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Europe and the Maritime World: A Twentieth-Century History by Michael Miller (review)
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Reviewed by
Michael Miller. Europe and the Maritime World: A Twentieth-Century History. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. xvi + 435 pp. ISBN 978-1-107-02455-7, $99.00 (cloth).

While the small number of specialized maritime historians have agreed for a long time that the maritime industries were crucial for the development of nineteenth and twentieth century globalization for obvious reasons, the maritime perspective is relatively new and unknown for historians interested in globalization outside this small and highly specialized scholarly community. Thus Michael Miller’s book provides a most welcome addition to the history of globalization in particular for nonmaritime historians.

Miller’s book does not provide too many new insights into the field of maritime history, but without any doubt, Miller puts the well known facts about the history of the European maritime industries in a new context, when he uses the history of European shipping [End Page 671] industries and ports as an explanation model for understanding the process of globalization throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century and more important how only changes in the maritime industries and maritime culture enabled the development of today’s globalized industries within and without the maritime industries.

Organized in two main sections, Miller begins his analysis with a detailed look on the various networks that have been characteristic for the maritime industries, including less obvious topics like the cultural networks and continues in his second main part with an equally important analysis of the major periods of transition like World War I, the troublesome interwar-period, World War II and its aftermath, and finally the transformation of the 1960s. While many of the individual topics covered by Miller have already been analyzed in much greater detail by a number of historians, there has been up to now no comprehensive publication that brings these details together in only one study instead of individual research papers published in a variety of languages and places.

When Cambridge University Press as the publisher claims on the web site of the book that Miller’s study is “the first comprehensive study of the maritime world of the 20th century,” it might be some kind of exaggeration for marketing purposes, but it needs to be stated that maritime history up to now was lacking such a comprehensive overview as most books up to now were focused either on specific sub-topics or some kind of national maritime history. A history of the relation of the maritime industries and the process of globalization was up to now largely a desideratum.

It is without any doubt a particular strength of the book that Miller really delivers when it comes to the history of European ports and maritime industries and does not like many others limit his analytical region to the English-speaking world, which was without any doubt one of the most relevant areas for the development of the global maritime industries, but was not the only relevant region. The inclusion of other European maritime industries and regions has not only enabled him to develop his argument that only the transformation of the European maritime industries as a whole has provided the base for the globalization processes of the nineteenth and twentieth century but also provided the English-speaking reader with information about these regions often only hardly accessible due to language barriers. Thus the book seems to be of particular relevance for English-speaking historians interested in global processes and not only the Anglo-American perspective.

A well-developed bibliography that reads up to a certain degree like a who’s who for maritime history does provide not only an overview of the recent historiography of the subject but at the same time [End Page 672] a valuable starting point for historians interested in maritime history and globalization without being a specialist for maritime history.

When it comes to criticisms it needs to be mentioned that a number of additional data-tables and illustrations might have helped the reader unfamiliar with maritime history to get an easier grip of the subject.

Overall it needs to be stated that the book is a most welcome addition to the field of global history as...