormous and enormously diverse knowledge that we have.

The first of those obstacles is now being rapidly overcome. There is almost no part of the world or period of its history that is not the object of energetic and sophisticated investigation by archaeologists and historians. The expansion of the horizons of academic history since the 1980s has been dramatic. The quality and quantity of historical research and writing have risen exponentially in each decade, and the advances have been most spectacular in some of the areas previously most neglected. The academics have not failed to share the results of their labors. Reliable and accessible, often brilliant accounts are now readily available of regions, periods, and topics that even 20 years ago were obscure to everyone but a handful of specialists. In particular, collaborative publication, in the form of volumes or sets of volumes in which teams of authors set forth, in more or less detail, their expert and up-to-date conclusions in the field of their research, has been a natural and necessary response to the growth of knowledge. Only in that way can non-specialists, at any level, be kept even approximately in touch with the constantly accelerating accumulation of information about the past.

Yet the amelioration of one problem exacerbates the other. It is truer than it has ever been that knowledge is growing and perspectives multiplying more quickly than they can be assimilated and recorded in synthetic form. We can now describe a great many more trees in a great deal more detail than we could before. It does not always follow that we have a better view of the wood. Collaboration has many strengths, but clarity, still less originality of vision, is rarely among them. History acquires shape, structure, relevance – becomes, in the fashionable catchphrase, something for thinking with – by advancing and debating new suggestions about what past societies were like, how they worked and why they changed over long periods of time, how they resembled and why they differed from contemporaneous societies in other parts of the world, and how they interacted with one another. Such insights, like the sympathetic understanding without which the past is dead, are almost always born of individual creativity and imagination. That is why each volume in this series embodies the work and vision of a single author. Synthesis on such a scale demands learning, resolution, and, not least, intellectual and professional courage of no ordinary degree. We have been singularly fortunate in finding scholars of great distinction who are willing to undertake it.

There is a wealth of ways in which world history can be written. The oldest and simplest view, that it is best understood as the history of contacts between peoples previously isolated from one another, from which (as some think) all change arises, is now seen to be capable of application since the earliest times. An influential alternative focuses upon the tendency of economic exchange to create self-sufficient but ever expanding “worlds” which sustain successive systems of power and culture. Another seeks to understand the differences between societies and cultures, and therefore the particular character of each, by comparing the ways in which their values, social relationships, and structures of power have developed. The rapidly emerging field of ecological history returns to a very ancient tradition of seeing interaction with the physical environment, and with other animals, at the center of the human predicament, while insisting that its understanding demands an approach which is culturally, chronologically, and geographically comprehensive. More recently still, “Big History,” led by a contributor to this series, has begun to show how human history can be integrated with that not only of the natural, but of the cosmic environment, and better understood in consequence.

The Blackwell History of the World seeks not to embody any single approach, but to support them all, as it will use them all, by providing a modern, comprehensive, and accessible account of the entire human past. Each volume offers a substantial overview of a portion of world history large enough to permit, and indeed demand, the reappraisal of customary boundaries of regions, periods, and topics, and in doing so reflects the idiosyncrasies of its sources and its subjects, as well as the vision and judgment of its author. The series as a whole combines the indispensable narratives of very long-term regional development with global surveys of developments across the world, and of interaction between regions and what they have experienced in common, or visited upon one another, at particular times. Together these volumes will provide a framework in which the history of every part of the world can be viewed, and a basis upon which most aspects of human activity can be compared across both time and space. A frame offers perspective. Comparison implies respect for difference. That is the beginning of what the past has to offer the future.

R.I. Moore

Series Editor's Acknowledgments

The editor is grateful to all the contributors for advise and assistance on the design and contents of the series as a whole, as well as on individual volumes. Both editor and contributors wish to place on record their immense debt, individually and collectively, to John Davey, formerly of Blackwell publishers, without whose vision and enthusiasm the series could not have been initiated, and to his successor Tessa Harvey, without whose energy, skill, and diplomacy, sustained over many years, it could not have been realized.


Writing this brief acknowledgment while visiting Cuba in late November 2016 – the day after Fidel Castro's death marked the passing of a towering historical figure (regardless of one's ideological point of view) and preceded by the incongruous election of Donald Trump as president of the United States – I was struck by the connections between my concluding remarks in this book on the significance of present-day migration in the western Mediterranean as one of the key issue of the early twenty-first century and the concomitant vicious anti-immigrant discourse from many western powers and from Trump and his followers. Brexit and the rise of white nationalist and/or populist parties and sentiments in the United States and in Europe has unleashed something quite sinister and troubling on the world. Our children and grandchildren will suffer the consequences of fear-mongering discourse and racial hatred. They will need to struggle mightily to recover the social and political gains made in the western Mediterranean and elsewhere in the world over the last six or seven decades.

