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The Basque History of the World

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  2,744 Ratings  ·  279 Reviews

The Basque History of the World is the illuminating story of an ancient and enigmatic people. Signs of their civilization existed well before the arrival of the Romans in 218 B.C., and though theories abound, no one has ever been able to determine their origins. Their ancient tongue, Euskera, is equally mysterious: It is the oldest living European language, and is related

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Published September 1st 2006 by Phoenix Books (first published 1991)
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Sep 22, 2011 Finooola rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Looking back on reading this one I'm most fascinated by the fact that the author, while slightly in awe of the legend of the Basque people, is in no way afraid to show the ugly sides to their history as well. I think most people who are interested regard the Basques as the eternal heroic outsiders. But this book doesn't shy away from showing how often and how easily racism and anti-semitism can arise in areas of strong nationalist identity.

"The Basques share with the Celts the privilege of indu
Nov 04, 2008 Ciara rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people very curious about the basque, mark kurlansky's mom
Shelves: read-in-2007
mark kurlanksy has a real gift for taking a potentially great subject & running it into the ground with his painful writing style. he's a classic pop historian, more interested in writing about himself & what a totally awesome dude he is than the subject his book is supposed to be addressing...or he writes about his perceived self-awesomeness through the prism & drama provided by his subject. but unlike some other authors who certainly inject plenty of their own personalities into bo ...more
Dec 04, 2010 Matt rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Rarely do I not finish a book and Kurlansky's Basque History of the World falls into that less-than-stellar category.

I know nothing about Basque history and I thought that this would be a good introduction. Instead, I found it very disjointed and schizophrenic. I've heard good things about Kurlansky, so this book was an even bigger disappointment. I read 100 pages and remember almost nothing, which is very out of the ordinary for me and I'm going to go ahead and blame it on the format and writin
I wanted to like this better, but one key missing element kept nagging at me the entire time I was reading: where are the women? You'd think that the deciding factor in defining Basque culture is having a penis. Seriously, there are a couple of asides about the role women have played in preserving Basque culture, but nothing of substance. Deeply disappointing. That said, I did learn a lot from this book about the history and language of Euskadi, and hope to learn more in the future.
Richard Derus
Rating: 3.6* of five

History is the beautiful, brightly lit foam on top of the annihilating tsunami of the unrecorded past. History books are the spectrographic analysis of the light glinting off that foam. Any attempt at making a book more than that is doomed to failure and tedium.

This is not a tedious or failed book. It's just...well...curiously insubstantial. I don't like the focus on the Great and the Good in place of the gestalt of the actions of the Basques. I know, I know, most people can'
I've given up on rating this book because I have a lot of mixed feelings about it. The Basque History of the World will serve those who want an introduction to Basque Culture well. It covers both Basque History and the Basque perspective and participation in World History. It is written with the best intentions, too, and this is easy to tell from Kurlansky's unprejudiced narration of a history that is hotly contested and told with too many biases by both Basques and Spaniards.

My first issue is t
April Hamilton
Mar 23, 2009 April Hamilton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating book about a mysterious people. The ancestral Basque homelands lie on the border between France and Spain, encompassing a bit of each country's territory.

While the Basque are officially considered citizens of Spain, they consider themselves a separate group entirely. They are a mysterious group because anthropologists can't say exactly where they, or their native language, came from, only that both their physical traits and language have little in common with either the Fr
Elizabeth Theiss
Apr 12, 2012 Elizabeth Theiss rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Anything by Kurlansky is rich and beautifully written. His book about the Basques is especially memorable for its historical and cultural perspectives. Kurlansky is not only a good storyteller; he is also a fine researcher who provides evidence to document his finely woven histories. Having spent time in Basque country, his work helped me to appreciate the people and gave me a sense of place.
Jan 19, 2013 Carmen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Absolute crap.
Apr 02, 2013 Og rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book is about one of the oldest surviving cultures in the world - the Basques.

The book discusses Basque language, cooking (including some recipes), culture, historically significant people, graffiti (3+4=1), sports (pelota), internal conflicts among the Basques themselves, the Spanish Civil War (the German bombing of Guernica), art, WWII, religion (Catholic versus secularism) and current issues. I didn't realize the Spanish government was so dictorial towards this culture.

