The Baltic: A History
By Michael North
In this book, North does for the Baltic Sea what Fernand Braudel did for another crucial body of water in his 1949 classic, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II; he treats the sea and the lands surrounding it as an intersection of cultures, armies, economic trends, political formations, and trade routes and as a playing field for the ambitions of major powers. He starts with the Vikings in the eighth century and finishes with the integration of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania into the eu in 2004. North races across that great expanse of history, taking readers through the region’s experience of the Hanseatic League, the Reformation, Swedish dominance, Russian imperialism, and Soviet control, packing in details on everything from shifting trade patterns to the evolution of cities; from literature, music, art, and architecture to political organization. This makes the book a bit dense, but its manageable length allows North to provide a panoramic view that transcends mere regional history.