Mark Kurlansky has developed a reputation for illuminating fascinating global historical trends by focusing on seemingly modest, mundane, or esoteric subjects (see also "Cod" (2011) and "Salt" (2011)). He continues in this vein with "The Basque History of the World," a history not just of the Basque people but also of their unique, and often overlooked, place in European and world history. The Basques, residents of a small, mountainous region straddling the border between Spain and France, are a singular people in many ways. Their language - Euskera - is probably the oldest in Europe, and is also unrelated to any other major language family. Taking the Basques unique language, geographical isolation, and cultural quirks, Kurlansky tells an intriguing story about one of the world's oldest and most one-of-a-kind peoples, and in the process undertakes a compelling retelling of North Atlantic history.
From Mark Kurlansky, the bestselling author of Cod, Salt, Birdseye, and Paper—the illuminating story of an ancient and enigmatic peopleStraddling a small corner of Spain and France in a land that is marked on no maps except their own, the Basques are a puzzling contradiction—they are Europe's oldest nation without ever having been a country. No one has ever been able to determine their origins, and even the Basques' language, Euskera—the most ancient in Europe—is related to none other on earth. For centuries, their influence has been felt in nearly every realm, from religion to sports to commerce. Even today, the Basques are enjoying what may be the most important cultural renaissance in their long existence, as displayed by new cookbooks like chefs Alexandra Raij and Eder Montero's The Basque Book and restaurateur Jose Pizarro’s Basque.Mark Kurlansky's passion for the Basque people and his exuberant eye for detail shine throughout this fascinating book. Like Cod, The Basque History of the World, blends human stories with economic, political, literary, and culinary history into a rich and heroic tale.Among the Basques' greatest accomplishments:   • Exploration—the first man to circumnavigate the globe, Juan Sebastian de Elcano, was a Basque and the Basques were the second Europeans, after the Vikings, in North America    • Gastronomy and agriculture—they were the first Europeans to eat corn and chili peppers and cultivate tobacco, and were among the first to use chocolate    • Religion—Ignatius Loyola, a Basque, founded the Jesuit religious order    • Business and politics—they introduced capitalism and modern commercial banking to southern Europe    • Recreation—they invented beach resorts, jai alai, and racing regattas, and were the first Europeans to play sports with balls “A delectable portrait of an uncanny, indomitable nation.” –Newsday“Exciting, Illuminating, and thought provoking.” –The Boston GlobeEntertaining and instructive… [Kurlansky’s] approach is unorthodox, mixing history with anecdotes, poems with recipes.” –The New York Times Book Review