The Mediterranean-World

With «Review of Mediterranean Historical Studies» (RSSM) an International Review comes to life that, thanks to a dialectical and fertile relationship with other disciplines, intends to promote a Mediterranean perspective on the events and historical processes of a space where men have been and are used to lead collective lives, to meet and to clash, losing and finding each other, stratifying and recomposing. A space determined around ten million years ago, when the formation of the Isthmus of Suez separated it from the Indo-Pacific and again, about six million years ago, when a piece of the Atlantic Ocean remained captive of the land. That sea, born almost by accident, «as we know and love it, offers the most astounding and illuminating testimony», Braudel recalled beginning a history that is a «total history», as he defined it, no longer limited to political, military or diplomatic aspects.

The Mediterranean ends up in the foreground as a geographical subject with cultural, temporal and social multiplicities, and its history over time becomes the narrative of a non-homogeneous, plural and multiple reality in which different peoples and States have been interacting for centuries and constantly transforming themselves. The complex and laborious construction of multiple and intertwined chronologies, which from the medieval age laden with the legacy of antiquity, reaches the present day and, that is, to the not always decipherable and historicised marks of our contemporary time, becomes a tightly woven network on which to place and tell, in the pages of the Review, the «total history». That is, of a physical and categorical space that gives an account of events and processes capable of understanding the vicissitudes not only of the countries and peoples that belong to it, but also of those with which it has been in communication and in relation for centuries.

The model we refer to is that of “multiple velocities”, already adopted fifteen years ago in the elaboration of a Storia del Mediterraneo moderno e contemporaneo (Guida, 2009, 2017²), a starting point of a path of study and research today more mature and which intends to consolidate itself in the pages of RSSM. A model capable of immersing chronologies in the long term in order to always be able to understand a moment, a historical period, as the authentic and unrepeatable result of factors of long time, medium time and short time that have expressed a dialectic of specific weights. During that immersion, the “multiple speeds” will make it possible, from time to time, and already starting from the fundamental unity-plurality or centre-periphery relationship, to understand the specific articulation of the boundaries within which a given historical process moves.

Often referred to as the “Mediterranean Continent” because of its Euro-Afro-Asian entanglement, the history of this space is indeed the history of the things that have happened there, but the subjects of its historicity are always different and do not necessarily belong to it, so much so that it becomes a Mediterranean-World. One thus finds oneself in a perpetually moving time that connects, articulates and intersects dimensions that are geographically closer than they are on paper. It is on this time and around these spaces, which transcend the boundaries established by geography, that Mediterranean scholars from different nations, generations and backgrounds, whose interests cover all fields of history, humanities and social sciences, reflect and come together. The perspective, comparative and transnational, observes and reflects on that Mediterranean-World and, therefore, also on a Mediterranean outside itself that flows back into it, showing all the circular and circulation function of this sea.

A narrative that looks at connections but respecting a balance between histories that is entirely necessary to return original and important research results, which does not forget either the more traditional spaces or the events that took place there while tracing lines of a global Mediterranean history. Segments that do not trace the geography of continents and the borders of nations, but re-discuss and reshuffle them, bearing in mind not only the historiographies of the countries that overlook that sea, which are all too often self-referential, but also the suggestions that come from other historiographic experiences. A narrative, the one of «Mediterranean Historical Studies», which does not intend to be merely a methodological update or a simple literary construction, but a field to be ploughed born on the accumulation of memory occurred in time and space in a continuous manner according to space-time stratifications of immediate and undisputed historiographical value.

If twenty years ago we faced a history of the Mediterranean that had to be built up, starting from its foundations, the dynamics of which had made it complicated to teach it and even more so to transform it into a disciplinary object and training tools that were no different, in substance, from others that were more or less new or more or less traditional, today many steps forward have been taken in this sense. On the basis of a prolific season of research and results that represents the legacy of the past and the humus on which to continue sowing, the increase of  Courses that concern the teaching of Mediterranean History at least in Italian Universities, the growth of research Centres and Institutions, almost everywhere in the Mediterranean area but also outside it, the many Academic courses that have had and have as their subject this history, express the clear sign of a consolidation of the discipline, but above all of the will of those who look to it to make the Mediterranean live an authentic historical existence.

However, this accreditation has brought with it the problem of the all too often unconditional and unconscious use of the lemma “Mediterranean”, which has now become a brand. It is clear that the widespread and increasing practice of using it as a distinctive label is not sufficient on its own to represent the key to accessing the history of this space, nor to define its contours, contents, quality and scientific nature. Frome here comes out the need to reflect on a historiographical season in the strict sense of the term, one that stands in dialectical and rich relation with other disciplines and not with everything that is recounted and written in the name of the Mediterranean. A need that goes hand in hand, without a doubt, with the need for a critical-dialogical comparison, discussion and connection with other histories such as, for example, maritime history, European history or the history of the cities that overlook that sea, which only thanks to that dialectical relationship can, all together and not individually, describe this solid/liquid space, a central and unavoidable reference point in the history of human civilisation.

In the Mediterranean, from the Mediterranean and towards the Mediterranean is the open dimension and paradigm of reference of «Historical Mediterranean Studies», which is addressed to an international audience of scholars who can take up the invitation to propose contributions that, from now on, will make it a container for innovative and original research, challenging the notion of the Mediterranean as a closed space and exclusively geographical and political, a place of dialogue between different generations and a laboratory of creative and active interaction even with rapidly changing contexts, such as those of the contemporary world. The Review is published every six months and its articles are published in four languages of communication, Italian, Spanish, French and English, in order to valorise linguistic differences and give space very important, to different historiographic traditions.

Both miscellaneous and thematic in character, it is organised in sections in which themes and studies will be developed in line with the aim of create a forum for interdisciplinary discussion, but also to encourage exploration and dialogue on related and parallel issues, in the variety of methodologies and approaches intended to place it in the heart of the historiographical debate. «Mediterranean Historical Studies» relies, therefore, on contributions about topics that transcend any conventional periodization in order to investigate the complex network of relations and influences relating to different Mediterranean contexts, identifying strands of study to rethink, experiment and propose itself as a space for discussion, to foster historical knowledge of the Mediterranean, to wave webs of relations and to shuttle between Research Centres and Universities.

Rosa Maria Delli Quadri
Editorial director

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