MARITIME BOOKS – Focus on Spain and the Mediterranean

We’ve indulged you previously with 2 posts with our choices of maritime reads – here are another 7, focused on the Mediterranean basin, mostly Spain and Algeria, to keep your brain matter flowing.

1. OUR GIBRALTAR by Dorothy Ellicott

Spain shipping

Our Gibraltar is a recently-reprinted useful summary of Gibraltar history written by the late Dorothy Ellicott in 1975.

Dorothy Ellicott was born in Havant, Hampshire, England in 1901 and raised in Gibraltar since the age of 5. Her father transferred there to work  at the Gibraltar Dockyard. She was well educated in convent schools in the area and went on to become Secretary to the Editor of the Gibraltar Chronicle, and a Reuters correspondent.

2. SPAIN’S MEN OF THE SEA by Pablo E. Pérez-Mallaína translated by Carla Rahn Phillips

Spain shipping

Daily Life on the Indies Fleets in the Sixteenth Century

This is a great factual historical account of the sailors and officers who manned the galleons and merchant vessels of its Atlantic fleets in the 16th century when Spain had control over a vast New World empire.

In Spain’s Men of the Sea, Pablo E. Pérez-Mallaína paints a stunning portrait of bleak daily life aboard the ships of the Spanish Main. The mental and physical effects of seafaring in those days took their toll on seamen and passengers alike. “The seafaring life was defined by cramped quarters, abominable food, seasickness, vermin infestation, and disease. More frightening still was the threat of shipwreck and assault by corsairs and pirates that accompanied all sea voyages. Not surprisingly, most sailors were highly superstitious, and Pérez-Mallaína closes his vivid study with an exploration of their unorthodox religious beliefs, which combined Christian and pagan elements.” – Amazon.

The book is generously illustrated.

3 . EMPIRES OF THE SEA: The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World 

Spain shipping

This is a book rich with factual, albeit  disturbing, info on the clash between “rival empires and faiths for control of the Mediterranean and the center of the world” that started in 1521 when Suleiman the Magnificent, Muslim ruler of the Ottoman Empire, dispatched an invasion fleet to the Christian island of Rhodes.

“In Empires of the Sea, acclaimed historian Roger Crowley has written a thrilling account of this brutal decades-long battle between Christendom and Islam for the soul of Europe, a fast-paced tale of spiraling intensity that ranges from Istanbul to the Gates of Gibraltar. Crowley conjures up a wild cast of pirates, crusaders, and religious warriors struggling for supremacy and survival in a tale of slavery and galley warfare, desperate bravery and utter brutality. Empires of the Sea is a story of extraordinary color and incident and provides a crucial context for our own clash of civilizations.” – Amazon

4. LET THE SEA MAKE A NOISE – A History of the North Pacific from Magellan to MacArthur, by Walter A. McDougall

Spain shipping

In this exceptionally innovative work, Walter McDougall  takes the reader through a journey of  “exciting voyages of discovery, pioneering feats, engineering marvels, political plots and business chicanery, racial clashes and brutal wars”. The book highlights several little-know facts and points to the courageous people of the time such as the America-loving Japanese ambassador to Washington on the eve of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Russian builder of the Trans-Siberian Railway.

“Let the Sea Make a Noise is a gripping account of the rise and fall of the empires in the last, vast, unexplored corner of the habitable earth — an area occupying one-sixth of the globe. There is no other book that covers these same subjects in this wealth of detail and with such chronological scope.” – Amazon

5. A HISTORY OF ALGERIA by James McDougall


This is strictly speaking not a “maritime” read, but still covers a vast and important history of the Mediterranean basin. James McDougall presents an expansive new account of the modern history of Africa’s largest country  covering a period of five hundred years, from the arrival of the Ottomans to the aftermath of the Arab uprisings.

“McDougall places Algerian society at the centre of the story, tracing the continuities and the resilience of Algeria’s people and their cultures through the dramatic changes and crises that have marked the country. Whether examining the emergence of the Ottoman vice-royalty in the early modern Mediterranean, the 130 years of French colonial rule and the revolutionary war of independence, the Third World nation-building of the 1960s and 1970s, or the terrible violence of the 1990s, this book will appeal to a wide variety of readers in African and Middle Eastern history and politics, as well as those concerned with the wider affairs of the Mediterranean” – Google Books

6. GREAT PORTS OF THE WORLD by Mia Cassany, Víctor Medina


Something a little different – this book is recommended for ages 4–8. If you have a budding sailor, naval engineer or shipping enthusiast in your family, this could be a very useful gift.

This insightful book offers unique way of learning about the busiest ports of the world.

“This unique book takes young readers on a journey around the globe’s ports and features some of the world’s most fascinating destinations. In colorful spreads, readers are given insights into each port city: What are they eating in Hong Kong? What lives on the Nile River? What do the boats of Venice look like? From flora to fauna and from tropical climates to polar regions, this book is packed with vibrant, 1950s-era inspired illustrations. As entertaining as it is educational, this book gives children a window into a new way of seeing the world” – Prestel Publishing, Random House.

7. THE GREAT SEA , A Human History of the Mediterranean by David Abulafia

Spain shipping

In this brilliant and expansive book, David Abulafia offers a fresh perspective of Mediterranean history by focusing on the sea itself:  “its practical importance for transport and sustenance; its dynamic role in the rise and fall of empires; and the remarkable cast of characters-sailors, merchants, migrants, pirates, pilgrims-who have crossed and re-crossed it.” – Amazon

This insightful history ranges from prehistory to the 21st century, covering human interaction of all kinds from major political and naval developments,  the movement of trade, commercial competition and merchants acting as intermediaries between cultures. Abulafia “stresses the remarkable ability of Mediterranean cultures to uphold the civilizing ideal of Convivencia – living together.”

We hope you get to dig up some of these great reads about Maritime Spain and the Mediterranean  and that you find them useful and enjoyable!