While the Mediterranean has been historically a place of conflict – ethnic, religious, political – it has also been a site of cultural, linguistic, and religious plurality and of productive encounters. These encounters and conflicts have yielded seminal cultural achievements and a way of life conducive to positive human experiences. Let's hope against hope that in the lands around the Middle Sea, in the United States, and in Europe the free movement of diverse people and their enduring encounters lead to novel hybrid cultural production and mutual understanding.

I apologize for beginning my acknowledgments in such a somber manner. Far more pleasant is to acknowledge here those colleagues and friends whose scholarly example, suggestions, and friendship have helped shape my academic life in general and this book in particular. First and foremost is Robert I. Moore, the general editor of the series in which this book appears. His wise counsel, profound erudition, generosity, and, most of all, his kind guidance and good humor have been inspiring and helpful. As with everything I have ever published, in France I owe a great debt of gratitude to the late Jacques Le Goff and to Denis Menjot, Jacques Revel, Adeline Rucquoi, Abraham Udovitch, and Lucette Valensi. In Spain, I have benefitted from the enduring support and friendship of James Amelang, Hilario Casado, Francisco García Serrano, Xavier Gil Pujol, Manuel González Jiménez, Jorge Ortuño, and Jesús Solórzano Telechea.

In England, Sir John H. Elliott has been a sustaining influence in my personal and academic life, as have been Judith Herrin and Peter Linehan's exemplary scholarly life and friendship. In the United States, I have learned a great deal from the late and much missed Olivia Remie Constable, and from Paul Freedman, Brian Catlos, William Jordan, Richard Kagan, Marie Keheller, Yuan Gen Liang, David Nirenberg, Jarbel Rodríguez, Núria Silleras Fernández, and my graduate and undergraduate students. At UCLA, Lynn Hunt and Margaret Jacob have been both colleagues and a true emotional family. Similarly, Stephen Aron, Ali Behdad, Arch Getty, Efrain Kristal, Ron Mellor, David Myers, Jesús Torrecilla, Joan Waugh, Juliet Williams, and many others have made our life at UCLA a most rewarding one. Janani Govindankutty, Wiley-India, by her selfless work and constant attentiveness, has had an important role in bringing this book into print. I owe a great debt to Giles Flitney, who has copy-edited the entire manuscript and saved me from endless grammatical infelicities, inconsistences, and other sins. Truly, his work here has been remarkable while allowing my voice and idiosyncrasies to remain. I feel as if this book would not be possible without Giles's work. Although I am not T.S. Eliot, he truly is, as Eliot wrote of Pound's editorial work, il miglior fabbro. I am grateful to Giles, to Janani, and to all my friends. My wife and comrade, Scarlett Freund, has always sailed the Mediterranean, both physically and metaphorically, with me. She does so in this book as well.

On August 15, 2016, my son David died suddenly. A selfless human being and indefatigable traveler, his death was a wrenching blow, the kind from which one never fully recovers. My oldest son, Daniel, has proven a tower of strength keeping the family afloat during these difficult times. It is to my two sons, one no longer here, the other very much so, that I dedicate this book, a token of my paternal love.

Los Angeles, Paris, La Habana, 2017

[1]The Western Mediterranean: Sites of Encounter and Cultural Production


Lyrics of a song by Joan Manuel Serrat

Quizá porque mi niñez sigue jugando en tu playa y escondido tras las cañas duerme mi primer amor llevo tu luz y tu olor por donde quiera que vaya y amontonado en tu arena guardo amor, juegos y penas.

Yo que en la piel tengo el sabor amargo del llanto eterno que han vertido en ti cien pueblos de Algeciras a Estambul para que pintes de azul sus largas noches de invierno a fuerza de desventuras tu alma es profunda y oscura.

A tus atardeceres rojos se acostumbraron mis ojos como el recodo al camino soy cantor, soy embustero, me gusta el juego y el vino, tengo alma de marinero. !Qué le voy hacer! si yo nací en el Mediterráneo.

Y te acercas y te vas después de besar mi aldea jugando con la marea te vas pensando en volver eres como una mujer perfumadita de brea que se añora y que se quiere, que se conoce y se teme.

