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The Basque History of the World: The Story of a Nation

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  • Posted June 30, 2010

    what a wonderful and well written book!

    I have to say that I am actually a Basque person myself and that I enjoyed every single word and every single page of this book: in my opinion you don't need to love the Basque people to start reading the book... but once you read the book, you cannot but help it loving us...:-)
    The book is not just a gastronomical or historical book or a travel guide of the Basque Country. Well, it could be considered to be a mixture of the above, but I would say that the book goes far beyond the specifics of depicting the Basque people: the book is more like a celebration of human identity, of our universal need of belonging to a group (any at all!!): In a nutshell the book "The Basque History of the World" is a hymn to the beauty of belonging to the human race!!!! no more, no less.
    God bless the author for that.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2007

    A captivating work of art on the Basques!!

    Mark Kurlansky's 'Basque History of the World' is perfect reading material for anyone wanting to learn more about this fascinating culture such as myself. As a first generation American of Spanish 'Galician' parentage, having travelled to Spain every year, I would always absorb negative opinions about the Basque people, largely due to ETA terrorism in addition to their controversial, seperatist principles 'as far as Madrid was/is concerned'. That is why I finally took it upon myself to purchase Mark Kurlansky's fine work which in turn has shed new light on a proud and progressive people. Thanks to Mr. Kurlansky's meticulous research and captivating text, I admire the Basques now more than I ever did, and as a result, most of the criticism, if not all, which I had absorbed about them in the past suddenly evaporated. I must say, as a person of Galician heritage, I truly sympathize now with their principles and beliefs. Galicians, like the Basques and Catalans, have always yearned to be autonomous and free since Galicians, like their brothers to the east and southeastern Spain, consider their language and culture to be unique as well. Of course, there was one minor flaw in the book: during the Spanish Civil War, Mr. Kurlansky states that the Civil Guard and the Assault Guards immediately sided with Franco's cause. NOT COMPLETELY TRUE. The Civil Guards, absolutely, since this police organization maintained perspectives of an ideologically ultraconservative nature it was founded in 1844 for the purpose of suppressing workers' strikes and against the poor, as well as fighting banditry. The Assault Guards,on the other hand, Mr. Kurlansky, were a different story. First of all, they were the Second Republic's creation, established on May 1931, one month after the proclamation of the II Spanish Republic. They were designed as an alternative to the civil guards, excercising the democratic principles of a Western democracy's police force. At the outbreak of the civil war, over 80% of the Guardias de Asalto remained loyal to the Republic. In fact, they protected all government establishments against Franco's military aggression, played a major role in arming workers in various industrial cities, and ultimately became integrated in the Spanish republican Ejercito Popular ''People's Army or Popular Army''. I was a bit offended at this flaw because we had a relative back in 1936 who was an Assault Guard and the first thing my father remembered as a kid was watching him join the workers in the barricades to stave off the Fascist troops and yes, the accompanying Civil Guards. I would recommend that Mr. Kurlansky look more thoroughly into the history of the Spanish Civil War. All this aside, however,Mark Kurlansky's work is hitherto the best authority on the history of the Basque people,their majestic culture,beautiful, breath-taking lands and exquisite cuisines!! Bravo, Don Kurlansky!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2006


    Mark Kurlansky has written a very informative and interesting introduction to a little known people. He wrote this book at a good time, the reason why it¿s not very popular is probably because of its easy treatment of ETA violence. Kurlansky does support the ETA ( Basque for ¿ Basque Homeland and Freedom) which is considered by many as a terrorist group. I can see why it would be easy to become so attached to the Basques and their culture, their language, and the ongoing fight they have pursued in order to keep their culture intact. People deserve to keep their history, heritage, language, and cuisine, and the Basques have a long, rich, and misunderstood history which deserves the kind of recognition Kurlansky's book brings to their cause, wherever his sympathies lie. The beginning of this book talks about pre-roman, roman and the middle ages through the eyes of the Basques. It also talks about their reported origin and interesting facts about their genealogical makeup (40% of Basques have type-O blood) but there are no true answers. There is random recipes spilled through-out the book that I can¿t imagine anyone actually trying to do but they are interesting to read. The middle of the book slows down as Kurlansky gives special attention to the plight of the Basques during World War II, especially the bombing of Guernica, and the rise of Franco to power. He gets extremely into this part of the book. You can feel his love for the Basques as he puts his all into every page that describes these peoples struggle against Franco. At the end the book slows down once again as Mark states his opinion on recent Basque events. Most notably the ETAs terrorist attacks against the Spanish government. That¿s the part when many people lose their respect for this book. He supports many of these terrorist attacks. But please don¿t let these events make you intolerant towards the Basques. The Basque people have survived centuries of misfortune and conflict, and I think it is much better to look at the everyday people rather than ETA extremism. At the core of the book is a theme or more accurately a question: Are the Basques the oldest Europeans and is Euskera the oldest living language. Euskera is considered (along with Icelandic) one of or the hardest language there is. This caused other peoples to islolate the Euskera speakers who in turn left to themselves to themselves. They became expert whalers and fishermen, the world's first capitalists, industrialists and the first modern bankers in Spain. They were also superb ship builders in fact it was them who built the Nina, Pint and Santa Maria. Most of Columbus¿s crew was Basque and the same goes for Magellan. The 1700s was the changing period in Basque history. In the 1700s, the Basque traditional laws, the Fueros were made illegal, followed by the abolition of traditionally held land, also seemed to change things. A main character in the history of Basque nationalism was Sabino Arana, who invented words to create a nation, in language only, for the Euskera speaking people. In the Basque language, which is called Euskera, there is no word for Basque. The only word to identify a member of their group is Euskaldun which means Euskera speaker. Their land is called Euskal Herria which means the land of Euskera speakers. It is language that defines a Basque. Arana wanted to change this by making a new word-Euskadi-to give their region a name. I would recommend this book to people who take an interest in history, cuisine and terrorism. I liked most of this book but the rest were mainly Kurlanskys opinion on Basque nationalism which in my opinion he can keep to himself. So all in all I guess I would say it¿s a good book but thanks Kurlansy throwing his opinion around its not a great book, but it does get the job done.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2004

    If only it was based on reality

    I enjoyed this book until I reached the last chapters. These last chapters (20th century) offer a very biased account of Spanish and Basque history. Misrepresentations range from mere embellishments about Basque contributions, to suspicious omissions (e.g. the most unpopular actions of the Basque ETA are not mentioned), to outright falsehoods, even about facts that can be easily checked online (e.g. the results of the Spanish Constitutional referendum of 1978 in Catalonia and Galicia, Maastricht and the EU, and so on in a long list). All in all, I am disappointed because a case for Basque independence can be made without resorting to falsehoods. If you are really interested in Spanish and Basque history in the 20th century I suggest Raymond Carr and Paul Preston, both of them recommended by Kurlansky in the appendix (I wonder if he ever read their books). Another anecdote that bothered me is his account of Elcano's role in the mutiny against Magellan. Grab Bergreen's 'Over the Edge of the World' for a truthful and well documented account of the event.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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