Cover Image: A History of the World in Twelve Shipwrecks

A History of the World in Twelve Shipwrecks

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4.5 / 5.0 A History of the World in Twelve Shipwrecks by D Gibbins was an enjoyable read for me.

I love history, I love archeology, and I love shipwrecks, so it was a perfect fit. The writing is a little dense and could be dry at times, but the overall writing was good and the information was fascinating. I have a number of history fans in my family and so will be adding this to my gift list this year for them.

Until Next Time,

Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for access to this book for review.

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I really tried with this book but just couldn't get into it. I even tried to listen to it as an audiobook but it was just boring. The author included a lot of research but it bogged down the story and some of the details were hard to follow. Unfortunately, I gave up after only about 10%.

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The premise of this book was absolutely fascinating! And Gibbins excels in those chapters about dives/shipwrecks he got to participate in; there's something about experience that lends an added gravitas and level of excitement to a topic that just isn't there otherwise. (As could be said about the other chapters, heh; they were interesting enough, but paled in comparison--and read _very_ academically/textbook-like--to these.)

I appreciated that Gibbins included a couple links to pictures; they truly are worth a thousand words, and I think the book would have been even better to include them inline, or include _any_ pictures inline and still link out to these ones. :D What can I say? I like pictures, haha!

I received an eARC of the book from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

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Cool focal points like shipwrecks to talk about global history is a way in, right? To talk about politics, global leaders, mythical/folkloric groups, the science of building, and art like pottery by what was discovered and found in the shipwrecks is an approach because so much can be revealed however I think Gibbins went a little too far into the history and not enough into the shipwreck itself. The intrigue is in the discovery and whatever excavation or things that can be understood (even if it's left at the bottom of the sea) like the way [book:The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked, and Found|31159619] approached it and the history comes second- in this one the history came first and the ship came second.

Of course there are some that are more interesting to me than others-- I'm always fascinated by the Vikings and even the Mary Rose being retrofitted with guns was cool but overall the book lost me in too many very specific details, but that's more my reading preference rather than a knock against the book. And I'm always intrigued by how someone trains and learns as Gibbins details at various points in the book- his biography embedded in the story was well-woven.

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A History of the World in Twelve Shipwrecks is a deeply fascinating read - part adventure story and part history - that captures, as described, the literal history of the world through what we learn from excavating and/or diving shipwrecks. Despite being a history novel, the writing style is engaging and keeps you pulled in throughout! Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the free advance copy.

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I was really hoping this book was going to be an underwater version of A History of the World in Six Glasses, but (ironically?) it was a lot drier than that. This history book just wasn't able to capture my attention.

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Such coverage!

A boat with bronze trimmings, buried with its builder.
Marble from the Byzantine era.
Explorers frozen in the Arctic ice.

What was going on in the world? Technology? Trade? Tools?
Gibbins packs it all in.

I enjoyed this non-fiction read through world history even without much knowledge of ships or diving. Definitely worth trying.

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Thank you to the author David Gibbins, publishers Kensington Books, and TLC Book Tours, for an advance paperback copy of THE WITCH HITCH. Thank you also to NetGalley for an accomanying widget. All views are mine.

I'm normally a huge fan of academic nonfiction books, and this subject is one of my areas of interest. Unfortunately, I DNFed A HISTORY OF THE WORLD IN TWELVE SHIPWRECKS because I couldn't remain engaged with the material. Based on the title, topic, and description, I fully expected a chronological narrative punctuated by shipwrecks. Instead, the book is formatted as a great list of shipwrecks, each of which is comprised of a list of objects found, and what those objects say about the historical period.

This information is interesting, but the form made it feel as though I was reading someone's notes or homework. The book lacks propulsion and intrigue. I just couldn't get into it. I think a different reader would have found this fascinating, but it just wasn't for me.

Rating: DNF @ 26%
Recommend? Maybe, if you don't mind dry, academic writing
Finished: Apr 3 '24
Format: Digital arc, Kindle, NetGalley, paperback, SMPI
Read this book if you like:
⏳️ History
⚓️ nautical history
🪙 treasure analysis
🔬 applied science

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What an interesting book! I can't wait to pick up the published copy to see all of the photos. I had never heard of most of these, but really enjoyed learning about this type of history.

