Conquerors: How Portugal Forged the First Global Empire Hardcover – December 1, 2015
|New from||Used from|
Explore your book, then jump right back to where you left off with Page Flip.
View high quality images that let you zoom in to take a closer look.
Enjoy features only possible in digital – start reading right away, carry your library with you, adjust the font, create shareable notes and highlights, and more.
Discover additional details about the events, people, and places in your book, with Wikipedia integration.
Ask Alexa to read your book with Audible integration or text-to-speech.
Inspire a love of reading with Amazon Book Box for Kids
Discover delightful children's books with Amazon Book Box, a subscription that delivers new books every 1, 2, or 3 months — new Amazon Book Box Prime customers receive 15% off your first box. Learn more.
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Frequently bought together
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
“Excellent . . . [Roger] Crowley’s interpretations are nuanced and fair.”—The Christian Science Monitor
“In a riveting narrative, Crowley chronicles Portugal's horrifically violent trajectory from ‘impoverished, marginal’ nation to European power, vying with Spain and Venice to dominate the spice trade.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Brings to life the Portuguese explorers . . . perfect for anyone who likes a high seas tale.”—Publishers Weekly
“Readers of Crowley’s previous books will not be disappointed by this exciting tale of sea battles, land campaigns and shipwrecks. . . . Crowley makes a good case for reclaiming Portugal’s significance as forger of the first global empire.”—The Daily Telegraph
“In his previous studies of the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century struggles between Christians and Ottomans for control of the Mediterranean, Crowley has shown a rare gift for combining compelling narrative with lightly worn academic thoroughness as well as for balancing the human with the geopolitical—qualities on display here. The story he has to tell may be a thrilling one but not every historian could tell it so thrillingly.”—Michael Prodger, Financial Times
“A fast-moving and highly readable narrative, which covers the voyages of Dias and da Gama and the battles and conquests of Almeida and Albuquerque . . . [Crowley’s] detailed reconstruction of events is based on a close reading of the works of the chroniclers, notably Barros and Correa, whose accounts were written in the tradition of the chronicles of chivalry.”—History Today
Praise for Roger Crowley’s Empires of the Sea
“Crowley has an astonishing gift for narration; his account is as exciting as any thriller.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Crowley’s page-turner history . . . deserves to be this [season’s] most recommended nonfiction book. . . . Rich in character, action, surprise, what transpired in those few desperate weeks is one of history’s best and most thrilling stories.”—The Dallas Morning News
“[Crowley] offers exquisitely delicate insights and undulating descriptive passages. Yet in his descriptions of the battles, his prose is so taut and tense, it is impossible not to be caught up in the harrowing action.”—The Christian Science Monitor
City of Fortune
“[Crowley] writes with a racy briskness that lifts sea battles and sieges off the page.”—The New York Times
“The rise and fall of Venice’s empire is an irresistible story, and Crowley, with his rousing descriptive gifts and scholarly attention to detail, is its perfect chronicler.”— Financial Times
“A pleasure to read . . . a gripping story.”—Washington Independent Review of Books
About the Author
- Item Weight : 1.5 pounds
- Hardcover : 400 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0812994000
- ISBN-13 : 978-0812994001
- Dimensions : 6.5 x 1.36 x 9.55 inches
- Publisher : Random House; 1st edition (December 1, 2015)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #214,052 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Finally, this was a brutal era and Crowley does not shy away from the awful atrocities committed by the Portuguese (which ties in to their view that this was a continuation of the Crusades). One quibble with the book - I think he does somewhat downplay the violence on the other side. When the Portuguese arrived in India, large parts were under Muslim control - control obtained by violent conquest. And while the Portuguese pulled no punches, the fact that they were continuously able to secure supporters and allies from the locals demonstrates, I think, that the violence was not so one-sided. Still 5 Stars and a recommendation from me (for what that is worth).
Crowley heavily emphasizes the indisputable ruthless brutality the Portuguese used against Muslims, which originated in the Portuguese wars to free their country from Muslim occupation, without ever describing whether they suffered similar brutality under their occupiers and there might have been an element of self defense to their behavior. As Crowley does seem at times to subtly be judging them, this seems unfair.
Similarly Crowley describes the at times amazingly brutal Portuguese conduct in India and modern day Malaysia, but doesn’t describe how the humanely or not so humanely the inhabitants had habitually treated each other, making it impossible to put their behavior into an informative context. Is he willfully being unfair, subtly yet gleefully engaging in the leyenda negra? The reader can only guess. As life was long incredibly cheap in most parts of Asia, my guess is yes.
At least in the kindle edition, pictures of the sights mentioned in the book like the Jeronimos monastery, the fort in Hormuz and buildings in Goa would have been a significant enrichment and trivial expense, as would a brief description of the Portuguese occupation of Bahrain.
Lastly he describes priests on a ship celebrating “masses without consecration;” there is no such thing. Without consecration, there are prayer services but no mass ever. This makes me wonder if he and his editors missed or misunderstood other facts as well.
As a highly entertaining introduction to the history for readers with less than very high standards I would warmly recommend this book, albeit, as always, with advice to read it critically.
Top reviews from other countries
They were a remarkable crew, the Portuguese 'conquistadores'. Rather than the English term 'conquerors', the Portuguese word (the same as in Spanish) better captures the sense of (misguided) religious mission allied to merciless brutality and mercantile greed which inspired the leaders of Portugal's astonishing burst of imperialist energy in the Indian Ocean in the sixteenth century. Superior technology helped (far better ships and cannon), but this would have got nowhere without the political vision and iron determination of the Portuguese monarchs and sea captains. Vasco da Gama and Afonso de Albuquerque are the best known names, but there were a host of other remarkably tough, competent and self-confident 'conquistadores'.
