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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 Pacific
Donald 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

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To my sons
Daniel 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