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This was a great book that I'd highly recommend to anyone interested in a different way to view history. Shipwrecks are fascinating because they are such a perfect time capsule and David Gibbins does an excellent job of using each wreck to explore the world as represented by each ship: trade, economics, politics, exploration, food, and more. Many factoids would come up that had me thinking "what a great idea for a book" all on their own.

Occasionally the chapters wandered a little bit- probably the danger of trying to tell the history of the world as it stood at any one point in time. I found the sections where Gibbins described his own experiences diving many of the wrecks quite interesting. The idea of knowing that there is still more to learn and discover in these wrecks and possible future ones is always exciting.

I recommend this book to history lovers, ship lovers, and people interested in new ways of looking at history to explore what life was like at different points in history.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

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Princess Fuzzypants here: This is a pretty cool book. Not only is the author an archeologist but he is a diver who has not only visited the wrecks but also discovered new and revealing things in them. Much information from the past was either discounted, proved or enhanced by these wrecks. The story is told in both the size and shape of the vessel and in the cargo that has been retrieved from them. History tells us a story. We just need to know how to read it and how to connect the dots. This book does a lot of dot connecting.

One can admire the fortitude and courage of those who enter the depths to bring forth the light. It is treacherous in so many ways, not the least being the shifting of currents and rock. The book goes deeply into the minutiae of the finds and how they disprove or substantiate previous beliefs. It is a book that would be good reading for the student and the curious.

Four purrs and two paws up.

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As a huge fan of the Jack Howard adventures, which I knew were inspired by dives undertaken by David Gibbins, I was excited to get my hands on an early copy of A History of the World in Twelve Shipwrecks. A part of me was disappointed that there weren’t more first-person accounts of the dives, narrative play-by-play of discovering and exploring these sunken wrecks, but that’s entirely okay because what is there – the history – is absolutely fascinating.

In some cases, the book explores history through long-forgotten treasures, the kind of discoveries that every adventurer dreams of. Yes, there are gold and jewels to be found, religious and cultural artifacts as well, but Gibbins explores what they mean, what they tell us about the past, as opposed to what they’re worth. Where the book gets really interesting is in the exploration of everyday artifacts, things like plates and bowls and construction equipment, using them to create a picture of what life was like hundreds of years ago.

Once I got past my initial disappointment over the emphasis on history as opposed to shipwrecks, I began to see the archaeological process involved, and that was what fascinated me most. It’s often painstaking work, accomplished in the harshest of conditions, requiring a wealth of preparation. It’s not like you can just sit on an old battlefield or in an old homestead and sift through layers of dirt at your leisure – you’re at the mercy of the depths, your air supply, the current, and the weather. Sometimes all you can do is catalog what you see, knowing that the next storm could bury it, leaving your eyes the authority on the matter.

A History of the World in Twelve Shipwrecks can be a dry, scholarly read, but as such it’s a remarkable one. This is a work of David Gibbins, archaeologist and historian, not David Gibbins, adventure author, so you do need to set your expectations. But, as I tell my wife every week when she asks if they found more wood on the Curse of Oak Island, I don’t watch for the treasure, I watch for the history, the little discoveries of pottery and nails, not the big ones, and that’s what this is all about.

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I thought this book was really fascinating and found it interesting why the author chose to call it “a history….” I know very little about underwater archaeology and thought those aspects were interesting, but ultimately appreciated the early chapters connections to trade and the ever increasing globalization present. I found the chapters about more recent wrecks a little more challenging because they didn’t really connect to the earlier narrative, but they were still interesting (and devastating) on their own. Overall, I really enjoyed this!

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I love shipwrecks and archeology. My dream job is an underwater archeologist (even if I’m an accountant lol), so David gibbons has my dream job. Reading about all the shipwrecks and the history surrounding them is so incredibly fascinating to me. I was incredibly engaged and learned a lot about different shipwrecks. The royal Anne galley was my favourite chapter personally.
There’s two categories of nonfiction, the one where they’re more story tellers and research the sources to present it to the general public (bill Bryson, Eric Larson and David gran fall into this) and the ones like David gibbons that is more the primary source and an academic writer. The book reads very academic, so if you are like me and interested in the topic that’s not an issue but I think if you aren’t as interested in ship wrecks you might find the writing kind of dry.
Thanks netgally and St. marten’s press for the e-arc in exchange for a complimentary review!

