Synopses & Reviews
In 1992 we mark the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's first voyage to the New World. But for most of us, this pivotal figure remains as distant and mysterious as the New World must have seemed to him. What sort of man was Columbus? Was he a zealous crusader or a mystic seer, as various legends have it, or an embodiment of bourgeois capitalism, as new interpretations claim? In this concise, authoritative biography, Felipe Fernandez-Armesto provides us with a striking view of the first European to explore America, going beyond popular misconception to reveal the real individual behind the romantic fictions.
The Columbus that emerges here may differ from the one described in text books and speculative fantasies, but Fernandez-Armesto's Columbus derives from thorough research into verifiable sources. Fernandez-Armesto paints a new picture of an ambitious, socially awkward parvenu, an autodidact who was intellectually aggressive but easily cowed, an embittered escapee from distressing realities, an adventurer inhibited by fear of failure. The author carefully places Columbus in the context of his society, describing in detail both the explorer's Genoese roots and the culture of his adopted Castillian home. We gain insight into the workings of Ferdinand and Isabella's royal court, as we watch him struggle to attain patronage for his ambitious travel plans; we learn about the role of contemporary cartography in the formation of Columbus's vision of the world through an analysis of marginal notes in his library. And of course we accompany him on his four trips to the New World, watching his reactions to these newly discovered lands and people, following his unsuccessful career as a colonial administrator in Hispaniola, and charting his growing religious obsessions. Fernandez-Armesto assesses the preservation and transcription of Columbus's writings through the work of the 16th century Spaniard Bartolome de Las Casas, and sets the voyages within the context of the ongoing discovery of North and South America.
Complete with eight pages of illustrations and a chronology of Columbus's life and work, this biography provides a compact and up-to-date guide to the explorer and his voyages. Written by an acknowledged authority on the legendary explorer, this book will be a standard for people wanting to separate the facts from the fantasy.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -210) and index.
About the Author
About the Author -
Felipe Fernandez-Armesto is a Fellow of St. Antony's College, Oxford University, and is the author of The Spanish Armada.