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Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe Paperback – Deckle Edge, November 2, 2004
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Top Customer Reviews
For most of us, the facts about Magellan have been boiled down to Spanish galleons, funny helmets, and the first circumnavigation of the globe. Bergreen recovers the context to tell a story of a religious man, driven by vision, ambition, and personal slight. Along the way he explains the strategic urgency of Magellan's quest and details the logistics of undertaking the voyage. He helps us understand why cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg were matters of national security to sixteenth century Europeans.
Bergreen leaves us with no doubt that Magellan was courageous. His Magellan is not evil, though the evils of the Age of Exploration are already evident in him and his men. As in other tellings, Magellan's death on the beach at Cebu is an obvious metaphor for the collision of East and West, but Bergreen leaves it to others to belabor the notion. He's much more interested in describing the local politics that set the scene for the tragedy.
With such rich detail and engaging writing, the story of Magellan comes to life as a vivid adventure and an enlightening history.
I was frequently distracted by the lack of good maps to supplement Bergreen's prose accounts of the Armada's route. Most saliently, the author or his editors have chosen to not include a map of the Strait of Maglellan itself. Instead there are some admittedly fascinating depictions of portions of the Strait and a NASA photograph from space that I found utterly indecipherable.
While Bergreen's long asides on peripheral topics often hit the mark -- such as his discussion of scurvy and its eventual decoding -- others, including some crucial to his account, fall substantially short. Despite the issue's importance, none of Bergreen's numerous attempts to explain the Pope's demarcation of Spanish and Portugese spheres of control (the Treaty of Tordesiillas) adequately clarify how it applied to the Spice Islands on the other side of the world and already explored by Portugal. Of course, this could possibly be the result of my own denseness; others may find his explication perfectly comprehensible. I did not.
Also in this category of incomplete clarification is the author's mention of the International Date Line and the fact of its non-existence in Magellan's day. He references this drawback twice and both times he is satisfied with saying that the Dateline now extends westward from Guam. Of all the facets he could emphasize, this seems an odd choice given that the Dateline does (and must) run for the most part North-South. The location of the Date Line is in fact a highly complex subject (see [...Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This was a great read that makes you keep at it. It tells all about the politics and personalities involved (though the names can be hard to keep track of). Read morePublished 7 days ago by Leon
Superb writing, a real page turner. I had no clue as to the level of navigational skills that was present in 1500. I was hiking through Portugal while reading this book. Read morePublished 1 month ago by T. Jamrog
A friend of mine lent me this book. I was so excited at first but after few pages , I was horrified at the amount of misinformation in this book. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Dr. Hany
Incredibly exiting, highly informative and really entertaining. Went through it in just a few days.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
This is a history that reads better than most novels. I enjoyed it very much.Published 2 months ago by tom shumate
Excellent, gripping account of Magellan's (half) circumnavigation of the world (who knew?). I'll never look a cloves the same!Published 2 months ago by keepmhonest