Book Review: The Gulf of Mexico: A Maritime History


by John S. Sledge

Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2019. Pp. xii, 244+. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $29.99. ISBN: 1643360140

The Forgotten Sea

Alabamian Sledge, author a number of books on his home region, offering a rare combination of sound history and literate writing, gives us a centuries-spanning look at human activity in the Gulf of Mexico, an inland sea some two-thirds the area of the Mediterranean which is generally overlooked in most histories. He does an excellent job of weaving cultural, economic, social, and political events into a quite readable narrative.

Sledge begins quite literally in the beginning. He opens with a chapter on the earliest cultures – Mayan, Mississippian, Taino, and others – who fished and traded and warred on the Gulf’s waters. There follow chapters on the various subsequent eras in the Gulf’s history. It’s a tale well populated by conquistadores, missionaries, slavers and enslaved, colonizers, merchants, immigrants, revolutionaries, smugglers, pirates, warriors, industrialists, and more, all of whom made contributions – for good or ill -- to the vibrant and unique cultural regions around its littoral. Sledge finishes with a look at Gulf today, reviewing concerns about the effects of industrial pollution, over population, and climate change.

Although not focused on military events, throughout the book Sledge gives us some good accounts of the role the Gulf played in many conflicts, most largely forgotten today, from the British siege and capture of Havana in 1762, Spanish operations in support of the American Revolution, Latin American wars of Independence, piracy and filibustering, the Mexican-American War, the American Civil War, and so on down to World War II, during which it was a surprisingly important theatre.

The Gulf of Mexico: A Maritime History is an interesting, informative read.



Note: The Gulf of Mexico: A Maritime History is also available in audio- and e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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