!Ay!, si un día para mi mal viene a buscarme la parca empujad al mar mi barca con un levante otoñal y dejad que el temporal desguace sus alas blancas y a mi enterradme sin duelo entre la playa y el cielo.

En la ladera de un monte más alto que el horizonte quiero tener buena vista mi cuerpo será camino, le daré verde a los pinos y amarillo a la…. Cerca del mar porque yo nací en el Mediterráneo.

Source: The song, as written and performed by Joan Manuel Serrat, may be found on or on Google under “Yo nací en el Mediterráneo.”

In Joan Manuel Serrat's extraordinarily lyrical song “Mediterráneo” (1970), the gifted Catalan singer presents us with a moving vision of the Mediterranean Sea. His song captures the sea's essence far more compellingly than historiographical debates or scholarly works may do. In its moving lyrics, Serrat packs an emotional and psychological punch that goes to the very heart of the issues this book seeks to address. The portrait of the Mediterranean that emerges from his well-crafted song is a complex one, aiming to grasp and explain what it means to be born and to grow by the shores of a sea or an ocean, and, in Serrat's case, to be born by the shores of the Mediterranean. Perhaps because I too was born and grew up by the shores of a sea (the Caribbean) – a different sea indeed but as beguiling nonetheless – the song speaks to me in ways that it may not do to someone bound to the land and not to the ocean.

In Serrat's song, the protagonist carries the “light and smell of the Mediterranean on his skin,” but also the “bitter taste of the tears shed by a hundred different people [nations] from Algeciras to Istanbul.” We gaze therefore on the whole span of the Middle Sea: from one of its most westernmost towns, Algeciras, a town redolent with its Muslim past and Arabic name, to the magical city of Istanbul with its Roman, Greek, and Ottoman overlapping histories. “Mediterranean” evokes the love dreams of childhood and adolescence, but also the accumulated bitter memories of many generations. The sea, compared in a song to a woman – and in several Romance languages the sea is either feminine, as in la mer in French, or has changing gender registers, either masculine: el mar es azul (the sea is blue), or feminine: echar un barco a la mar (to sail a boat in the sea) in Spanish – is longed for, loved, known and unknown, feared. The Mediterranean is a space of storms, long winter nights – something that we seldom associate with the Mediterranean, but which is another of its realities. But the Mediterranean is also is a sea of crystalline blue.

Nothing, however, is more telling about the relations of people to the sea than the song's reoccurring phrase: “yo nací en el Mediterráneo.” I was born, Serrat insists, not in Spain, not in Catalonia. I was born, he reminds us throughout the song, on the shores of a sea that has shaped my identity, my memories, my hopes, and my sadness. And seas truly shape one's identity – whether Serrat's, mine, or those of others born by the shores of a sea – in ways not very different but far more intense than the identities shaped by nations. The fluid and constructed way in which Serrat identifies himself is not very different from the manner in which I have often, through my very long life, identified myself as “having been born in the Caribbean.” That is, not born in Cuba itself, but born by the shores of a sea that gives me a shared culture, language, music, and identity with all those who came from the collection of islands that dot the Caribbean Sea. Thus, my Caribbean identity remains the constant in the long list of all other sorts of identities gained and lost over the decades of my life. And, yet, my connection with the sea remains stronger than identities constructed by political jurisdictions, ideological loyalties, and the like. Written in 1970, Serrat's wonderful song reached out to a world outside Franco's repressive Spain (especially towards the Catalans) and pledged allegiance to something older, broader, and far more enduring than the demands of the nation-state.

This overlapping set of identities, this sense of belonging to an ancestral sea that is our home, can also be found in the Mediterranean Sea's quintessential novel, Alexander Dumas's enchanting The Count of Monte Cristo. Although the late chapters of the novel have Paris as a setting, far away from the warm shores of the Mediterranean, the site for its early dramatic developments that power the entire novel are firmly bound with the history of the sea. From the ship, the Pharaon, that brought Edmund Dantès from Smyrna, Trieste, Naples, Civitavecchia, and the island of Elba to Marseille and his cruel destiny, from the fears about the fate of the Pharaon in a later voyage and thus the threat to the financial fate of the Morrell family, to the Catalan community on the fringes of Marseille, the Mediterranean Sea is ever present, as are its uncertainty, passionless cruelties, and rewards. In The Count of Monte Cristo we also meet those sailors – a mysterious and heterogeneous crew in the service of the Count. Their places of origin were to be found in many different towns and islands dotting the Mediterranean. They spoke a lingua franca, understood only by those who lived in the sea; they had no home or loyalty to any nation, except to their calling, to their master, to their sea. We also meet bandits on the outskirts of Rome, a reminder of Braudel's description of violence and banditry as resistance to the state in his study of the Mediterranean in the age of Philip II (see below). In Dumas's fictional work, bandits remained a fixture of the nineteenth-century Mediterranean landscape.

