But Portugal's navigators cracked the code of the Atlantic winds, launched the expedition of Vasco da Gama to India and beat the Spanish to the spice kingdoms of the East - then set about creating the first long-range maritime empire.
In an astonishing blitz of 30 years, a handful of visionary and utterly ruthless empire builders, with few resources but breathtaking ambition, attempted to seize the Indian Ocean, destroy Islam and take control of world trade.
Told with Roger Crowley's customary skill and verve, this is narrative history at its most vivid - an epic tale of navigation, trade and technology, money and religious zealotry, political diplomacy and espionage, sea battles and shipwrecks, endurance, courage and terrifying brutality.
Drawing on extensive firsthand accounts, it brings to life the exploits of an extraordinary band of conquerors - men such as Afonso de Albuquerque, the first European since Alexander the Great to found an Asian empire - who set in motion 500 years of European colonisation and unleashed the forces of globalisation.
Roger Crowley read English at Cambridge. He has had a varied career as a teacher and publisher and is the author of three books on the history of the Mediterranean. He lives in Gloucestershire and now writes full time.
Regular price: £18.99
Buy Now with 1 Credit
Buy Now for £18.99
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Jim on 16-01-16
Conquistadors versus Sinbad
This is a joy because it's so well written and it also opens up a field of history which isn't much covered in the UK. The Portugese were stuck out on the atlantic coast of Iberia with very limited access to mediterranean trade so they were forced to hone their sailing and navigation skills voyaging south to Africa. Eventually this took them down to the freezing waters and mountainous storms of the south atlantic where they rounded the cape of good hope and found a route into the dazzlingly rich trading waters of the Indian ocean. The material about the voyages themselves is very good but if anything it's outshone by their adventures as they try to establish themselves in a wholly alien but very sophisticated culture covering South Asia, India, Goa, the east coast of Africa and beyond to Arabia. Think "Conquistador's versus Sinbad" and you're not far off. The cast of Portugese characters is brilliant because a large number of them come over as brilliant but unhinged psychopaths obsessed with personal glory, the acquisition of booty and (believe it or not) beard length. They also left enough personal correspondence that Crowley can paint believable charater portraits. He also acknowledges the awful impact that the Portugese had on the locals, who saw a relatively peaceful trading system thrown into uproar with the arrival of religious zealouts using next generation canon power to offset their small numbers. If you like this period of history I can't recommend this too highly. Personally, I listened to it as a double bill with Kirstin Downey's excellent "Isabella: Warrior Queen" which covers the same period in Spain and found it enhanced my appreciation of both books.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
By swheelie on 16-11-15
Fascinating story, rarely told.
Any additional comments?
Very well-written and researched. Almost exclusively told from the Portuguese perspective, but this is not supposed to be a well-balanced historical analysis - it's a story, so that's OK I suppose. Well narrated and engaging.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Damien on 19-04-18
More Roger Crowley please Audible
I try not to give many 5 star ratings but this was an excellent history and deserving of one. It was engaging in both content and narration. I had previously read about the famous voyage of Vasco da Gama to India and the decades of preparation that lead up to it but knew nothing of the aftermath. This book covers the journeys of Dias and Gama etc. as well as the immediate decades after. I found this fascinating and a topic I'll definitely read more about. Hopefully we'll see more Roger Crowley works appear on Audible.
By TemperPolk on 01-03-16
All the details I never knew
Awesome account of the pioneer Portuguese explorers. Impeccable research. The writing is captivating and I never was bored. I'm planning on reading other books by this author.