The lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea contain some of the oldest cultures on Earth. Italy and the other countries of Europe and North Africa have played a central role in various expanding empires, and also in shrinking fortunes. This presentation explores the broad sweep of history in one of the cradles of civilization. The World's Political Hot Spots series explains the basis of conflicts in some of the world's most politically sensitive areas. Many of these regions are in today's headlines, and tensions recently have become violent in virtually all of them. Each presentation covers up to 10 centuries of background, revealing how and why today's problems occur.
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You can find a lot to criticize in this audiobook, but like all of the "Knowledge Products" line and especially the Global Hotspots series of which this title is a part, there is so much more to love. I'm totally hooked on these now. I started with the title on Ethiopia and have been working my way around the globe.
The quality is stellar across the board, even though admittedly some are better than others. I really like the narration and format, which sounds more like a radio show or TV show without the images than it does a typical audio book. Here, the narration really has the feel of an older history documentary from PBS. Longer period quotations are provided with character voice acting and, while I can see why some find this cheesy, I am of the opinion that they really add flair. I find the voice acting to actually be quite good most of the time, even if the accents are sometimes imperfect. The occasional use of music or sound effects further adds richness to the experience.
My only complaint is that these are short. Here, you'll learn about the entire history of the Mediterranean basin in under 3 hours. Wow, that's ambitious. Yes, they leave much out. It's a very high level overview and they are very selective about what large trends to identify and which details and case examples to use to add depth and texture. While you can certainly find lots of fault with any work of history so heavily condensed, I am continually impressed by the balance that is struck. Just what you would want and expect for a broad overview. Much more comprehensive and rewarding than a typical documentary today, but so concise and succinct that I'm amazed how much they are able to cram into 3 hours while still taking time to stop and examine select aspects with more meaty explorations.
I would recommend this and the entire series to students and anyone wanting a brief, well-made, high level introduction to the topics they cover. Here, we go all the way from ancient Rome, through the post war republic of Italy in no time at all, yet I still learned a lot I hadn't known before. I'm perplexed by some of the lackluster reviews and my only explanation is that perhaps they are expecting a complete 24 hour audio book on the subject, which is not what this is designed to be. There is a case to be made that the 3 hour audio titles are less value for your credit than a full book, but that doesn't mean they aren't excellent in their own right. Sometimes less is more. It's a shame that the producer (or Audible) couldn't bundle several of these into package deals or sell the entire series as a single set.
These are excellent overviews for travelers who want to know a bit about the historical background of a country or region, and are quite nice for those who can't afford to travel (such as myself!). I've worked by way through Africa, Europe, and am now listening to the Middle East and Persian Gulf, soon to be heading to Asia.