Columbus The four voyages

Laurence Bergreen

Book - 2011

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 un...canny 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 this book the author re-creates each of these adventures as well as the historical background of Columbus's celebrated, controversial career.

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Subjects
Published
New York : Viking 2011.
Language
English
Physical Description
xvii, 423 p., [48] p. of plates : ill. (some col.), maps (some col.) ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN
9780670023011
0670023019
Main Author
Laurence Bergreen (-)
  • Prologue : October 1492
  • Discovery. Thirty-three days ; Son of Genoa ; Shipwreck ; "The people from the sky"
  • Conquest. River of blood ; Rebellion ; Among the Taínos
  • Interlude. The Columbian exchange
  • Decadence. "A great roaring" ; Roldán's revolt ; "Send me back in chains"
  • Recovery. El Alto Viaje ; Castaways in paradise ; February 29, 1504
  • Columbus Day.
Review by Booklist Reviews

After 500 years, laymen and even historians find it difficult to remain neutral while describing the personality, achievements, and legacy of Columbus. He was a visionary and a confused bumbler. He fostered the meeting of two worlds, and he promoted slavery and genocide. He was willing to challenge accepted orthodoxies, and he was a narrow-minded religious fanatic. In this scrupulously fair and often thrilling account of of his four voyages to the "New World," Bergreen reveals Columbus as brilliant, brave, adventurous, and deeply flawed. This is more than a personality study, and Bergreen illustrates the character of Columbus through his actions, avoiding facile attempts to analyze deep psychological motivations. The voyages, especially the last two, are the stuff of great adventure, and Bergreen effectively conveys the sense of wonder, danger, and exhilaration that accompanies voyages of discovery. He also portrays the slow personal deterioration of Columbus as he became increasingly rigid, frustrated, and prone to delusion. A superb reexamination of the character and career of a still controversial historical giant. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

After encountering the Americas in 1492, Columbus made three more voyages, aimed at showing that he could whip together a crew bound for China and get the heathens there converted. Those voyages failed in many ways but demonstrated that Columbus was a skilled, gutsy sailor. Having assayed other bold explorers (Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe has sold 200,000 copies), Bergreen seems like the right man to bring us up to speed on Columbus. Officially publishing on Columbus Day, though it's on sale beforehand, this seems like good, serious reading. With a six-city tour. [Page 60]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

The story of Columbus's first voyage to the New World is an oft-told tale that ends triumphantly for Columbus and with utter devastation for the natives he encountered. Bergreen (Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu) tells the exciting story of all four voyages, a narrative with castaways, mutineers, shipwrecks, and warfare, that shows Columbus to be vain and naive. Columbus believed that titles gave him legitimacy and authority, only to discover that what power he had quickly evaporated with each successive voyage. Even Isabella I, who had been Columbus's primary patron in the Spanish court, on her deathbed rejected his efforts to secure funding for a fifth voyage. VERDICT This is a well-written, even gripping book, but it has limited research value since it lacks a detailed scholarly apparatus. However, lay readers will find it entertaining and enlightening. Those interested in a work that contextualizes Columbus's voyages should instead consider Hugh Thomas's Rivers of Gold: The Rise of the Spanish Empire, from Columbus to Magellan. [See Prepub Alert, 3/28/11.]—John Burch, Campbellsville Univ. Lib., KY [Page 110]. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

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.) [Page ]. Copyright 2011 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

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 this book the author re-creates each of these adventures as well as the historical background of Columbus's celebrated, controversial career.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Chronicles the voyages of Columbus after his famous 1492 landfall in the Americas, explaining how they reflected Columbus's uncanny navigational skills before taking an extreme toll on his health and personal circumstances.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

The award-winning author of Over the Edge of the World chronicles the lesser-known voyages of Columbus after his famous 1492 landfall in the Americas, explaining how they reflected Columbus's uncanny navigational skills before taking an extreme toll on his health and personal circumstances.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

From the author of the Magellan biography, Over the Edge of the World, a mesmerizing new account of the great explorer. 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.