In a lesser key, Pérez Reverte's entertaining novel, La reina del sur (The Queen of the South), a novel inspired loosely by The Count of Monte Cristo, presents us, once again, with a group of men carrying drugs between North Africa and Spain. Their allegiances, diverse places of origin, and identities are erased by their illicit activities and by the brotherhood of the sea. That the protagonist of the novel is a Mexican woman, fleeing to Spain away from the violence and vengeance of drug lords, serves only as a reminder, though a fictional one, of the manner in which the Mediterranean, ancient or present, has always been connected to a broader world beyond its shores.

There were of course earlier fictional histories spanning the Mediterranean and bringing into focus the transnational character of the Sea. Storytelling describing the links that bound the Middle Sea is also an important part of this book. These stories often glossed the inextricable relations between Muslims and Christians along the shores of the Mediterranean, or the movement from one shore to another. In Johanot Martorell's Tirant lo Blanch (late fifteenth century), for example, the hero, born in Brittany, travels (and fights) in France, England, and the eastern Mediterranean. Serving the Byzantine emperor in his campaigns against the Ottoman Turks, Tirant, one of Cervantes's most beloved characters and mentioned most lovingly in Don Quixote, is a very different knight from the usual preposterous and hard-to-believe warriors of late medieval romances. Through Tirant's deeds, we see a portrait of the diversity and “connectivity” of the entire sea.

Flores y Blancaflor, a medieval text I will revisit in greater detail in Chapter 9, was also a Mediterranean romance (most likely of southern French origin), with versions in several languages. The entire fictional story was integrated as historical fact into one of Alfonso X of Castile's (1252–1284) works. As was often the case, it told the story of a romance between a Muslim and a Christian, alerting us to the porous sexual frontiers, notwithstanding the strict rules governing interfaith sexual liaisons that existed along the shores of the Mediterranean. In Chapter 9, I will discuss Simon Barton's remarkable recent book on the subject of interfaith sexual and romantic liaisons, but we must now move from fiction to history and what it tells us about the Mediterranean.

Writing the History of the Mediterranean

All who attempt such an enterprise as writing the history of the Mediterranean do so in the considerable shadow cast by Fernand Braudel's monumental The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II. Any serious attempt to capture the history of that sea and of the people who lived along its shores needs to be located, first and foremost, in Braudel's paradigmatic and ambitious efforts. But Braudel has been followed, altered, and refined by the efforts of subsequent historians. Over the more than a half-century since the original publication, in French, of The Mediterranean in 1949, these scholarly works have helped to fill some of the gaps in Braudel's narrative or to mildly and diplomatically critique some of his findings.1 In many ways, more than a thoughtful and superbly researched history book, The Mediterranean is also a heartfelt declaration of Braudel's emotional involvement with the Middle Sea. The first lines of his preface to the first edition (in French) are articulated in a language not far removed from that of Serrat's song with which this introduction begins. Braudel writes: “I have loved the Mediterranean with passion, no doubt because I am a northerner like so many others in whose footsteps I have followed. I have joyfully dedicated long years of study to it – much more than all my youth. In return, I hope that a little of this joy and great deal of Mediterranean sunlight will shine from the pages of this book.”2

Braudel sets his monumental work within the context of passion and sunlight. His work is imbued with both: by his obvious relish in his task and by the manner in which he captured the light and spirit of the Mediterranean. Although much has been done over the last three decades to cover some of the gaps left by Braudel and to formulate new conceptual and methodological ways of doing this history, The Mediterranean remains the paradigmatic treatment of seas in general and of the Middle Sea in particular. More to the point, the attempts to fill some of the gaps in Braudel's formulations have also coincided with growing interest in the Mediterranean, its religious and linguistic plurality, and its role as a site of encounter and boundary crossings. These interests have led to vigorous historiographical debates. But all begins with, and stems from, Braudel's legacy. As important as the topic is, however, this book is not about the historiography of the Mediterranean or about Braudel's achievements or faults. This book is about some very specific themes in the western Mediterranean over la longue durée (another one of Braudel's contributions to the way in which we do history). Nonetheless, I would be remiss were I not to mention briefly some of the most salient recent contributions to Mediterranean studies. The chapters that follow are of course deeply indebted to them.

