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The Basque History of the World
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The Basque History of the World

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  2,011 ratings  ·  236 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 relate ...more
ebook, 400 pages
Published July 5th 2010 by Walker Books Ltd (first published 1991)
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Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
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'
Fiona Moyler
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
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.
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
Nov 21, 2008 Ciara rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  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
Carmen Pulín
Absolute crap.
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
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
April Hamilton
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
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
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
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
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...
Elizabeth Theiss
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Best treatment of Basque history out there. Mark Kurlansky's style is journalistic, easy to read and vivid.

Because I study the Spanish language I thought it essential to have an understanding of the history and culture of the many different parts of Spain. The fact is that I have always found the Basqueland particularly interesting, especially since I read about Guernica and saw the actual painting in Madrid. Therefore, I was thrilled when I was given this book as a gift. It seemed like the perfect book for me to develop my understanding of the Basque region.

Overall, I found the book fairly enlighten
For most of my school years, and like most kids, I thought history was boring and irrelevant. I wonder if we would think differently if we approached history as Kurlansky does, weaving together political, linguistic, culinary and cultural aspects so seamlessly. That's what this book does, focusing on one of the most fascinating cultures, that of Euskadi, Pais Vasco, Basqueland. Ever since beginning my studies in Spanish, and especially once I started pursuing linguistics, I have been intrigued b ...more
I liked this book and some parts, especially the political and historical parts, were very good. I liked less when he spoke of the literature, but this is because I prefer the first 2 subjects.
One point only: at a certain point he said that there was no need to ask the Spanish people if they wanted to enter the EU because they were surely supporting that idea and that they were the only people in Europe who were not asked. I believe this is a gross generalization. Chances are that in Spain, as
Steve Porter
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
I've always been mildly interested in Basque culture and history, given that it's received only a passing mention in any of my Spanish classes, and that only increased when I visited and fell in love with the north this semester (San Sebastián is definitely my favourite city in Spain). One of the most interesting aspects of the Basque to me is also the most important—the language of Euskera. While I'm not sure the history and significance of the language can be fully explored, especially by some ...more
Robert Strandquist
Kurlansky does it again. His award-winning “Cod: A Brief Biography of the Fish that Changed the World” is superb but this one is less so, my opinion. Even though both “Cod” and “The Basque” are chronological histories, it’s the superior structure of a journey that traces the movement of cod-based cultures around the Atlantic rim that is a bit more compelling. However, in both texts Kurlansky uses the theme of ‘the noble struggle’ on which to string his pearls of history. He traces the Basques’ n ...more
Having lived fairly near the Basque country many years ago, this book served as an incredibly valuable augmentation to the knowledge I already had of the region. In fact, it brought together the fragments of my knowledge and experience and knitted them logically together. Kurlansky's exploration of this remarkable culture is thoroughly researched; it's clear he understands the culture. Interspersed in the telling of the history are recipes and discussions of food preparation. At first this might ...more
I wish I had read this book while driving through Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, and indeed briefly into Basque country last summer. I only spent an hour or so in Euskadi, but I had been looking for a book that would let me understand how Iberia works. Most conventional histories of, say, Spain assume you already know everything about the Spanish civil war, and Franco. Kurlansky does a good job of laying out what was happening in Western Europe generally at that time as a way of explaining its im ...more
Wesley  Gerrard
I live in Wales and there are similar issues here as in the Basque country - We have a certain regional autonomy after devolution, there is a strong national feeling and independence movement, it is an industrial heartland and there is a strong tradition and language, populated by a fiercely proud people. I felt that it would be interesting to study the Basques as their struggle tucked in a small borderland between France and Spain is most certainly an interesting one. This book is well written ...more
I have read two other books by Mark Kurlansky, Salt: A World History and Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World. In both, the role of Basques in exploration and fishing were mentioned, and that got me interested in this book.

I had not known much about the Basques before reading the book. I knew the language, Euskara, has no real relatives. It seems to be a totally unique language dating back well into prehistoric times. I also would hear about Basques occasionally, particularly when
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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...
Salt: A World History Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell The Food of a Younger Land: The WPA's Portrait of Food in Pre-World War II America 1968: The Year That Rocked the World

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“ENEMIES OFTEN become mirror images of each other.” 4 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.” 1 likes
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