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Praise for Barons of the Sea

Named by Amazon as one of the "Best Books of the Month: History," July 2018

"In Mr. Ujifusa’s telling, these men were daredevils, shrewd businessmen and dynasty builders all at once. Among the pleasures of “Barons of the Sea” is the author’s extensive knowledge of ship design and nautical history; the book is almost a beginner’s manual in sailing and is infused by a clear love for the regal triple-masters of the past."

-The Wall Street Journal

“Fast-paced and entrancing... recounting freak storms, improbable romances, and mutinies on the high seas....Ujifusa tells these stories with the verve of a natural dramatist.... Masterfully done.”

-The Christian Science Monitor

"Full of remarkable characters and incredible stories, Steven Ujifusa’s Barons of the Sea is a fascinating, fast-paced history of America’s clipper ship era. Highly recommended.” 

-Nathaniel Philbrick, National Book Award-winning author of In the Heart of the Sea and Mayflower

“Barons of the Sea moves as fast as a clipper ship at full sail. With a seemingly effortless command of the shared history of China and the United States in the nineteenth century, Ujifusa takes the reader on a rare and intoxicating journey back in time.” 

-Candice Millard, New York Times bestselling author of River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey

Fifty years before the robber barons, immense fortunes in the young United States flowed to great shipping firms, a brutal, sometimes lucrative, and technologically creative enterprise brilliantly chronicled by naval historian Ujifusa.  A vivid account of larger-than-life if not always attractive characters and a technological marvel that briefly captivated the Victorian world.

-Kirkus (starred review)

“As learned as it is entertaining. Ujifusa has brought the golden age of American maritime commerce to vivid life. Extraordinary people and the wondrous clipper ships they built fill its pages with both great stories and deep insight into what makes humans of any age tick.”


-John Steele Gordon, author of An Empire of Wealth and The Great Game

Barons of the Sea captures both the majesty of clipper ships and the heart of the bold men who wanted to see them go faster and carry more. This story of ambition, innovation, and technology in the age of swift-sailing merchant ships will keep you enthralled.”

-Dean King, bestselling author of Skeletons on the Zahara

Barons of the Sea is a riveting, raucous book. If you love the sea, it’s all here: dreams, money, ambition, and competition.” 

-Jay Winik, bestselling author of April 1865 and

Historian-in-Residence at the Council on Foreign Relations

“This crisply told story of the race to build the fastest ship in the world reads like a thriller, reminiscent of the best of Nathaniel Philbrick’s sea writing. It carries the reader along like a precious cargo on the high seas. I simply could not put it down.”

-Admiral James Stavridis, Dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University, Chairman of the U.S. Naval Institute, and former Supreme Allied Commander at NATO

"Barons of the Sea has the historical merits of a textbook and the narrative ease of a novel. Occassionally funny and always richly detailed, this book paints a comprehensive portrait of an American era all but forgotten in the days of next-day delivery."

-Sail Magazine, July 2018

“Chronicles an age of technological innovation, sharp competition, and the rise of new fortunes."


-Harvard Magazine, July-August 2018

"Ujifusa is adept at evoking both the monotony and danger of sea voyages, where long days subsisting on salted beef and hard tack might be disrupted by “a solid wall of water” bearing down on a ship. Weaving together details of shipboard life, supporting figures, and the revolutionary changes brought about by clipper ships, this tale of industry will appeal to seafaring and commerce enthusiasts." 

-Publishers Weekly

"Historian Samuel Eliot Morison called them 'the noblest of all sailing vessels, and the most beautiful creations of man in America.' But to that select group of merchants and shipmasters who employed the clipper ships in the China trade, they were also the source of vast profits—and sometimes catastrophic losses. In this deeply researched and boldly drawn account of the rise and fall of the clipper ship, Steven Ujifusa sheds dramatic new light, as well, on the lives, aspirations, and moral dilemmas of those daring Americans who traded with China in the opening decades of the nineteenth century."


-Llewellyn Howland III, author of No Ordinary Being: W. Starling Burgess…master of America design

“By casting new light on major players, Steven Ujifusa has illuminated a long-overlooked facet of the clipper era.”

-W.H. Bunting, author of Live Yankees: The Sewalls and Their Ships and Sea Struck

"It’s an incredible story, filled with fascinating characters...reads like a novel, paced like a thriller. Highly recommended!"

-Kermit Roosevelt, novelist and professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Pennsylvania

"I have no hesitation in recommending this book to maritime enthusiasts or even to general readers of history from any time or era. It ought to appeal to numerous subsections of readers, both because of the subject matter and the deft manner in which author Steven Ujifusa weaves the history of ships, merchants, nations, and trade all into one compellingly readable narrative."

-Brandon HuebnerThe Maritime History Podcast

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