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The Red Sea has, from time immemorial, been one of the world’s most navigated spaces, in the pursuit of trade, pilgrimage and conquest. Yet this multidimensional history remains largely unrevealed by its successive protagonists. Intrigued by the absence of a holistic portrayal of this body of water and inspired by Fernand Braudel’s famous work on the Mediterranean, this book brings alive a dynamic Red Sea world across time, revealing the particular features of a unique historical actor. In capturing this heretofore lost space, it also presents a critical, conceptual history of the sea, leading the reader into the heart of Eurocentrism. The Sea, it is shown, is a vital element of the modern philosophy of history.
Alexis Wick is not satisfied with this inclusion of the Red Sea into history and attendant critique of Eurocentrism. Contrapuntally, he explores how the world and the sea were imagined differently before imperial European hegemony. Searching for the lost space of Ottoman visions of the sea, The Red Sea makes a deeper argument about the discipline of history and the historian’s craft.
Alexis Wick is Assistant Professor of History at the American University of Beirut.
"Scholars will appreciate the richness of the argument..."—J.C. Perry Choice
"Alexis Wick’s The Red Sea
provides a rare history of an Ottoman Red Sea while asking why the Ottomans did not even conceive of a Red Sea. Wick’s meditation on the meaning of the sea for historians finds its answer in a romantic, European philosophy of history in which the sea becomes anthropomorphized as a subject and a creature of intelligent design. Intriguing reading for anyone interested in the ‘new thalassology,’ or oceanic turn in history.”—Engseng Ho, author of The Graves of Tarim: Genealogy and Mobility across the Indian Ocean
“The Red Sea
is simultaneously an important addition to the recent scholarship of thalassology and an erudite, insightful, and necessary critique of it. This book will be of interest to scholars of Ottoman history, European history, maritime history, Middle East studies, and, importantly, to historians critical of disciplinary methodologies and approaches in the field.”—Joseph A. Massad, author of Islam in Liberalism