Presents, along with a fascinating geopolitical chronicle, 'the history of an idea, and its transmission across time' ... a superb survey of the perennial opportunities and risks in what Herman Melville called 'the watery part of the world.'
Lambert is, without a doubt, the most insightful naval historian writing today. His range is immense, his understanding colossal, his sensitivity to his subject profound. This is, however, a very serious book which never attempts to be fun. It will remain a standard text at universities for decades to come, but readers who want to feast on fascinating tales of the sea will probably be disappointed. I found this book admirable, but not particularly enjoyable.
The problem is this: rather than limiting himself to identifying and understanding the attributes that five sea-oriented states may have had in common, and to tracing the lines of cultural inheritance that connected these states to each other, Lambert enlists his seapowers in an ancient and apparently unending war between sea and land, freedom and slavery ... many of Lambert’s assertions draw on the language and conceptual framework of the Cold War ... Throughout the book, Lambert praises seapowers repeatedly for their wisdom in seeking to fight only limited wars. Had he applied this rule to his own work, he could have created a fascinating cultural history of a concept — and avoided burying it in the rubble of a much vaster, and much less convincing, argument.