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A History of the World in Twelve Shipwrecks

On sale

8th February 2024

Price: £25

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Selected: Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781399603485

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‘Masterful and entrancing – this is big history at its best.’ Professor Alice Roberts, author of Ancestors

‘A real-life Indiana Jones takes readers on a dive through these underwater museums, revealing the sunken secrets of the past’ The Times

Fascinating… wonderful material, well researched and placed in its wider context’ Spectator

From a Bronze Age ship built during the age of Queen Nefertiti and filled with ancient treasures, a Viking warship made for King Cnut himself, Henry VIII’s spectacular Mary Rose and the golden age of the Tudor court, to the exploration of the Arctic, the tragic story of HMS Terror and tales of bravery and endurance aboard HMS Gairsoppa in World War Two, these are the stories of some of the greatest underwater discoveries of all time. A rich and exciting narrative, this is not just the story of those ships and the people who sailed on them, the cargo and treasure they carried and their tragic fate. This is also the story of the spread of people, religion and ideas around the world, a story of colonialism and migration which continues today.

Drawing on decades of experience excavating shipwrecks around the world, renowned maritime archaeologist David Gibbins reveals the riches beneath the waves and shows us how the treasures found there can be a porthole to the past to tell a new story about the world and its underwater secrets.

What's Inside

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The Economist
The skeleton of the book mirrors Mr Gibbins's own career: he has worked on more than half of the 12 wrecks he writes about. His descriptions of snaking through kelp and sucking up sand to fish out lost treasure are vivid.
The Times
A real-life Indiana Jones takes readers on a dive through these underwater museums, revealing the sunken secrets of the past... Prepare to be flabbergasted by the treasures Gibbins uncovers and by the stories they represent.
Mensun Bound, author of The Ship Beneath the Ice
From every corner of our ship-hungry oceans, from simple oar-propelled boats of the Bronze Age to great 19th century steam-powered juggernauts of trade and war, the author (an esteemed archaeologist) gives us a history of the world in a sea-salted way that has never been done before. A bravura work, insightfully woven, grippingly told and beautifully illustrated.
Professor Alice Roberts, author of Ancestors
Absolutely fascinating, beautifully written and impeccably researched. David Gibbin's deep dive into maritime archaeology is masterful and entrancing - this is big history at its best.
Publishers Weekly
A well-informed and dynamic narrator, Gibbins glides breezily between stories of his scuba dives and quotes from medieval Chinese poetry. History buffs will find this smooth sailing.
Daily Mail
Engrossing . . . Gibbins is the ideal person to tell the story of shipwrecks. He is a distinguished underwater archaeologist, veteran of thousands of dives and a best-selling novelist whose narrative skills are here harnessed to fact rather than fiction . . . Gibbins is a sensitive narrator; he never loses sight of the reality that wrecks represent the tragic loss of human lives. However, he also knows they can open up 'many fascinating byways of history to those willing to be fully immersed.
Literary Review
A History of the World in Twelve Shipwrecks is a book of great range... Gibbins writes with great erudition and insight. Like one of his wreck sites, Gibbins's book glitters with such treasures.
Irish Independent
[An] excellent, endlessly interesting book... Kings and commoners alike are drawn together in richly detailed, often spellbinding narratives which genuinely do, to use the old cliché, "bring history to life".
Sunday Independent, Ireland
[A] fantastic voyage both under the waves and into the past
David Gibbins's fascinating exploration of historic shipwrecks reveals that there is more to them than simple tragedy. Detailing everything from the exploits of prehistoric sea traders to the heroic actions of those on board the second world war cargo ship Gairsoppa, Gibbins conveys unimaginable courage in tales of people pushing beyond their reach and leaving a valuable legacy.
David Abulafia, Spectator
Fascinating... he offers wonderful material, well researched and placed in its wider context, illuminating the history of trade and warfare from unaccustomed angles.
Gibbins' remarkable research will grant both maritime and general historians a deeper perspective on how our world developed.
Sir Tim Smit, co-founder, the Eden Project
I love this book. It shows the talents of the researcher married to the skills of a master storyteller, and every page recreates the frisson of my youth at the anticipation of a discovery or a mystery revealed. This book will be treasured by all who are hooked on the mystique of loss, the romance of discovery and the sense that shipwrecks give of having captured a moment in time.
Kirkus Reviews
He does an excellent job of placing each wreck within a broader context, as well as examining the human elements of the story. The result is a book that will appeal to readers with an interest in maritime history and who would enjoy a different, and enlightening, perspective. Gibbins combines historical knowledge with a sense of adventure, making this book a highly enjoyable package.
Irish Times
An inviting, eclectic book . . . a cornucopia of information and stories, lengthy but very readable, drawing in a wide net of maritime figures and explorers.