Sea of Troubles

Sea of Troubles

The European Conquest of the Islamic Mediterranean and the Origins of the First World War, 1750–1918

N/A October 2023 Hardback 584pp 31 b&w illustrations, 8 maps

About the Book

In the mid-eighteenth century, most of the Mediterranean coastline and its hinterlands were controlled by the Ottoman Empire, a vast Islamic power regarded by Christian Europe with awe and fear. However, by the end of the First World War, this great civilisation had been completely subjugated, its territories occupied by European states.

In Sea of Troubles, Ian Rutledge reveals how the Mediterranean – the fault line between Europe and Islam – became the most important centre of European imperialist rivalry. Britain, France, Italy, Spain, Austria-Hungary and Russia all wrestled for control of the trade, lands and wealth of this Islamic region. As rivalries intensified, events would spiral out of control as the continent headed towards war.

This masterful, richly detailed account illuminates over three centuries of European imperialism in the Islamic Mediterranean. Sea of Troubles reveals the chain reaction of conquest and violence that culminated in the First World War and the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

About the Author

Ian Rutledge is an economist, historian and Arabist. He obtained his undergraduate degree and PhD in Economic History from the University of Cambridge. Previously an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at Sheffield University’s Management School, he has taught at the Universities of London and Sheffield, and for the Workers’ Educational Association. Rutledge has contributed numerous papers to academic journals, including the Cambridge Journal of Economics, and has published articles in national newspapers such as the Financial Times and The Guardian. His other works include the critically acclaimed Enemy on the Euphrates: The Battle for Iraq, 1914–1921 (by Saqi Books) and Addicted to Oil: America’s Relentless Drive for Energy Security.


‘A rich and complex narrative … Ian Rutledge's careful prose underscores the essential trends and events, on both land and sea, that have made the eastern Mediterranean a critical setting for modern history. A must read.’
Ryan Gingeras, author of The Last Days of the Ottoman Empire

‘This masterly history covers the gradual encroachment of European imperial powers into the territories and waters of the Ottoman Empire over the long nineteenth century. A lively and informative read.’
Charles Tripp, author of The Power and the People: Paths of Resistance in the Middle East

‘Countless books and documentaries have been made about the First World War … [but] Sea of Troubles manages to take a fresh approach by focusing on the war’s little-known origins in European Imperialism.’
Syed Hamad Ali, The National News

‘[Sea of Troubles] is a compelling narrative that draws together the disparate enterprises of British, French, Russian, Italian, German and Austrian imperialists; and a shrewd overview that should encourage much-needed comparisons with the other great spheres of European imperialism. … In a series of crisply written chapters, Ian Rutledge provides details of conquests, annexations, ‘temporary occupations’ and protectorates, as well as the economic and financial motives behind them.’
John Darwin, TLS