Quite some time ago, there was a photo on BGG of a bookshelf with the poster’s references for a game on the Battle of Lepanto (I have no idea how the game is coming along), and Braudel’s two volume work on the period was on it. A little while later, I spotted them in my local used book store, and I picked them up.

They’re an interesting set. Really, the book is a series of two to four page essays. These are grouped into larger subjects (subchapters), and those into chapters, and those into three parts split across two volumes. It is big, weighty, history and it is not something to read to get interested in the subject, it is for when you already are interested, and want as much information as you can get on the Mediterranean (and surrounds) in the period 1550-1600. It will certainly stay on my shelf as reference.

Braudel organized his material to proceed from the things that change the least, to the things that change the most. So the first part deals with the geography of the Mediterranean and the surrounding lands. Ironically, the ‘large picture’ of geology is where our understanding has changed the most, and the early parts are noticeably out of date. Past that, he starts talking of agriculture, and peoples, and movements, and starts the slow process of building up a detailed picture of the world he is writing about.

Part two (which is split between the two volumes) deals with long-term trends, which in the first volume mostly means the economy. From the flow of metals into Europe from the New World, to patterns of trade, there is, again, a lot here. Unfortunately, he does assume you already know about certain things, like bankruptcies of the Spanish crown, so there is not always an explanation when I could use one.

As for the rest, well, I’ll check in again in about six weeks….