The author is supp
Mar 23, 2014 Lex rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While perhaps not the most well written book (and I do not purport to know how accurate his fact telling is), this book was immensely interesting to me. I'm visiting Basque country this summer and I found myself furiously taking notes about certain aspects of Basque culture. It was a great primer for me, someone who came into the book with very limited knowledge of the Basque people.

My interest in linguistics also predisposed me to totally eating up the sections about the Basque language, Eusker
May 08, 2011 Adria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book randomly at a book store near where I lived in Crouch End, London, back in 2001. I knew nothing of the Basques other than what I saw on Euro News (mostly ETA terrorism). The writer presents an interesting and lively story of a people whose language is unrelated to any other in the world (and as a linguist, I loved this!) and an insight into their rich culture, which predates many others. I enjoyed getting to know the Basques away from all the bad press, and later on, as a grad ...more
Jul 25, 2012 Tuck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: basque, wine-and-food
one of my favorite books i have read many times, you can dip in and out wherever and just as satisfying sampling as reading cover to cover. kurlansky has a penchant for writing about history from one point and letting all of humankind swirl around that point in time and space. he did it with cod fish, with salt, with santo Domingo baseball, and with basques. it's such a wonderful country, in history, people, languages, food, beaches and mountains, dancing music art on and on that this serves wel ...more
Feb 11, 2008 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kurlansky's on his game with this one. "Cod" led him to the Basques, it was an obvious segue as the Basques had a jump on everyone else in this area (fished off Newfoundland Banks long before Columbus, etc.) Anyway, I enjoyed the book thoroughly, but I recall very little of it now, 8 years later. The Basque were/are a fascinating people, with their own language, culture, food, separate from Spain & France, but...well, wish I could remember more...
Quite succint but informative
Sep 29, 2015 Gordon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Why did the Basques, a tiny group of fewer than three million people, survive as a culture? This is implicitly the main question asked by Kurlansky's history of the Basques. (Incidentally, this is not really a Basque history of the world as much as it is a history of the Basque world -- though since the Basques got around a lot as sailors and whalers, it's a good-sized world). Here's what I take to be the author's answers to that question:
1) Because they were relatively geographically isolated i
Pep Bonet
May 10, 2015 Pep Bonet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: assaig
I bought this book in 2011 in the Basque Center in Boise, ID. And this is mostly the reason why I bought it. It gave it some respectability. Being published by Penguin was the second factor which decided me: it tends to be some kind of guarantee. The third factor is more stupid. On the cover it says: by the author of SALT and COD. Good, I told me, if the author has already written about salted cod (staple food of the Basques and other Atlantic communities), he must really know. Only later I disc ...more
Sep 03, 2012 Chrisl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First choice of the Kurlansky's I'd like to re-read.


A comprehensive view of all things Basque, from the author of Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World (1997). The Basque History of the World is an honorable title, alerting readers to its singularly Basque-centric mix of cultural studies, history, and politics. The writing is direct and accessible, although limited by the occasional descriptive clichÇ (—jagged mountains” and “crisp fall days—). It’s most interesting w
Dec 29, 2016 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is interesting to see how some reviews are about the reader's preoccupations rather than the book itself. So let's get me out of the way. I bought this book as a treat for myself on my birthday which I spent alone in the hospital waiting room where days before my brother had undergone extensive heart surgery. I spent my evenings at a hotel, again alone. Considering the circumstances I was ready to be intrigued and drawn in by the book. And I was. A few days later, I came home, but some how I ...more
Like Korea, Basqueland lies in territory claimed by two countries, France and Spain instead of Japan and China. Before France and Spain were nations the Basque were in play. The French mostly ignored the Basque. After the Muslims and Jews were chased out of Spain around 1492 the Spanish were casting about for a cultural identity. I'm weak on Spanish history, don't know when Spain became a naval sea power. Basque shipbuilders probably built most of the Spanish ships which propelled Spanish explor ...more
Mónica Ruiz
I absolutely love this book. I read it for the first time 5 or 6 years ago and I've re-read some parts of it since then.

