Conquerors: How Portugal Forged the First Global Empire

Here we are–our first book of the last month of the year. As we discussed yesterday, this will be one of the few male-authored books I am reviewing in December.

As remarkable as Columbus and the conquistador expeditions, the history of Portuguese exploration is now almost forgotten. 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.

The Goodreads’ summary goes on in very flowery, exciting language. I’ve cut it short. Because while, yes, they did manage to find the bend around the bottom of Africa and make it to the Indian Ocean, the rest of the story is not as delightful as the book propaganda would like us to think. But that is how history usually goes, isn’t it?

Maybe it’s the language of the title:  I no longer see conquering a country as a positive thing. There is just too much human loss. And I wasn’t wrong. From the moment the Portuguese rounded the Cape of Good Hope (good for whom, I wonder), they started slashing into every Muslim they met like sugarcane. The quest to find the other side of Africa became a Christian vs Muslim crusade.

I don’t think it was the original purpose of Crowley’s history, but Conquerors servers as a reminder that the Christian/Muslim conflict has been going on for hundreds of years–and Christians are often the bad guys. In the 1500s, they would gag Muslims with a stick and a chunk of bacon fat. But….maybe we shouldn’t give Trump and his cronies any fresh ideas.

As for the book itself, it isn’t anything that is going to jump out at me, but it’s a well-researched history. It’s just a bit “Date, Name, Detail. Date, Name, Detail.” Fine learning material, but I was ready for a break at the end of each chapter. I’ll give it 2 dragons.

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Netgalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review. Releases Dec. 1

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