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Holy War: How Vasco da Gama's Epic Voyages Turned the Tide in a Centuries-Old Clash of Civilizations
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Holy War: How Vasco da Gama's Epic Voyages Turned the Tide in a Centuries-Old Clash of Civilizations

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  323 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
A sweeping historical epic and a radical new interpretation of Vasco da Gama’s groundbreaking voyages, seen as a turning point in the struggle between Christianity and Islam

In 1498 a young captain sailed from Portugal, circumnavigated Africa, crossed the Indian Ocean, and discovered the sea route to the Indies and, with it, access to the fabled wealth of the East. It was t
ebook, 560 pages
Published September 13th 2011 by Harper (first published September 6th 2011)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,230)
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Gary Patton
Holy War is a great book. It's an exciting, intiguing historical novel but is based on historically researched facts.

It's core thesis was new to me as one trained in history at University. It sheds powerful light on the historicity to supremicist Islam's current revival of their 1400 year old attempt to dominate the West.

It also is filled with brief, fascinating snipets of information about medieval culture, sailing and navigation, diplomatic protocol at the time, plus much more that adds to t
Frank Roberts
May 15, 2012 Frank Roberts rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Fascinating account of Vasco de Gama's trailblazing voyages around the tip of Africa and on to India. About the same time as Columbus, Gama's exploits were (at the time) considered more important, as here was a proven path to India, while it was yet unclear what exactly Columbus had found. Within 20 years of Gama's voyage, Portugal had broken the Muslim monopoly on trade with the exotic East, and had established a maritime empire along the coasts of Africa, Asia, and the East Indies. Within 150 ...more
Mar 25, 2016 Dergrossest rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Vasco de Gama, and not just because of his OG name ("OG" means "original gangster" for anyone white and over 40). Just like the greatest Conquistadors, he risked everything on a trip into the unknown where death or glory were the only options. I have been to his tomb in Portugal and can assure you that he is still bathed in glory.

This book is the story of how he found that glory, rounding the deadly Cape of Good Hope and securing Portugal's foothold in India. This was no mean feat and the
Aug 28, 2012 Jpp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Um livro bem escrito e muito documento. Mais que pelos fatos, a maior parte ja conhecidos, o trabalho do Nigel Cliff ajuda muito a entender a epopeia desse grande descubridor porque ele destaca muito bem dois pontos: o primeiro é que a historia do Vasco de Gama, como tambem do Cristovo Colombo, so pode ser entendidas quando colocadas na sequencia das cruzadas e da reconquista nao so iberica mas de todo o mundo cristao virado para Jerusalem. O segundo é que as riquezas esperadas e achadas na Asia ...more
Meenakshisankar M
Jan 24, 2012 Meenakshisankar M rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this ambitious and spectacular narrative, Nigel Cliff traces the background and significance of Vasco da Gama's adventurous journey to discover the spice route to India by sailing south along the African coast and turning east, a contrast to Christopher Columbus' attempts to sail towards the west and reach the Indies. Vasco da Gama was chosen and sponsored by the Portuguese king Manuel I. According to Nigel Cliff, the Portuguese interest in discovering the sea route to India was not just limi ...more
Relato fascinante das viagens da Era das Navegações, com foco nos esforços portugueses e nas viagens do Vasco da Gama. Muito legal saber os detalhes dos primeiros encontros dos europeus na costa oriental da África (sultões, palácios, tribos, ilhas!) & na costa Malabar indiana (soberanos hindus, cristãos indianos, comerciantes árabes, sequestros, enforcamentos, ataques à costa!).

Só não gostei dos últimos capítulos, já sem a figura forte do Vasco da Gama, que tentaram fazer um apanhado de riv
Nov 08, 2011 Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nigel Cliff’s Holy War is a reinterpretation of the explorations conducted by Vasco da Gama. Specifically, he tells the story of the deeply flawed, fanatically religious, but very brave but edacious men who first sailed around the Cape of Good Hope from Portugal to India, and in the process broke up the monopoly of the spice trade that the Islamic world had exercised over Europe.

