Bloomsbury has acquired a book about the ancient history of the West after an 11-way auction.
Josephine Quinn's How the World Made the West is an expansive history of the origins of the West spanning 3,500 years.
In this approach to ancient history, Quinn will argue that what we think of as Western values – freedom, rationality, creativity, democracy, and tolerance – are not only or originally Western, and that the West itself is a product of long-standing links between a much larger and more varied group of cultures, from the Gobi Desert to the Atlantic Ocean, and from Scandinavia to the Sahara.
Michael Fishwick, publishing director at Bloomsbury, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights excluding Canada from Catherine Clarke at Felicity Bryan Associates after an 11-way auction.
He said: “Josephine’s proposal was one of the most exciting I’ve seen, opening up long forgotten lands of fable and glory, promising a book that will appeal to the imagination as much as the intellect. It was its very uniqueness that most struck me. I ended up feeling that if one read this book one would know everything you need to know about the ancient world. And Josephine herself is lovely, such a live wire and so brilliant with it; this book will be an immense pleasure to work on, and with luck there will be more to come.”
Quinn is associate professor in Ancient History at the University of Oxford, and has been teaching Greek and Roman history from the archaic period to late antiquity at Oxford for 13 years.
She said: “We are constantly told that the roots of Western Civilisation are in ancient Greece and Rome, but reducing the backstory of the West to a narrative that starts with the Greeks and Romans and then leaps to the Renaissance gives us an impoverished view of the past, and of our own world. There’s a much bigger story to tell, full of strange places, new ideas, and remarkable characters that feels very much at home at Bloomsbury and with Michael Fishwick: I’m hugely looking forward to working with them, and I’m very grateful to Catherine Clarke and everyone at Felicity Bryan for their guidance and support.”
Clarke added: “Bloomsbury have blazed a trail for big history with the bestselling The Silk Roads. They will undoubtedly bring the same publishing excellence to Josephine Quinn’s How the World Made the West, a book whose ambition, authority and storytelling verve has been recognized in the many rights sales around the world.”
Bloomsbury will publish the title in Spring 2021. Rights have been sold to Sara Bershtel at Metropolitan Books (North America) for six figures, as well as Le Seuil in France, Thomas Rap in the Netherlands, Critica in Spain, Klett-Cotta in Germany, Shanghai Dook in China, Intrinseca in Brazil, and Albert Bonniers in Sweden. It is currently under offer in Japan, Portugal, and Greece.