Christopher Columbus's 1492 voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in search of a trading route to China, and his unexpected landfall in the Americas, is a watershed event in world history.Read more...
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Christopher Columbus's 1492 voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in search of a trading route to China, and his unexpected landfall in the Americas, is a watershed event in world history. Yet Columbus made three more voyages within the span of only a decade, each designed to demonstrate that he could sail to China within a matter of weeks and convert those he found there to Christianity. These later voyages were even more adventurous, violent, and ambiguous, but they revealed Columbus's uncanny sense of the sea, his mingled brilliance and delusion, and his superb navigational skills. In all these exploits he almost never lost a sailor. By their conclusion, however, Columbus was broken in body and spirit. If the first voyage illustrates the rewards of exploration, the latter voyages illustrate the tragic costs- political, moral, and economic.
In rich detail Laurence Bergreen re-creates each of these adventures as well as the historical background of Columbus's celebrated, controversial career. Written from the participants' vivid perspectives, this breathtakingly dramatic account will be embraced by readers of Bergreen's previous biographies of Marco Polo and Magellan and by fans of Nathaniel Philbrick, Simon Winchester, and Tony Horwitz.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2011-08-08
- Reviewer: Staff
Columbus’s first voyage to the New World was one of the formative events of human history. But who was Christopher Columbus? Renowned historian and biographer Bergreen (Marco Polo) seeks to illuminate the complex motivations and historical circumstances that shaped the explorer’s life, and the inquisitive, stubborn, and supremely self-assured nature that led him to sail to the end of the world and beyond. Focusing on the lesser-known events of Columbus’s three later voyages and his disastrous, near-genocidal rule in Hispaniola, Bergreen’s captivating narrative reveals a man obsessed to the point of delusion with acquiring gold and sending it back to Spain, perpetually unsure whether he should convert, enslave, or annihilate the natives he encountered, and dismissive of the continent he discovered, forever hoping to escape America and find a quick passage to the riches of China and India just beyond the next wave. His last voyage ended in a shipwreck, and Columbus died in 1503 disgraced, exhausted, and demoralized, although the toll of his voyages was surely felt more keenly by the oppressed Caribs and Taínos than by the admiral himself. While sensationalist and lacking in scholarly rigor, Bergreen’s biography makes good use of the firsthand accounts of Columbus’s contemporaries, rendering a dramatic story that will appeal to general readership. 7 maps. (Sept.)