Mediterranean Historiography

Braudel's The Mediterranean deployed some formidable and innovative approaches to regional history. Focusing, as he did, on the early modern Mediterranean – though he had written a counterpart for the ancient Mediterranean that has come to light only recently3 – his work was propelled by three significant methodological innovations, emerging, as they did, from the influential École des Annales. One was the idea of histoire totale or “total history,” that is, a history that examines historical processes and changes as a whole, with attention to geography, climate, economic exchanges, and other historical factors without reifying traditional political narratives. The other significant contribution was to see these historical processes and changes over a long period of time (la longue durée). This long perspective allowed Braudel, as it does other historians committed to this methodological project, to see the development and transformations of social, economic, and political structures (Braudel did not always fully address topics such as culture and religion) over time.

His other significant methodological stance had to do with conjoncture. This is a difficult term to translate. Its literal meaning is conjuncture, by which Braudel meant the combination of circumstances that propelled historical change and events, or conjuncture between things happening on each different timescale. The third aspect of Braudel's work has often been neglected. Because his The Mediterranean is written with such compelling vigor and because the book (two volumes) begins with a long, expansive, and extraordinarily engaging geographical study of the sea and of Mediterranean lands, scholars often fail to pay enough attention to the second part of the book. It contains a detailed account of political events: what he called “histoire événementielle,” that is, the history of events. All three elements of this ambitious novel way of writing history offered, or Braudel hoped it would do, a total history of the sea and of its main political protagonists, Philip II and the Sublime Porte or Ottoman Empire.

Placing the sea, geography, and the economy at the center of his account, Braudel promoted an awareness of the environment and the relationship between landmass and sea that forcefully reversed long traditions of historical writing. Although privileging the environment was not new – there is the remarkable description of the sertão or barren lands in Bahia's (Brazil) interior in Euclides da Cunha's late nineteenth-century description of the Canudos rebellion – Braudel's book shook traditional historiography with its bold call to a different kind of history. Still very much read and assigned in graduate courses (I do so even in undergraduate courses) as a model of historical excellence, Braudel has had critics over the years. His “total history” has been found not to be all-inclusive, as critics have noted his neglect or underestimation of the roles of religion and culture in historical processes. Others, such as the noted Mediterranean historian David Abulafia, have questioned the uniqueness of the Mediterranean while engaging in broad comparative approaches to Middle Seas in Europe and elsewhere, though, to be fair, Braudel himself also raised some of the same questions.

Although many historians have sought to modify or challenge specific aspects of Braudel's magnum opus, the most salient additions or critiques have come from several Anglo-American scholars who have redrawn and notably expanded the boundaries of Mediterranean studies. Yet, if I may be bold enough to say this, without lessening the value of Braudel's original contribution, we see further than Braudel because we still sit, paraphrasing Bernard de Chartres's comments about medieval use of classical knowledge, on the shoulders of a giant.

David Abulafia, a distinguished medievalist at Cambridge and one of the foremost scholars of the western Mediterranean, has published numerous works on the topic, ranging from a remarkable study of Frederick II (1212–1250), the Hohenstaufen ruler of Sicily and Imperial Germany, to a series of valuable studies of the western Mediterranean, above all, of the medieval kingdom of Majorca (Mallorca) – which also encompassed areas of what is now southern France. Abulafia has recently defined the Mediterranean as a heuristic category within a global framework. Rather than privileging Mediterranean uniqueness, as has been done traditionally since Late Antiquity, Abulafia posits it as a “Middle Sea,” sharing with other “middle seas” throughout the world their role as sites for cultural and economic exchanges. Although Braudel had already described the Mediterranean's role in broader patterns of commercial and cultural exchanges, Abulafia, by decentering the Mediterranean, locates his studies of the sea within a methodological approach in which specific geographical location becomes less important than shared historical processes of material culture and commercial links.