As a Basque myself, I see two aspects of this book that make it special:
First and foremost, the fact that is written by an outsider, with no conection with our people or ways whatsoever. It's simply beautiful to see that some foreigner can overcome the Media, the prejudices and the public image that is projected of our people and see things for what they are. This makes some p
Michael Armijo
Nov 02, 2010 Michael Armijo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting, historical look into Northern SPAIN.

I was very interested in the Basque country after I learned that my family (ARMIJO) can be traced as early as the 13th Century to Laredo, Spain, a small resort beach town in the heart of Basque land. I learned a lot & reflected on a few customs that have been carried over in my family...for example, love of sardines & pride in my Spanish heritage. This was quite interesting to learn about the long history of the Basque people. It's amaz
Xander Ring
Mar 27, 2011 Xander Ring rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book explains a lot. We live in an area of France that is either within or on the edge of the French Basque country (depending upon who you ask). The book explains the roadblocks and car searches that we have encountered while crossing the Pyrenees into Spain. I remember the first time we drove to Bilbao. It it a dense urban area with large factories and huge rusting steel plants. And I had this romantic idea that the Pays Basque was a land of small farmers, goat herders and cheese artisans ...more
Mar 02, 2010 Meaghan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, read-in-2010
Meh. This book was a real slog to get through -- I only finished because I feel honor-bound to finish what I start. I'm not sure why I found it such a slog, though. I guess I just couldn't get interested in the topic, though by any estimation it's the kind of thing that OUGHT to interest me. And what's with all the recipes? But if you look at a list of Kurlansky's books it's clear he's very interested in food.

Regardless, I feel that my issues with the book were my own issues, and not the fault o
Jul 24, 2011 Dеnnis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You should clearly realize that the author thoroughly explores local cuisine (as far as providing recipees and ingridients) as narration unfolds. Might become confusing for pure history enthusiasts.
Nick Light
Jun 21, 2013 Nick Light rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Best treatment of Basque history out there. Mark Kurlansky's style is journalistic, easy to read and vivid.
Dec 03, 2010 C rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've said for a long time that it's the hypocrisy about the Israeli question that so infuriates me, and I don't think any case can bring it more clearly to the forefront of the interactions than that of the Basques.

I hope that one day I can take a train from Paris to Bilbao and get a passport stamp, in Euskera, by a man wearing a beret. 4+3=1

Also, watch this video.

The Basque History of the World (Mark Kurlansky)
- Highlight Loc. 63-64 | Added on Saturday,
A bit scatterbrained, but overall a good read. Heavy on the political history, but given Basque history, that's not surprising. I learned things about the Basque I didn't know before, so I'd say the book accomplished its intended purpose.

Since my interest in the Basque people stems from their language, I'll end this mini-review with some apothegmatic words from Sabino Arana: If you do not teach your children the language of your parents, they will teach you.
Steve Porter
Aug 15, 2012 Steve Porter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a great insight into many aspects of life and culture in the Basque Country including language, literature, history, religion, economy, sports and food. The latter adds some quirkiness in the form of recipes scattered throughout the book. That comes as less of a surprise if you know that Kurlansky worked as a fisherman and a chef before publishing books entitled Salt and Cod either side of this one. The fish plays a big part in Basque cuisine and there is good insight here into the role ...more
Sep 30, 2016 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spain, take-a-chance
I picked this off the charity shop shelf because it has a great cover. Only realised when I got it home that it's by the author of "Cod" which was one of the earliest (and best) of the books that cover whole epochs via the lens of a single subject. Enjoyed this one just as much - and learnt a lot, although you don't have to believe everything he writes. Quite a few reviewers found his writing boring but I read it in small chunks over several months and was always engaged.
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Mark Kurlansky (born 7 December 1948 in Hartford, Connecticut) is a highly-acclaimed American journalist and writer of general interest non-fiction. He is especially known for titles on eclectic topics, such as cod or salt.

Kurlansky attended Butler University, where he harbored an early interest in theatre and earned a BA in 1970. However, his interest faded and he began to work as a journalist in
More about Mark Kurlansky...

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“ENEMIES OFTEN become mirror images of each other.” 6 likes
“There is a dreamlike quality to the 1936 Basque government, the fulfillment of a historic longing that was to be crushed only nine months later in carnage the scale of which had never before been seen on earth.” 2 likes
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