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I thought this was an interesting combination of world history and shipwrecks. This follows some times in BC all the way up to more current shipwrecks including Titanic and Shackleton's Endurance. 4000 years is a huge time span to capture in a book but Gibbins does this concisely and makes it interesting. I felt like this was a narrartive nonfiction which I enjoy reading.

I particularly enjoyed reading about the Vikings and the Greeks. If anyone is interested reading this, be warned that each chapter gives a lot of details about what is happening globally and how it is relevant to the shipwreck being discussed. This was great information to have for some chapters like with the Vikings and Greeks; but it was a little irritating for the chapters of the Titanic and Shackleton.

I did not know that Gibbins was a marine archaelogist but it is evident he shares his passion for the ocean in this book. I was surprised how much I liked this book.


Thanks to Netgalley, David Gibbins and St Martins Press for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Ships lost at sea are not always lost—sometimes they become windows into the past for future marine archeologists. The seas preserve things in gold or bronze that would have been melted down and re-used if available on land.

These shipwrecks also give us insight into something not well covered in the heroic histories—patterns of trade.

In this book, David Gibbons takes us on a tour of world history, from the Iron Age to the Battle of the Atlantic in World War II, by examining the contents of representative shipwrecks he has dived. While the details sometimes overwhelmed me, the larger story is fascinating – an undersea window into human history.

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In the book A History Of The World In 12 Shipwrecks by David Gibbons every chapter talks about a specific shipwreck in the chapters seem to cover every walk of life from the Chinese explorers a boat that was carrying a whole church out of the Middle East the Vikings the Merry Rose in even the SS terror whether the ships were coming or going to plunder provide protect or pleasure they all tell a story an in the book the author translates it for us. I have read books by Mr. Gibbons before and he never ceases to amaze me and then this one we learn as a child he translated ancient text which is astounding to me because I couldn’t even re-dress my baby dolls when I was little but that’s beside the point. This is a great interesting book my favorite chapter was the one of the Vikings but then again that is where my interest in history usually lies this book is well researched and definitely told by an author well-versed in the subject he always writes things that sparks my imagination and I am a huge fan and definitely recommend the book. I want to thank Saint martins press and Net Galley for my free arc copy please forgive any mistakes as I am blind and dictate my review.

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A HISTORY OF THE WORLD IN TWELVE SHIPWRECKS by David Gibbins is a fascinating guide to history through the wreckage we leave behind. I knew very little about the events covered in some chapters, but eagerly learned of the exploits, approaches, and bold undertakings of people who lived long ago -- recognizing they aren't that different from who we are today. With Gibbins, I felt I was in the authoritative hands of a deeply experienced, passionate seeker and I loved the ride. What was particularly outstanding was an approach to history that was not all about battles and conquests -- while those were covered, they were not the entire story of civilization spreading, ambitions and attitudes, and how brave individuals sailed into the unknown with little but hand-hewn vessels, the stars, and their strong selves. I felt as involved and amazed as the archeologists discovered new facts and aspects to the people we once were. I received a copy of this book and these opinions are my own, unbiased thoughts.

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Great read for a history lover. The author is a underwater archaeologist who has been a diver on many of these shipwrecks. His personal experience and knowledge gave me great confidence in his conclusions. The wrecks were presented chronologically and ranged from the 2nd millennium BCE through WWII. I learned something from every chapter and the book really give me a birds-eye view of the history of ships throughout the world.

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Many thanks to NetGalley and St, Martin's Press for the ARC of this new and intriguing work. This was such a fun and entertaining read. The author is clearly an expert on the sea. The concept of this book was so fun. Taking on a "history of the world" is obviously a huge task via any lens. But this worked. I think any fan of nautical history or any history fan will like this and will definitely learn from it. The author met the challenge of the book premise very well. I feel that we need to support authors that try to take on original challenges such as this! Highly recommended.

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