Abulafia's critique of Braudel's preference for structures rather than for human beings may be perhaps a bit unfair. Braudel did indeed conceive his work in a structuralist framework, but he peppered his narrative – even his descriptions of the landscape – with vivid vignettes, showing the interaction between humans and the environment. Nonetheless, Abulafia's emphasis on a comparative analysis and on exchanges and cultural transmissions beyond the narrow geographical borders of the Middle Sea locates human experiences at the center of his inquiry. Braudel, for all my defense of his examples and vignettes, clearly placed the Mediterranean physical space – here understood as a broad geographical region with the sea as its center – as the driving locomotive for his broad understanding of the Mediterranean world.4

Peregrine Horden and Nicholas Purcell's influential study, The Corrupting Sea: A Study of Mediterranean History, a book that will invoked in one of my notes since it provides a thoughtful and expansive historiographical introduction to the study of the Mediterranean, is the first volume of a projected two-volume work. The planned follow-up to Horden and Purcell's ambitious first volume is entitled The Liquid Sea. In these two volumes, Horden (a medievalist) and Purcell (an ancient historian) seek to explore those periods of Mediterranean history, ancient and medieval, not examined by Braudel. Although we now know, as noted earlier, that Braudel had written a study of the ancient Mediterranean, it was not published until one year after (2001) the publication of The Corrupting Sea. The latter book offers readers and scholars something approaching Braudel's histoire totale but in a very different methodological key. Covering a period of more than two millennia, The Corrupting Sea defines what the Mediterranean meant to those who have written, lived, or sought to historicize the sea as a category of knowledge. Here also, the historical ecology of the sea trumps the history of nations and lands that surrounded (and surround) the Mediterranean. Horden and Purcell make the critical distinction between the history of the Mediterranean, that is, the history of the sea itself, and history in the Mediterranean, that is, the history not of the sea itself but of the region's polities and geographical features.5

Emphasizing, in Part II of The Corrupting Sea, the ecological features of the sea and of Mediterranean lands, Horden and Purcell turn their attention from the broad expanses of the Middle Sea to what they describe as “micro ecologies,” narrowing their focus to overlapping “connectivities.” Horden and Purcell's eye for detail, their liberal borrowing of a diversity of methodological approaches and ancillary disciplines, and, most of all, the remarkable ambitious breadth of their enterprise makes The Corrupting Sea a landmark of historical research and writing. I will come back to some of the most significant features of this book in subsequent chapters, but for now it may be useful to engage the distinction its two authors make between history of and history in the Mediterranean.

Whether one may agree or not with the usefulness of defining the history of/in the Mediterranean, the reality is that Horden and Purcell posit two distinct ways of doing that history. At the simplest level, history in the Mediterranean addresses historical developments taking place within specific geographical or ecological contexts. For all practical purposes, these histories are written with little regard to the history of the sea. History of the Mediterranean, on the other hand, blends the history of the sea itself, its geography and ecology, with the history of events, the rise and fall of polities along the Mediterranean shores, that is, what happened in the Mediterranean and adjacent lands. In that sense, their critique of Braudel for neglecting, as noted above in the case of Abulafia, human agency is also not fully grounded in the reality of Braudel's contributions.

There have been numerous histories in the Mediterranean that focus on the narrative of battles, piracy, political developments, and the like. John Julius Norwich's The Middle Sea: A History of the Mediterranean (2006) is a very good example of a cultural and political narrative with little or next to nothing about the sea itself. At the same time, one could not write a history of the Mediterranean that is not at the same time also a history that takes place in that sea and its adjacent landmasses. Beyond Abulafia, Horden, and Purcell's signal interventions into Mediterranean historiographical debates, Herzfeld and others have in turn criticized Horden, Purcell, and other historians for artificially constructing the Mediterranean as a category that, according to Herzfeld, may approach the same standing as Edward Said's “Orientalism,” that is, a cultural construction of a model that reflects the ideological and methodological proclivities of specific scholars, rather than the reality of the Mediterranean's historical and anthropological structures.6

How Then to Write a History of the Mediterranean?

Perhaps one way to escape the essentializing of the Mediterranean as a heuristic or epistemological category (to adopt Herzfeld's ironic trope) is to place the sea, as Abulafia and Bresson have suggested, in a comparative global framework, emphasizing common themes rather than unique aspects. It may also be worth highlighting something that Horden and Purcell's The Corrupting Sea already does so well: the varieties of Mediterraneans (within the Mediterranean itself). The sea must be understood in its totality while, at the same time, the geographical, topographical, and historical differences of its various regions must be noted. In writing a history of the sea and the history of each region on the shores of the Mediterranean and of the lands beyond the sea – areas that were connected to it by trade and culture – we may end of with a plurality of histories. As Sharon Farmer discusses in a recent book on the silk industry in thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Paris, to give just one example, immigrants from the Mediterranean and silk cocoons from Persia were at the heart of silk production in Paris.7 Once again, we see the circulation of people and commodities from the Mediterranean into Northern Europe and back, or the “connectivity” of the Middle Sea with a world beyond. Only if we consider all these links between the sea and other parts of the world may we have a more sensible view of the complexities, difficulties, and romance of Mediterranean history.

