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Within the past decade, much debate has ensued surrounding the question of whether or not food studies and culinary history constitute valid academic disciples.
How did the world of nation-states come about? What happened to the world of empires that preceded it? How did the transition take place and how inevitable was it? These may seem (and indeed are) old questions.
In Ocean Under Steam Frances Steel explores the impact of the 19th-century sea transport revolution in one of the extremities of the British Empire, the South Pacific Ocean. Published as part of the Manchester University Press ‘Studies in Imperialism’ series, under the general editorship of John MacKenzie, this is a self-consciously ‘de-centred’ imperial history.
The importance and relevance of this book cannot be underestimated. It demands a reassessment of the relationships between the different regions and countries surrounding the Mediterranean. Although this study is concerned with the wider themes suggested by the title, it is essentially about their specific impact on social, political and economic life in Tunisia during the 19th century.
Reports of the death of the Mediterranean – on some accounts from pollution, on others from conceptual redundancy – have proved exaggerated. Conceptually, at least, ‘The Mediterranean’ flourishes as never before: an idea more than a sea. It seems ubiquitous on web sites and in book and journal titles as well as on conference posters, not to mention political action plans.