1st Edition

The Boundless Sea
Writing Mediterranean History

ISBN 9780367221263
Published October 17, 2019 by Routledge
228 Pages

USD $155.00

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Book Description

This volume brings together for the first time a collection of twelve articles written both jointly and individually by Peregrine Horden and Nicholas Purcell as they have participated in the debates generated by their major work, The Corrupting Sea: A Study of Mediterranean History (2000). One theme in those debates has been how a comprehensive Mediterranean history can be written: how an approach to Mediterranean history by way of its ecologies and the communications between them can be joined up with more mainstream forms of enquiry – cultural, social, economic, and political, with their specific chronologies and turning points. The second theme raises the question of how Mediterranean history can be fitted into a larger, indeed global history. It concerns the definition of the Mediterranean in space, the way to characterise its frontiers, and the relations between the region so defined and the other large spaces, many of them oceans, to which historians have increasingly turned for novel disciplinary-cum-geographical units of study. A volume collecting the two authors’ studies on both these themes, as well as their reply to critics of The Corrupting Sea, should prove invaluable to students and scholars from a number of disciplines: ancient, medieval and early modern history, archaeology, and social anthropology.

Table of Contents





  1. The Mediterranean and the 'New Thalassology'
    American Historical Review, special issue, Forum, ‘Oceans of History’, 111.3 (2006), pp. 722–40
  2. Years of Corruption: Response to Critics [of The Corrupting Sea]
    Rethinking the Mediterranean, ed. W. V. Harris (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), pp. 348–75 
  3. The Boundless Sea of Unlikeness?: On Defining the Mediterranean
    Mediterranean Historical Review, 18.2 (2003), pp. 9–29
  4. Fixity
    Mobility and Travel from Antiquity to the Middle Ages, ed. R. Schlesier and U. Zellmann (Berlin: Lit, 2004), pp. 74–83
  5. Meshwork: Towards a Historical Ecology of Mediterranean Cities
    The Mediterranean Cities between Myth and Reality, ed. F. Frediani (Lugano: Nerbini, 2014), pp. 37–51
  6. The Ancient Mediterranean: The View from the Customs House
    Rethinking the Mediterranean, ed. W. V. Harris (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), pp. 200–32  
  7. Colonisation and Mediterranean History
    Ancient Colonizations: Analogy, Similarity and Difference, ed. H. Hurst and S. Owen (London: Bristol Classical Press, 2005), pp. 115–39
  8. The Mediterranean and the European Economy in the Early Middle Ages
    Not previously published 
  9. Water in Mediterranean History
    Managing Water Resources Past and Present: The Linacre Lectures 2002, ed. J. Trottier and P. Slack (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), pp. 35–49
  10. Tide, Beach, and Backwash: The Place of Maritime Histories
    The Sea: Thalassography and Historiography, ed. P. N. Miller (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2013), pp. 84–108 
  11. Situations Both Alike? Connectivity, the Mediterranean, the Sahara
    Saharan Frontiers: Space and Mobility in Northwest Africa, ed. J. McDougall and J. Scheele (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012), pp. 25–38
  12. Mediterranean Connectivity: A Comparative Approach
    New Horizons: Mediterranean Research in the 21st Century, ed. M. Dabag, D. Haller, N. Jaspert, and A. Lichtenberger (Paderborn: Wilhelm Fink/Ferdinand Schöningh, 2016), pp. 211–24


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Peregrine Horden is Professor of Medieval History at Royal Holloway, University of London, and an Extraordinary Research Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. He is co-author, with Nicholas Purcell, of The Corrupting Sea (2000) and of its forthcoming successor. He co-edited with Sharon Kinoshita A Companion to Mediterranean History (2014). Two volumes of his Collected Studies on the history of medicine and charity are published by Routledge, and he is also writing a history of early hospitals.

Nicholas Purcell is Camden Professor of Ancient History in the University of Oxford and Fellow of Brasenose College. He is co-author, with Peregrine Horden, of The Corrupting Sea (2000) and of its forthcoming successor. He has also written extensively on the social, cultural, and economic history of the city of Rome in Antiquity, and of ancient Italy. In 2012, he gave the Sather Classical Lectures at the University of California, Berkeley, on buying and selling in the Greek and Roman worlds, and is currently preparing them for publication.


The Boundless Sea does a good job making a case for a new kind of historiography. It’s easy to imagine how Horden and Purcell’s model of regional environmental history could be fruitfully applied to other regions that can in turn be connected to each other... There are many exciting possibilities for collaboration in such an endeavor, precisely because it’s too big for one person (or two) to tackle even over decades. In this sense, Horden and Purcell suggest that the new world history will be a team project rather than one person’s Grand Theory of Everything. The papers in this volume provide many insightful suggestions about how such a project might unfold’ - Bryn Mawr Classical Review