Charles Ingrao

Charlie Ingrao is a professor of history at Purdue University, where he teaches courses in modern Europe. He has published ten books in Habsburg, Balkan, and German history. Since 1996 he has focused primarily on ethnic coexistence and conflict in the former Yugoslavia, having made over forty trips to the war zones of the 1990s. He has given over a hundred public lectures to academic, governmental, and military audiences across North America and central Europe, and been a regular commentator for print, radio and television media, including The News Hour with Jim Lehrer (PBS). His latest book, Confronting the Yugoslav Controversies (2009) presents a common narrative of the recent Balkan wars prepared by an international consortium of Albanian, Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian and Western scholars.
Multiple Departures, 2014
12 days
Explore the treasures of Sarajevo and Mostar, and sail from Dubrovnik to Venice aboard the all-suite Corinthian
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Multiple Departures, 2014 & 2015
15 days
Stay in historic inns in Spain and Portugal and discover the spirit of Iberia's rich Roman and Moorish past
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Multiple Departures, 2014
9 days
Sail from Venice to Dubrovnik with stops in Split, Hvar and Kotor all aboard the all-suite Corinthian
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Multiple Departures, 2014 & 2015
17 days
Explore layers of history during this small group journey to Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, and the Czech Republic
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Q: It seems the Mediterranean or 'inland' Sea is comprised of a laundry list of 'regional' seas such as the Cilician (between Turkey and Cyprus), the Adriatic, the Tyrrhenian, the Liguorian, the Aegean, or the Alboran (between Spain and Morocco), among perhaps a total of 17 seas and a plethora of other designations. Do these divisions of the Mediterranean reflect its maritime history?
A: The Mediterranean is uniquely shaped for its size. It’s nearly a million square miles, yet is an almost totally enclosed space distinguished by numerous large islands and intrusive peninsulas. Because it is surrounded by land masses, it’s attracted many peoples to its shores who then engaged in commerce – and commercial competition. And, because it’s enclosed, it offered the earliest seafarers the ability to sail forth without even the most rudimentary navigational skills or equipment with no risk of getting lost. “Point-to-point” navigation between its exterior shoreline and the nearest islands and peninsulas promoted the early identification of regional seas that defined “local” communities, markets, merchants – and pirates. It wasn’t long before more adventurous seafarers like the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Greeks pushed the Mediterranean’s (business-sized!) envelope, after which the Romans united it on one political map.
Q: Which of the fabled port cities on this journey is the oldest? Who were the original settlers and what and with whom did they trade?
A: We cannot say for sure which port is the oldest. After all, we’ve identified human remains in Bonifacio from 6570 BC. We do know, however, that the Greeks had established themselves in Naples by the 8th century BC, while the Phoenicians had established France’s oldest town at Marseille two centuries later. By contrast, Venice (568 CE) and Dubrovnik (7th century CE) were rank upstarts.
Q: The Romans seem to have put their stamp on most if not all of these historic port cities. Which were most important to the trade and connectivity of the Roman Empire?
A: Barcelona, Marseille and Naples were all major ports during the Roman period, although none compared to the port of Rome and, later, its co-equal Constantinople.
Q: Was maritime trade particularly intense in/across any of the 'regional' seas, e.g., the Adriatic between Venice and Venetian-ruled Dubrovnik? Did these maritime connections rise and fall with any landward factors?
A: Much as the earliest trade developed within the Mediterranean’s many “regional” seas, they generally sustained the heaviest traffic throughout the pre-modern period. They were also susceptible to the control of regional powers, whether they be the notorious Cilician pirates (until they were quashed by the Romans) or Venice, which claimed a monopoly in the Adriatic until the 18th century (until the Austrian empire took control of both). The medieval kingdom of Aragon dominated the western Mediterranean until Ferdinand and Isabella brought most of its shores under Spanish rule. The Ottomans tolerated some Venetian competition in the far eastern Mediterranean, until the ocean-going ships of the Netherlands, France and Great Britain nudged them aside.
Q: Which of the port cities on this Journey do you consider to have had the most long lasting and spectacular role in the maritime history of the Mediterranean?
A: Although Seville wins the gold (and silver!) medals for its role in opening the Americas to Europe, Venice still retains the bronze – represented by the four horses that still look out onto the city’s St. Mark’s square. After all, it was Venice that diverted -- and transported -- the Crusaders to Constantinople in 1204, when they sacked the city and took over much of its empire. They never looked back.
Q: Given the historical significance to coastal cultures and civilizations of maritime trade in the Mediterranean, what is its significance today? Is today's Mediterranean maritime traffic mostly people moving, e.g., the Tyrrhenian ferries from Nice and Civitavecchia to Corsica and Sardinia, or is there a sizeable traffic in goods within the Med? (As opposed to through traffic due to the Suez Canal.)
A: Today’s Mediterranean reflects profound changes that have swept the post-industrial world. Although it continues to support extensive trade at a great number of ports, much of the cargo is now containerized, making it more feasible to transport goods overland by truck and train; nor is air cargo prohibitively expensive for smaller high-value items. But traditional commerce is only part of the story. Future generations will look back at the late 20th century as the dawn of mass tourism that attracts large numbers of visitors from around the world. Another feature of today’s world is migration. If the 19th and early 20th centuries witnessed the creation of nation-states, the last generation has become an age of demographic diversification. The Mediterranean has provided one of many avenues for immigration.
Q: After touring intensively the port cities on this Journey, how do we begin to comprehend the immensity of the significance of the Mediterranean to world history, bounded as it by three continents — Europe, Asia, and Africa?
A: The Mediterranean played an indispensable role in kick-starting the rise of European civilization. This is a contribution that we can date from a century or so before Christ to the end of the sixteenth century. By then, the three great European discoveries of gunpowder, the printing press, and America diverted the course of modern history away from the Mediterranean to northern and western Europe. Italy went from being the center of the western world to being a mere peninsula occupied by a succession of foreign powers, its wealth of Renaissance knowledge captured and spread around the world by the printing press, its economy circumvented first by Portuguese and Spanish, then by Dutch, French and British merchants. Today’s Mediterranean is definitely a vital part of the modern world, but no longer poses as its center.