THE BOUNDLESS SEA
Chapter 10    TIDE, BEACH AND BACKWASH
The Place of Maritime Histories
Haec medium terries circumdat linea pontum / atque his undarum
tractum constringit harenis.
(This line, of coastwise journeying, circumscribes the sea in the
heart of the lands, shutting the expanse of the waves with its
The aim of this chapter is precisely that of the gathering at which
its oral precursor was read: to investigate the nature and potential
of “the new thalassography” as a scholarly initiative, while it is
indeed still relatively new. “Thalassography” has hitherto been a
maritime mirroring of geography, in that word’s more literal meaning
of the description of the land – a more local subdivision of oceano-
graphy. That more technical usage has become a little more familiar
over the last years as a keyword in a geographically deterministic
Grand Theory (2).
Rather, just as “geography” long ago escaped from disciplinary boun-
daries and became notable for being a hard-to-classify crossover zone
of methods from many pats of the sciences and the humanities, so
“thalassography” too has recently come to seem suitable vehicle for
the fertile intermingling of scholarly traditions (3). It is a stimulatingly
versatile idea, which it would be perverse to attempt to claim for any
one tradition, but this paper relates primarily to its historical mani-
festation. It offers a number of particular enticements to the historian
who is concerned with how more local histories engage with the history
of everything, universal history, “histoire à très grande échelle”,
not least because of its emphasis on the integration of history with
its neighboring disciplines.(4)
1 Manilius, Astronomica 4.628.
2 D. Cosandey, Le secret de l'Occident: vers une théorie générale
du progrés scientifique (Flammarion 2007).
3 E.Peters used the term “thalassology” of CS in “Quid nobis cum pelago?
The New Thalassology and the Economic History of Europe, Journal of
Interdisciplianry History, 34 (2003), 49-61, providing a cue for the
title of our the Mediterrananean and the “New Thalassology”, this volume.
The need to differentiate the new frame from Cosandey’s work might
recommend this label over “Thalassography”, but the precise name of
itself matters little.
About the Authors:
Peregrine Horden is Professor of Medieval History at Royal Holloway, University of London, and an Extraordinary Research Fellow
of All Souls College, Oxford. He co-edited with Sharon Kinoshita A Companion to Mediterranean History (2014).
Nicholas Purcell is Camden Professor of Ancient History in the University of Oxford and Fellow of Brasenose College. He is co-author, with
P.Horden, of the preceding book The Corrupting Sea (2000). He has also written on the social and economic history of Rome and Italy.
Créé: 14 avr 2021 Terminé: 17 avr 2021