'Pleasure beckons at the water's edge.' With these words, Eric Chaline celebrates the physicality and sensuality of swimming - attributes that might have contributed to the evolution of the human species.
Chaline's comprehensive account surveys swimming from prehistory to the present day.
He decodes the earliest human myths to reconstruct swimming's prehistory and history; he explains its role in religious rituals, trade and manufacture, warfare and medicine, and chronicles its transformation into the leisure activity and competitive sport that together have made it the most commonly practiced physical pastime in the developed world.
Swimming is now a cultural marker that stands for eroticism, leisure, endurance, adventure, exploration and excellence, and latterly, like other disciplines that use repetitive movements to discipline the body and still the mind, it is held by wild swimmers to be a lane to spiritual awakening - one stroke at a time.
There is no single story of human swimming, but many currents that merge, diverge and remerge towards a future in which our survival may depend on our ability to adapt to life in an aquatic world.