'They are a mythical people, almost an imagined people, ' writes Mark K urlansky. Settled in seven provinces in a corner of France and Spain i n a land that is marked on no maps except their own, separated by the daunting Pyrenees Mountains, the Basques are a nation without a countr y with an ancient and dramatic story that illuminates Europe's own sag a. Signs of their civilisation exist well before the arrival of the Ro mans in 218 BC; many believe they are the original Europeans. Their an cient and forbidden tongue - Euskera - is equally mysterious: it is re lated to no other language on earth. Yet the Basques' contributions t o the world have been clear and remarkable. They have always been a pa radoxical blend of inbred tradition and cutting-edge internationalism. Prior to and during the age of exploration, they connected Europe to North and South America, Africa and Asia, and one of their own, Juan S ebastian de Elcano, was the first man to circumnavigate the globe in 1 522. Their influence has been felt in religion and in business: they w ere among the first capitalists, and later led the Industrial Revoluti on in southern Europe. Mark Kurlansky's passion for the Basque people and his exuberant eye for detail shine throughout. The book blends po litical, literary, and culinary history into a rich and heroic tale.