The contrast with China is telling, The Chinese launched seven huge expeditions to India and Africa during 1405-1433, led by massive junks which dwarfed the biggest Portuguese ships of a 100 years later. According to Crowley, 'Gama's tiny ships, with some 150 men, could all have fitted inside one of Zheng He's junks'. But the Chinese intended no conquest, nor did they try to control the valuable maritime trade. All they sought was acknowledgement of Chinese superiority and tribute from local rulers. Even this political will in China died by mid-century; the Emperors 'strengthened the Great Wall and shut themselves in. Ocean-going voyages were banned, all the records destroyed.'
This left the stage to the small Portuguese state. For the 70 years roughly between 1450 and 1520 (despite the better known and far shorter voyages of Christopher Columbus), the Portuguese led the world in maritime skills and in discoveries which established contact between the equal cultures of East and West. They achieved this with unparalleled determination and savagery.
To take but one example: the capture of Goa. The far-sighted and fanatical Governor of Portuguese India during its most glorious and bloody phase (1509-1515) was Afonso de Albuquerque. He identified Goa as an excellent headquarters, given its position between two warring Indian states; its good anchorage; the fact that it had unpopular Muslims rulers and a majority Hindu population; its wealth from its role in the horse trade; it was a defensible and fertile island; and because he had a well-informed local ally in the Hindu pirate, Timoji.
Albuquerque attacked the city in 1510 and quickly captured it, but was forced to retreat to his ships after a counter-attack by the Muslim Sultan of Bijapur, but not before he ordered the killing all the Muslim prisoners. For three months the small Portuguese force was stuck in the river estuary, starving, unable to sail off due to the monsoon, and beleaguered by massively superior Bijapuri land forces. Men deserted and there was an attempted mutiny, but Albuquerque held on. Eventually, they were able to leave, only to return with new forces a mere three months later. Albuquerque's troops quickly re-took the city. The governor wanted Goa 'cleansed' (his own word) of Muslims, not least as an act of political terror which would send a clear message to all of India. In his own words as described in a despatch to King Manuel: 'Our Lord has done great things for us ... I have burned the town and killed everyone ... we haven't spared the life of a single Muslim ... We have estimated the number of dead Muslim men and women at six thousand. It was, sire, a very fine deed.'
This is very shocking to contemporary minds - but, thankfully, Crowley spares us the obvious judgement, leaving the acts and words to speak for themselves. He also forbears to say that this murderous ruthlessness, disguised and fortified by a burning sense of absolute superiority, is the norm for all empire-builders: Persian, Greek, Roman, Arab, Spanish, Turkish, Dutch, British (whose empire was decidedly not won in a 'fit of absent-mindedness'), French, Russian (notably in the Caucasus), American (in the 'wild west') and German (notably during 1939-1945), to name but the best known.
With just a handful of Portugese ships sailing into a new Ocean, with the possibility of unimaginable wealth from the trade in spices, one might expect the Portugese to keep their heads down, stay out of trouble, and grow rich from the spice trade. They did not. Instead the treated this new world with a belligerence and aggression that seems almost inexplicable. Almost immediately they turned to piracy and unprovoked attacks on the Muslim powers of the Indian Ocean. Accounts of their actions are remarkably similar to accounts of the Vikings in Britain: sometimes trading peacefully, sometimes barbaric aggressors, never satisfied with peace for long. There are horrible and inexplicable incidents that seem almost designed to provoke the local powers against them, such as burning one captured ship with its passengers on-board.
Under most circumstances, we might expect that a small group of barbaric pirates that invade a huge, rich, developed region would be quickly captured and brought to justice. But this is where the third remarkable part of the story emerges. Portugese naval and military technology were far ahead of any else in the Indian Ocean. When the merchants and kingdoms of the Indian Ocean tried to resist Portugese attacks, their ships were blow to matchwood by Portugest cannon. Portugese stone forts proved impregnable to attack by local Asian kingdoms. And small numbers of Portugese soldiers repeatedly defeated larger Asian forces. Just a few thousand Portugese were able to capture many of the most strategically important points along the shipping lanes of the Indian Ocean, which allowed them to close shipping to anyone who failed to pay protection money.
Mt Crowley tells this story of exploration, courage and armed-robbery-with-violence with great enthusiasm and skill as a story teller. It's a remarkable episode in history, and I intend to read more of Mr Crowley's books.
This book tells the story of the Portugal "conquistadors", far less famous then their Spanish counterparts but as ferocious and as successful. It describes how Portugal carefully built an empire in the Indian Ocean, mostly through the eyes of the Portuguese kings and the men who explored and conquered these seas and ports: Vasco de Gama, Almeida and the most famous Portuguese empire builder Afonso de Albuquerque.
Roger Crowley has a rare talent to describe vividly battles and sea engagements. He also explains clearly all the complexities of the trade and politics that then prevailed in the Indian Ocean.
A masterpiece, highly recommended.
Crowley gives a lot of detail some of which is very surprising, the fact that navigating to Asia by both was as difficult and dangerous as the journey to America was a surprise, I had always assumed the boats just hugged the coast the whole way but it turns out they had to be much more daring than that.
There is a lot of detail in this book but it is always kept interesting by the way Crowley fleshes out characters and the sometimes bizarre events and scenes of utter confusion, the idea that the Portuguese though Hindus were a degraded Christian sect is hard to wrap your head around.
It is surprising to think of how much power and wealth Portugal gained in such a small period of time but also strange to think that if they had not brought their anti-Muslim paranoia with them they could have gained even more and held it much longer.
An interesting look into a time that genuinely shaped the world.
Gripping, thoroughly enjoyable and tempts with plenty of information on the wider world of the time period. I will be reading his other books on Constantinople, Venice and the wider Mediterranean.