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David Abulafia, FSA, FRHistS, FBA (born 12 December 1949) is an English historian with a particular interest in Italy, Spain and the rest of the Mediterranean during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. He spent most of his career at the University of Cambridge, initially as a Lecturer, and was finally promoted internally from Reader to the position of Professor, at the age of 51, in the year 2000 internal senior academic promotion exercise. He retired in 2018 and is currently titled Professor Emeritus of Mediterranean History. He is a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge since 1974; he later became the Papathomas Professorial Fellow. He was Chairman of the History Faculty at Cambridge University, 2003-5, and was elected a member of the governing Council of Cambridge University in 2008.
Abulafia in 2010
David Samuel Harvard Abulafia
12 December 1949
|Spouse(s)||Anna Brechta Sapir|
|Alma mater||King's College, Cambridge|
|Doctoral advisor||J.H. Plumb|
|Institutions||Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge|
|Notable works||The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean (2011)|
Early life and educationEdit
Abulafia was born at Twickenham, Middlesex, into a Sephardic Jewish family that left Spain for Galilee around 1492 and lived for many generations in Ottoman Tiberias. He was educated at St. Paul's School and King's College, Cambridge.
He has published several books on Mediterranean history, beginning with his book The Two Italies in 1977; here he argued that as far back as the twelfth century northern Italy exploited the agricultural resources of the Italian south, and that this provided the essential basis for the further expansion of trade and industry in Tuscany, Genoa and Venice. He edited volume 5 of the New Cambridge Medieval History and the volume on Italy in the central Middle Ages in the Oxford Short History of Italy; he also edited an important collection of studies of the French invasion of Italy in 1494-5 as well as a book on The Mediterranean in History which has appeared in six languages. He has given lectures in many countries including Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Finland, Norway, the United States, Japan, Israel, Jordan and Egypt.
One of his most influential books is Frederick II: A Medieval Emperor, first published in England in 1988 and reprinted many times in several Italian editions. Here he looks at an iconic figure from the Middle Ages from a new perspective, criticizing the views of the famous German historian Ernst Kantorowicz concerning Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, whom Abulafia sees as a conservative figure rather than as a genius born out of his time.
He has been appointed Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity by the President of Italy in recognition of his writing on Italian history, especially Sicilian history, and he has also written about Spain, particularly the Balearic islands. He has shown an interest in the economic history of the Mediterranean, and in the meeting of the three Abrahamic faiths in the Mediterranean. Not confining himself to the Mediterranean, he has also written a much-praised book on the first encounters between western Europeans and the native societies of the Atlantic (the Canary islands, the Caribbean and Brazil) around 1492; this book is The Discovery of Mankind: Atlantic Encounters in the Age of Columbus (2008).
In 2011 Penguin Books (and, in the U.S., Oxford University Press New York) published his The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean, a substantial volume that sets out a different approach to Mediterranean history to that propounded by the famous French historian Fernand Braudel, and ranges in time from 22,000 BC to AD 2010. The book, which received the Mountbatten Literary Award from the Maritime Foundation, rapidly became a bestseller in UK non-fiction and was widely acclaimed. It has been translated into Dutch, Greek, Turkish, Spanish, German, Italian, Korean, Chinese, Romanian and Portuguese, with further translations under contract.
He is the chairman of Historians for Britain, an organisation that lobbies to leave the European Union. According to Abulafia, the process of European Integration is "a myth used to silence other visions of European community". He has written opinion pieces criticising the UK's membership in the European Union, accusing the idea of European unity of being based upon "historical determinism".
- "Humanity and the Great Seas: Conversation with David Abulafia", Hansong Li. Chicago Journal of History Issue VII, Autumn 2016.
- "Migration, Media and Intercultural Dialogue 2: Migration and Culture in the Mediterranean" The United Nations University Institute on Globalization, Culture and Mobility
- "Cambridge University Reporter. Appointments". 10 January 2001.
- Academia Europaea
- Nicholas Lezard review, Guardian
- David Abulafia: The EU is in thrall to a historical myth of European unity, Daily Telegraph, 26 February 2015.
- "ABULAFIA, Prof. David Samuel Harvard". Who's Who 2017. Oxford University Press. November 2016. Retrieved 2 February 2017.
- "PROFILE: Prof traces his roots back to pre-Inquisition". Jewish Telegraph. 2011. Retrieved 2 February 2017.
- Who's Who 2011
- Debrett's People of Today 2011