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Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus Paperback – October 12, 1991


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Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus + The Four Voyages: Being His Own Log-Book, Letters and Dispatches with Connecting Narratives.. (Penguin Classics) + A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 680 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; Reissue edition (October 12, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316584789
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316584784
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 1.6 x 6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #103,106 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

''A splendid achievement and a lasting monument of American scholarship. The style is delightful and flowing, and the whole work is replete with beauty and humor . . . [A] supremely valuable contribution to the literature on Columbus.'' --New York Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

SAMUEL ELIOT MORISON, Rear Admiral, United States Naval Reserve (1887-1976), was an American historian noted for his works of history, especially maritime history, that were both authoritative and highly readable. At various times he held teaching positions at Berkeley, Oxford, and Harvard. A sailor as well as a scholar, he garnered numerous literary prizes, military honors, and national awards from both foreign countries and the United States, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His Admiral of the Ocean Sea won the 1943 Pulitzer Prize for Biography. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

First off, let me say that the book is well worth reading.
givbatam3
"Admiral of the Ocean Sea", Samuel Morison's 1942 Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Christopher Columbus, is still considered by many to be the best there is.
Stephen Balbach
Morison gives his readers the facts they need to form their own opinion of Columbus.
Brian Scott MacKenzie

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 54 people found the following review helpful By STEPHEN MATTOX on March 31, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This was one of the most enjoyable biographies I've read. The most distinguishing thing about this book of course is the fact that Morison recreated the voyages before his writing the book. This recreation lends credibility to his writing. But more than that, it makes much of the book, particularly those parts at sea, seem as if the reader is experiencing the voyages through the person of Columbus. Not only the particulars of what he saw, but the smells of land breezes, the feel of the trade winds, the motion of the boat. Morison's obvious love of the sea and of sailing work very much in his favor. Another strength is the historical perspective carefully provided by Morison. Knowing what was going on with Catholic Spain during Columbus' life (the defeat of the Moors, the expulsion of the Jews, political intrigue and conflict involving France, England, Portugal, and others) helps to explain the motivations of Columbus and his contemporaries. I was a bit wary of a 60-year old book, Pulitzer or no Pulitzer, in light of the more recent reconsiderations of Columbus. Some people would have us believe that the voyage of 1492 was some sort of original sin inflicted upon the paradise that was the western hemisphere. But in his preface, Morison makes it clear that he is concerned with Columbus, the "man of action", and is leaving analyses of his motivations to others. And at any rate, Morison's sensibilities are very much in tune with those of the year 2000. He makes few apologies for Columbus and takes him to task where warranted, particularly for his treatment of the natives. One chapter, "Hell in Hispaniola", is almost exclusively devoted to this area.Read more ›
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By givbatam3 on October 11, 2007
Format: Paperback
Morison wrote this fine book in honor of the 450'th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of America. I think Morison would be surprised at how people's perceptions of the event have changed in the decades since.
First off, let me say that the book is well worth reading. Morison was a man of the sea himself and he sailed in the same waters as Columbus. We see in the book how Columbus was a master seaman as well as being a great salesman, but on the other hand he was a poor geographer and even worse politician. The Portuguese were right in turning down his proposal for the Enterprise of the Indies, their geographers knew that Columbus was way off the mark regarding the distance from Europe to East Asia. In any event, they were making good progress down Africa and they felt it was just a matter of time until they found the bottom of the continent and the entrance to the Indian Ocean.

I would now like to address the change in fortune for Columbus's reputation.

(1) People now like to say that he didn't "discover" America. One reason is because there were already people (the American Indians) there, but that is simply world-games. Of course he "discovered" it, no one in Europe or Asia knew about it, and the Indians didn't know about Europe or Asia either. Secondly, the fact that Columbus wasn't necessarily the first to cross the Atlantic doesn't change anything. The Vikings who reached North America simply viewed it as another Arctic land and had no idea of the geographical relationship of this new continent to the rest of the world. In any event, they didn't exploit their discovery in the long run, only Columbus's voyage led to that.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Rick Hunter on December 13, 1998
Format: Paperback
Samuel Eliot Morison's Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus won the Pulitzer Prize in 1942, and does not seem the least dated 55 years later. What sets Morison's biography apart from most is that Morison himself is a sailor, and he draws on his own knowledge of ships, currents, and men to bring Columbus to life. Morison (and, through him, his reader) is constantly amazed at how good Columbus was at dead reckoning in unknown waters, and what a superb handler of ships and men he was. However, this is not a hagiography, and Morison does not shy away from Columbus' lapses in judgment (to the end, he convinced himself that he had reached the Indies) and mistakes. Six years ago, of course, was the 500th anniversary of Columbus' initial voyage, and I remember a deluge of articles and books -- mostly attacking dead white European males -- being published to note the event. I suspect that Morison's biography was roundly attacked at that time. I would be interested to dig up those books and articles to see what they say. For me, however, regardless of the current fashions or trends of scholarship, Morison's biography remains a marvelous tale, stunningly told. I recommend this book highly!
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Frederick L. Merritt Jr. on July 28, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I knew a fair amount about the first voyage of Columbus from the perspective of the political and the historical but very little about the voyage itself or the man Columbus. The Admiral of the Ocean Sea is an excellent source for information on all of the voyages themselves as well as the general information from a historical point of view.
Morison does an excellent job of describing the man Columbus. While many people in our own century will have a very difficult time seeing him as a man of morals due to the manner in which treated non-European people, Morison shows us a picture of a man consumed with the understanding of morality in his day. The lengths that Columbus went to attain piety are rarely taught or written of today and I found the sections dealing with these very informative.
I also found the description of the sailing vessels and of the conditions of the sailors to be quite interesting. The majority of the material dealing with sailing itself (a good part of the book) I lacked sufficient understanding to really enjoy. I know little of navigation and little of astronomy so celestial observations are bit beyond me. However I was able to understand in general terms the result (ie Columbus was off a lot or a little)
While I had learned a great deal about the dealing of later explorers with the Indians I knew little of the first explorers relations with them. Naturally what I learned about the Spaniards did not surprise me. What did surprise me was how many times traveling along the various coasts the Spaniards met with hostile locals. True most of the Indians were friendly to their own detriment but some did indeed show a little fight.
Also �The Admiral of the Ocean Sea� does a really good job of placing the events of the discovery of America into their proper context.
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