To Cliff, the original motivation behind the Portuguese expansion was not so much trade and profit, as it was religio
Apr 04, 2012 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fun, well-written, entertaining, but frustrating book--I suppose that characterizes much of popular history. Some of the author's analysis is insightful and spot on, but the last chapter is just tedious an shallow. WAY WAY to much space is spent on the bloody details of Vasco da Gama's second and third voyages to India, but those bloody details do confirm the author's (and history's) conclusion that the Portuguese were vile, bloody, unprincipled, fanatical, piratical, etc. etc. in thei ...more
Feb 05, 2016 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Occasionally I get a book for free! (In this case bound galleys.) I think it is an interesting topic and put it on my "to-be-read" bookshelf (yes, and entire bookcase). This one has been languishing for five years and I shuffled it around and finally got to read it.

Really Vasco da Gama is amazingly interesting and Nigel Cliff has done a wonderful job of making the period come to life. He spends the first 100 pages outlining the history of the Iberian peninsula and how Portugal came to be (it was
Jun 08, 2014 Maureen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It's just too long and overly detailed for a hearty recommendation. That said, I pushed through all the way to the very gratifying epilogue. I was a good little memorizer in school, and can still recite Prince Henry the Navigator and Vasco da Gama as the key players in Portugal's short but significant time as rulers of the world's seas. But this book lays bare the motivation behind that quest for a sea route from Europe to India. Spices, I used to think. Turns out it was really all about Christi ...more
Gustavo Nascimento
Nigel Cliff mostra como o sentimento das Cruzadas iniciou desde a nação portuguesa às navegações e conquistas portuguesas. Traz detalhes das dificuldades nas viagens, batalhas, alianças e traições pelas quais Vasco da Gama passou (ora com habilidade ora com crueldade) nestas viagens que tinham um propósito muito maior do que apenas a compra das especiarias. Fica claro também porque a Descoberta do Brasil pelo pouco competente Pedro Álvares Cabral não foi muito valorizada na época. Recomendação m ...more
It's always amazing to see the details behind well known events. In school I was taught that the Portuguese voyages to reach India were driven by a desire to access India's wealth, end of story. And that's true as far as it goes but Mr. Cliff spends a great deal of time explaining how the Portuguese viewed it as a Crusade to flank the Muslims of the Middle East, link up with lost Christian empires in India and to cut off their cash flow. I guess two out of three ain't bad.

Mr. Cliff starts out wi
Brett Stortroen
Jun 30, 2014 Brett Stortroen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic read! Nigel Cliff's historical narrative flows with such fluidity that I feel as if I am reading a novel. The facts were correct based upon my own overlapping studies of this period. The religious and economic impetus for the early explorations was a powerful motivation for these daring missions. The search for the mythical "Prester John" was intriguing and well worth the coverage. The detailed accounts of the various journeys with cultural and military/naval aspects was quite illumi ...more
Catherine Woodman
Oct 31, 2012 Catherine Woodman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book looks at the other 15th century ocean navigational achievement. Columbus went off to the west in search of a pathway to India, and the very dear spices that were being imported from there and discovered unimaginable riches and a whole new continent. Vasco Da Gama took off in a southerly direction and circumnavigated the Horn of Africa. Neither of these feats had been accomplished previously. The Chinese has immense sailing vessels the century before and thoroughly explored the East Afr ...more
Oct 20, 2012 Nikki rated it really liked it
The book illustrates in rich details of de Gama's epic voyage and the events in Europe, specifically in Portugal that culminates in him being the first European to discover a sea route to India. It is epic for unlike Columbus,he did set out to find India, and found it he did. The descriptions are breathtakingly vivid. You can feel the calm sea-breeze, the salty air. You can imagine the fear of the sailors when their ships were tossed violently in the new uncharted waters with new unknown winds ...more
Jul 22, 2015 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book has been retitled for paperback as "The Epic Voyages of Vasco De Gama." While a great portion of the book does concern de Gama, the original title of "Holy War" is more accurate. Because of the title change, I spent the first 1/3 of the book wondering when the book was going to get to these Epic Voyages. It really reads like two books, one is an overview of the history of the Muslim vs. Christian conflict. And the second is the aforementioned voyages. I found the first part a little slo ...more
Jan 20, 2014 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
In 1498 Vasco Da Gama (and Portugal) succeeded where Christopher Columbus (and Spain) failed - he successfully navigated a sea route to India. And that's probably about all I learned about Da Gama in history class - and if there was more it was definitely just in the context of the "Age of Exploration."

