Saltwater horizons
Seas, oceans and civilisations
in Debating civilisations

This chapter aims to interrogate the relationship between oceans, seas and civilisations. It contends that maritime civilisations reach out to saltwater horizons and are animated by oceanic imaginaries. Europe's empires of the seas created global visions by signifying claims over oceanic space in order to extend their imperium. Oceanic civilisations and the states and empires that they instituted had a large-scale reach. Portal civilisations were more modest and had a thalassic imaginary. Though their 'headquarters' was a port city, portal civilisations were more than states with working harbours and open sea-fronts. Islands were the distribution points of many portal civilisations. While islands were crucial in the creation of oceanic and portal civilisations, it is also worth thinking about them as separate entities. When the imperial expansion of European states was at its height and the conflicts it engendered were the greatest, islands were incredibly important strategically, economically and culturally.

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Debating civilisations

Interrogating civilisational analysis in a global age

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