Professor of Mediterranean History, Cambridge University
Papathomas Professorial Fellow, Gonville and Caius College
Cambridge CB2 1TA
Subject groups/Research projects
- Ancient and Medieval History:
Mediterranean history, and maritime history more broadly, including the three major oceans, particularly before about 1550.
Departments and Institutes
- Gonville & Caius College:
- Papathomas Professorial Fellow
David Abulafia is a maritime historian whose research on medieval Mediterranean trade, in Sicily, the Balearic Islands and the Levant, has led him to write a large history of the Mediterranean across time, entitled The Great Sea, which was awarded the British Academy Medal in 2103. He maintains a strong interest in medieval and early Renaissance Italy, with an emphasis on southern Italy and the major islands; his works include a biography of Emperor Frederick II and a series of articles about the kingdom of Naples in the fifteenth century from economic, cultural and political perspectives. His interest in the meeting of religions in medieval Spain and Sicily led him into the Atlantic, and a study of the first encounters between Europeans and the native peoples of the eastern and western Atlantic around the time of Columbus. He is now writing a history of the oceans for Penguin Books, reaching back into the ancient and medieval periods to see how and with what results the oceans became connected through long-distance trade. He has spent his career in the History Faculty at Cambridge University where he is Professor of Mediterranean History and Papathomas Professorial Fellow of Gonville and Caius College.
Topics of Ph.D. students currently or recently supervised involve Jewish landholding in Aragon-Catalonia, the role of the cross in the crusading movement, chivalry in fifteenth-century Spain, fifteenth-century travellers to Iberia, Jews and Muslims in the Iberian fueros, China in the late medieval imagination, the origins of the labour system in the Caribbean c1500. He also supervises students studying for the M.Phil.s in Historical Studies, in Medieval History and in Early Modern History.
The main undergraduate papers he lectures on are: in Part I, paper 15, 'European History, 1200-1520'.
Other Professional Activities
He is a Fellow of the British Academy (elected to its Council in 2015), and he is a Member of the Academia Europaea. He is Chairman of Historians for Britain, a cross-party group of historians within and outside the universities who aim to place Britain's relationship with Europe in a long historical perspective, and who argue for renegotiation of the relationship between the UK and the rest of the EU, and urgent reform of the EU itself. He is Legatum Fellow at the Legatum Institute, a think-tank in London that has been offering a course in the history of capitalism. He is a member of the Academic Board of the newly-founded University of Gibraltar.
- The Two Italies. Economic relations between the Norman Kingdom of Sicily and the northern communes 1977; Italian edn., 1991.
- Italy, Sicily and the Mediterranean, 1100-1400, 1987.
- Frederick II. A medieval emperor London and NY, 1988; third English edn., 2001; Italian edn., 1990; German edn., 1991.
- Spain and 1492: unity and uniformity under Ferdinand and Isabella, 1992.
- Commerce and Conquest in the Mediterranean, 1100-1500, 1993.
- A Mediterranean Emporium: the Catalan Kingdom of Majorca 1994; Spanish edn., 1996.
- The Western Mediterranean Kingdoms, 1200-1500. The Struggle for Dominion 1997; Italian edn., 1999.
- Mediterranean Encounters, Economic, Religious and Political, 1100-1550, 2000.
- The Discovery of Mankind: Atlantic Encounters in the Age of Columbus, 2008; Spanish edn., 2009; Italian edn., 2010.
- Il Duomo di Monreale: lo splendore dei mosaici with M. Naro, 2009; French edn. 2013.
- The Great Sea: a human history of the Mediterranean, UK and US edns., 2011; Dutch edn., 2011; Greek edn., 2013; Turkish edn., 2012; Korean edn., 2013; Spanish edn., 2013; German edition, 2013; Italian edition, 2013; Romanian edn., 2014; Brazilian edn. (Portuguese), 2014; other editions under contract. Updated Penguin paperback (UK), 2014.
- (ed.) Church and City, 1000-1500. Studies in honour of Christopher Brooke ed. with M. Rubin and M. Franklin, 1992.
- (ed.) The French descent into Renaissance Italy, 1494-5. Antecedents and effects 1995. Italian edn., 2005.
- (ed.) En las costas del Mediterráneo occidental. Las ciudades de la Peninsula Ibérica y del reino de Mallorca y el comercio mediterráneo en la Edad Media ed. with B. Garí, Barcelona, 1997.
- (ed.) The New Cambridge Medieval History, vol. 5, c.1198-1300, 1999 [paperback 2015].
- (ed.) Medieval Frontiers: concepts and practices, ed. with N. Berend, 2002.
- (ed.) The Mediterranean in History [English, American, French, Spanish, German, Greek, Turkish editions], 2003.
- (ed.) Italy in the Central Middle Ages, 2004.