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The Island in Imagination and Experience

Barry Smith

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From Treasure Island to Robben Island, from the paradise of Thomas More’s ‘Utopia’ to Napoleon’s purgatory on Elba, islands have proved irresistible to mankind’s imagination since time immemorial. Self-confessed islomane Barry Smith explores how islands bewitch us so, and examines the kind of human experiences that islands inspire.

Journeying all around the globe to take in the most fascinating stories of Earth’s half a million islands, this book considers the unique geography, politics and economics of islands and their cultures. It traces their singular place in literature, religion and philosophy, and disentangles the myths and the facts to reveal just why islands exert such an insistent grip on the human psyche.

REVIEWS OF The Island in Imagination and Experience

"Magisterial… A harrowing, enthralling piece of work that bears comparison with John Prebble’s equally dense, equally passionate classic, The Highland Clearances." Jim Perrin, The Great Outdoors

"A fascinating survey of the interplay between those little dots of land and the human imagination … Smith is excellent on the ways in which islands have always been pawns in geopolitical games…witty." Geographical

"Fascinating and wide-ranging." Island Review

"Nothing Barry Smith says makes me want to live on islands but if you want to read about them, he’s your man." Alan Taylor, Herald


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  • Rights: World
  • BIC code(s): RGBP
  • BISAC code(s): NAT045050

The Island in Imagination and Experience

About the author

Barry Smith

Barry Smith is, it goes without saying, an islomane. He has spent much of his 60-odd years at work, rest and play on islands all around the world – from Scotland’s Western Isles to Sicily, from Alaska to Cape Horn. To cap it all, he has completed a doctoral dissertation… about islands. He lives in northern Scotland and France.