Here the author takes the time to place Da Gama's voyage in the context of the centuries-long conflict between Christianity and Islam (which was how it was viewed at the time) and provides a lot o
Oct 05, 2012 Karlin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book - missed my train stop because I was holding my breath for de Gama to round the Cape of Good Hope. However, for me it was particularly interesting because I just read When She Woke. WSW (inspired by the Scarlet Letter) is set in the dystopian future where right wing religious zealots have taken over much of the country. The main character has to find her way out of the strict religious world she was brought up in and find a better more forgiving faith. Holy War is set in what the then ...more
Roslee Saad
May 14, 2012 Roslee Saad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sejarah, epub
Saya hanya mengenal Vasco da Gama sebagai wizurai Portugis di India yang membuka jalan ke timur. Beliau sebagai lanun tidak pernah terlintas dalam fikiran. Mengisahkan bagaimana Portugal dengan semangat untuk menguasai laluan ke timur menghantar siri ekspedisi mengelilingi benua Afrika hingga sampai ke India. Tarikan utama ialah rempah-ratus di samping semangat Perang Salib untuk menguasai kembali Baitulmaqdis. Portugis dengan kekuatan senjata telah menguasai lautan Hindi dan perdagangan yang se ...more
Jim Hofmann
Oct 16, 2014 Jim Hofmann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
in the U.S., we are taught alot about Christopher Columbus's voyage to the West and not too much about the equally important Portuguese thrust to the East. Some would argue that while the former was more major in a long-term view, the latter had greater impact to the time and De Gama achieved much more than Columbus during his lifetime. This follows the entire history of the Portuguese experience with navigation, inspired by their quest to re-open the East to trade and reinvigorate the Holy Wars ...more
Jan 26, 2015 T B rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating story of an adventure that eclipsed Columbus's discovery of America at the time. Cliff writes very well and keeps individuals at the center of the story.
H Wesselius
The general cliche for the motivation of European exploration is "God,gold, and glory" but not necessarily in that order. Nigel Cliff focuses on the God part in attempt to make daGama's voyages relate to a clash of civilizations and specifically -- holy war between an Islamic middle east and a Christian Europe. To that end, he assembles compelling evidence to suggest that God is the motivator but appears to neglect the other two even when the evidence could have led him astray and towards either ...more
Buddy Don
Mar 17, 2014 Buddy Don rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Reads like a novel but with too much emphasis on the crusade angle of discovery for my limited taste and understanding.
Apr 25, 2015 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting book about the role of the Portuguese in exploration.
Laura Jordan
For some reason, this book just didn't hold my interest like I thought it would. (It's telling that I stopped reading at certain points so that I could start and finish other books.) I was also bugged by the sweeping story-telling that seemed to have less in the way of supporting source material. The story about da Vinci dying in the arms of Francis I, for example -- which is told in the Epilogue -- is an apocryphal (and almost certainly fictional) story lifted whole-cloth from Vasari.
Andy Chirls
Jun 17, 2012 Andy Chirls rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent opening into the epic that is the age of discovery. The explanation of the economic motivations of the effort to conquer is excellent, and not too dry. The west now justifies its efforts to control the Middle East by saying that oil is essential to its "way of life." Five hundred years ago, it was all about spices. All of that killing and maiming so that the upper classes could have better control over the sources of cinammon and vanilla. Well written and engaging.
Alex Putnam
Twice as long as it needed to be, many instances of conjecture. It's like the author has a 50 page book in hand concerning de Gama but added 400 more pages and a half baked link to current events to boost sales. Those 50 pages were good though...
Jul 06, 2013 Tara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a well written and documented historical reference book. The author wrote this in a style of a regular novel leaving notes to the back of the book and explaining motives and ideas of the particular time period. It really opens ones' eyes to the complexities and simplicities of religion through the ages and how 'spices' prompted its own crusade. I highly recommended to anyone who wants to know the history of religion during Gama's era.
Jan 19, 2014 Tom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well written and illuminating account of Portugal's crusading designs to win fame and fortune by overthrowing moslem dominance in the Far East..
Mar 05, 2012 Ace rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating look at (relatively) recent history and how it shaped the world that exists today; the ascent of Portugal, the question for "Prester John" (the would-be, Indian Christian king), and the "discovery" of India and the Arab trade routes - Cliff covers a lot of ground, and unwittingly poses some amazing counterfactuals.
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