The task at hand is therefore challenging indeed. To begin, this volume addresses the history of the western Mediterranean – one of those many seas within the larger sea. There are many excellent reasons to think of the Mediterranean as a whole, and to write its history not piecemeal but as an integrated scholarly enterprise: à la Braudel, Horden, Purcell, and Abulafia. The sea of course knows no boundaries, and the many different subdivisions imposed on the Mediterranean – the Aegean Sea, the Adriatic, the Alboran Basin, the Algerian Basin, and so forth – are the result as much of the geographers' and historians' appetite for creating taxonomies of knowledge as they are the result of specific historically lived experiences.

Nonetheless, the western Mediterranean basin is indeed a recognizable and separate entity within the entire span of the whole Mediterranean. It is clearly and sharply different in terms of its geography and climate from the eastern Mediterranean (see Chapter 2). It is also distinct in terms of its history after the demise of the Roman Empire in the West. In chapters 2, 3, and 4, I attempt to make a far more elaborate argument of why topographically and historically the western Mediterranean was indeed a discrete and recognizable subject for our inquiry. A companion volume in this series addresses the eastern Mediterranean. These works will, I hope, complement each other and provide a comprehensive portrait of different facets of the entire Mediterranean and Mediterranean society in the context of world history.

In examining history in the Mediterranean (a necessary concomitant to the history of the Sea) there are powerful incentives to focus on one particular region of the sea and to do so within specific points of departure and conclusion for our story. Circa 400 CE witnessed the progressive disruption of the political, religious, and linguistic unity of the Roman Mediterranean world. Such fractures resulted from the division of the Roman Empire (the prodigious builder of Mediterranean civilization) into distinctive eastern and western parts – a process institutionally started by Diocletian and Constantine in the late third and early fourth century. The further collapse of the empire in the West and its replacement by a variety of Germanic kingdoms in the fifth century, on the one hand, and the emergence of Byzantium in the East, on the other, accelerated the process of fragmentation of the unity of the Roman world. The rise of Islam and its rapid spread throughout the southern shores of the Mediterranean, and eventually into Iberia and Sicily, further helped to create the social, political, linguistic, religious, and cultural context for the emergence of new Mediterranean societies. I will have a great deal more to say about the historical developments of polities in the western Mediterranean in Chapter 3, but for now it suffices to acknowledge the geographical and temporal limits of this book. Succeeding chapters seek to provide, through the use of case studies, vignettes, and a thematic approach, a view of the western Mediterranean. Our story focuses on the sea and the lands adjacent to the sea from the Straits of Gibraltar to Sicily, from the European northern Mediterranean lands – what eventually became Spain, France, and Italy – to the shores of North Africa. Islands also play an important role in Mediterranean history – the Balearic Islands, Corsica, Sardinia, and Sicily – so do the smaller islands that dot the western sea. Equally important for this inquiry is the Mediterranean southern coast in North Africa and the narrow strip of lands between the sea and the Atlas and Riff Mountains. The latter served as pathways into the Sahara and into a very different sea of sand.

But as Braudel and others have taught us, the impact of the Mediterranean, whether climatic, economic, political, or cultural, extended far inland into the heart of the continental masses that bounded the sea and beyond the region, as the Mediterranean became an integral part of a global community. Unless this is to become a brief synopsis of historical developments in the Mediterranean, the only possible way to approach the Mediterranean's long history is, as noted earlier, to do so thematically and to illustrate these varied themes with examples that, though necessarily arranged in chronological fashion, attempt to provide the experience of what the Mediterranean meant for those who lived and died in its waters, for those who traveled, traded, were sold into slavery and redeemed, produced and carried cultural artifacts from one part of the sea to the other, waged war, and loved there. What I wish to do here is to approximate the complex range of experiences of those people who, like Joan Manuel Serrat, were born in the Mediterranean, or who, as Fernand Braudel wrote in the introduction to his great book, “loved the Mediterranean with passion, no doubt because I am a northerner like so many others in whose footsteps I have followed,” in the centuries between the waning of Rome in the West and our modern global world.

Overview and Contents

As noted before, while one cannot easily escape the methodological questions and issues raised by Braudel's great book more than half a century ago, this volume of Blackwell's History of the World seeks to place the Mediterranean within a broader geographical and chronological context and to address questions about culture, language, and religion partially neglected by Braudel's rightly famous work. Parting from a not so veiled geographical and climatic determinism, Braudel emphasized the unity of the Mediterranean world. Although the political axis of his book was located in Madrid and centered chronologically on the long and complex reign of Philip II (1556–1598), The Mediterranean could have been also titled The Mediterranean in the Age of Suleiman I, the Magnificent (1520–66). The historical reality of what the Romans called “Mare Nostrum” and recent historiography has described as the “corrupting sea” is that one cannot examine one part of the Mediterranean, as this volume may do in emphasizing the Western Mediterranean, without reference to the entire sea. One should also accept the links that bound, in spite of seemingly cultural, political, and religious differences, the Mediterranean world into a coherent or “connected” whole.

Nonetheless, I do not wish to mislead the reader by stressing the unity of the Mediterranean or the continuity of specific structures. One of the most attractive aspects of attempting to write a history of the Mediterranean from the waning of Late Antiquity in the West to the present is the possibility of exploring in some detail the tensions between continuity and discontinuity in the region, between unity and fragmentation. For example, Braudel pointed to the ease of communication provided by the sea as an important factor in making the region a coherent whole (though he pointed to the difficulties of travel as well); yet, recent research has shown that sailing the Mediterranean was not always easy or fast (see Chapter 2 et passim). Calm winds, corsair activity, storms, and the like – which seem to have been rather frequent – could make travel between the Spanish coast and Oran, a Spanish outpost on the North African coast, to give just one example, a very difficult and lengthy enterprise indeed in the sixteenth century.

In facing the challenges of this project, I am conscious of its great difficulties and of the vast literature that needs to be mastered to achieve an acceptable outcome. Any expectation of the most perfunctory chronological coverage must be immediately abandoned. Even a thematic approach would have to occasionally neglect entire regions and/or chronological periods. The sources extant will also determine what can or cannot be covered in some detail. Perhaps, it may be best to spell out what kind of contributions this volume can make to our understanding of the Mediterranean and to locate the sea and its surrounding lands in the larger context of world history.

Themes and Chapters

After this preliminary and introductory chapter, Part I includes six distinct chapters or discussions of different but interrelated topics. These chapters seek to provide geographical, historical, and cultural contexts to the themes subsequently explored throughout the book. Part I, Geography, History, and Cultural Contexts, Chapter 2 explores the geography and climate of the western Mediterranean region. Moving clockwise from Sicily to continental Italy, this chapter offers a summary of our present knowledge of the geography and climate of the region and the role of the environment on the historical development of the Mediterranean world. While I do not think geography solely determines historical developments, it is clear that geographical and climatic features have a great deal to do with historical development, patterns of trade, linguistic transmission, and the like. It is important to note that geographical conditions changed due to diverse historical developments and climatic changes. The coast of North Africa, one of the largest grain-producing regions of the ancient world, to give just one example, has a very different climate today and a very different economic structure.

In Chapter 2 (and in subsequent chapters), I deploy archival information, gathered at the Archivo de la Corona de Aragón (specifically documents from the Consulado de Comercio, 1766–1868). This approach allows for archival-based case studies that illuminate specific moments or issues in the history of the sea. These case studies, in Chapter 2 and in other chapters, add, I hope, to our understanding of the Mediterranean climate and economy. They serve to emphasize the real difficulties found by sailors and sea captains as they plied the waters of the western Mediterranean in pursuit of knowledge, profits, and prey. Since these “protests against the sea,” as these documents are known, will be cited elsewhere throughout this book, I offer here a full reference to these materials, as well as a short explanation of the archive.8

In Part I, chapters 3 and 4, I wish to present a brief outline of the political history of the region from around 400 CE to the late twentieth century. While eschewing any hope of providing an extensive political narrative, it is important to establish a political context against which we may explore other themes in the history of the region. My brief historical narrative is told with emphasis on geographical regions – certainly in Chapter 3 – rather than on the world of present-day nations. As I have done with geography, I have attempted to trace the political developments of Sicily, North Africa, Mediterranean Iberia, Mediterranean France, and western Italy, before exploring the well-known world of nations in Chapter 4. Thematically, I am interested here in the swings from unity to fragmentation, that is, the end of the Roman Mediterranean world, the rise of fragmented political entities, and the eventual reshaping of these polities on the shores of the western Mediterranean around national identities. Emphasis is placed on the medieval and early modern period when the political identities of these different political entities began to be set in permanent patterns of political organization. Only a brief description of modern political developments has been included in Chapter 4. It would take another volume just to list the complex politics of the western Mediterranean in the twentieth century alone.