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Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  6,994 ratings  ·  577 reviews
Ferdinand Magellan's daring circumnavigation of the globe in the sixteenth century was a three-year odyssey filled with sex, violence, and amazing adventure. Now in Over the Edge of the World, prize-winning biographer and journalist Laurence Bergreen entwines a variety of candid, firsthand accounts, bringing to life this groundbreaking and majestic tale of discovery that c ...more
Paperback, 438 pages
Published November 2nd 2004 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published January 1st 2003)
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Over the Edge of the World by Laurence BergreenIn the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel PhilbrickUndaunted Courage by Stephen E. AmbroseTurn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark    AdamsBlack Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West
Best Historical Travel Journals
1st out of 155 books — 88 voters
The Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonFreakonomics by Steven D. LevittIn Cold Blood by Truman CapoteA Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill BrysonGuns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
Best Non-Fiction (non biography)
166th out of 3,244 books — 5,250 voters

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Community Reviews

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It was a dream as old as the imagination: a voyage to the ends of the earth.

I could hardly believe this is a non-fiction book. The way Lawrence Bergreen tells it, it rivals the greatest epics of literature, with Magellan a mythical figure to rival Jason or Ulysses. Every word of the book is supported by contemporary documents and whatever speculation was needed in the absence of facts is balanced by presenting the alternative points of view. Bergreen convinced me with his very first book I rea
K.D. Absolutely
This is a must read book for all Filipinos. In elementary school, we are taught to memorize some facts about Ferdinand Magellan and I can still recall having to memorize the date when Magellan landed in Limasawa (Samar) and the 5 ships that were part of his expedition: Trinidad, Victoria, San Antonio, Concepcion and Santiago. Before reading this book, I could hardly recall the differenting facts that happened with each of them. This book described all those together with who Magellan was and the ...more
A great adventure by the daring men who first circumnavigated the globe. Interesting lessons that some parties ought to have paid attention to. For example, torture was commonly used for discipline on board ships in the early 16th century--one of the techniques used was adopted from the Spanish Inquisition--it involved pouring water into a man's nose and mouth to make him think he's drowning--sound familiar?

I had long known Magellan didn't complete the voyage--he was killed in the Phillipine Isl
Rex Fuller
Portuguese Navigator, first to sail around the world to establish a westbound route to the spice-rich Moluccas. That’s the schoolbook snap-shot of Magellan. Maybe you also know he didn’t actually make it. Killed in the Philippines. But do you know he had been a soldier who fought in Morroco, India, and the Far East, was many times wounded, and walked with a limp as a result? That he had actually gone to the Moluccas as a member of a Portuguese expedition sailing east? That he tried for years and ...more
Last Ranger
Over the Edge of the World
Laurence Bergreen

The Days of High Adventure!

Magellan had an idea---sail west from Portugal, somehow get past South America (through a hypothetical straight somewhere south of Brazil), cross the largest ocean on Earth and find the Spice Islands. No big deal. All he had to do was convince the king of Portugal to fund the expedition. When Portugal turned him down he tried Spain and the rest is history. Laurence Bergreen's incredible book takes you on this voyage into the
i was really impressed by this book. i'm not one for history, but again, i'd run out of books and a friend spoke highly of it and lent it to me. not being into history, i just knew that magellan was the guy who first sailed around the world, but this book delves deeper into the political, religious, and financial nuances that the captain general had to deal with, not only to get the voyage funded and underway, but to survive when dealing with "indians" on their own land. The book is based predom ...more
This is the third Bergreen book I've read. While all are good and recommended, neither this book on Magellan nor his recent book Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu meet the very high standards of his earlier Louis Armstrong: An Extravagant Life.

The lay out of chapters, divided every page or so, makes this a faster read than its 400 pages imply. While it's easily readable, it is not totally satisfying. I can't fully identify the problem in separating why this good book (4 star) shouldn't be a ver
History that reads like fiction -- I got a little bogged down in the beginning with all the Spanish and Portuguese names, but from the launching of Magellans' fleet, his three year odyssey is a fascinating, grim, and vivid portrayal of life at sea, discovery of strange lands and people, and the courage, vision, determination, and fallibility of the expedition leaders. Wonderful source materials (journals) provide amazingly detailed accounts of the dangers and adventures. My daughter gave me this ...more
An incredible story. If, like me, you are only vaguely familiar with Magellan's journey, I highly recommend this book. Cannibals, mutiny, starvation, orgies, murder, torture, scurvy, is all here.
Although it seemed as if I were reading a textbook from time to time, especially early on, I really enjoyed Over the Edge of the World.
After learning of the conquistadors while in elementary school, my teacher briefly touched on Magellan's Voyage. I figured that it must have been pretty cut and dried or we would have learned more.
Maybe our ears were too tender for such a bawdy tale or maybe the treachery and broken promises could have influenced us in a bad way. For whatever reason this tale
Jeffrey Rasley
It's not easy to write history for the general public, which is solid, informative, and an enjoyable read (although, I listened to it as an audiobook). Bergreen's narrative of the Magellan expedition's circumnavigation of the globe in the sixteenth century succeeds. The reader sympathizes with Magellan, but also comes to understand his faults as a commander. Bergreen writes well enough to make a complex historical character come to life. And the facts of the crew's three-year voyage involving ex ...more
Nancy Oakes
In 1519 Spain and Portugal dominated the seas, and spice, which the author states was the oil of the time, enveloped both countries in an intense rivalry for control of the spice trade. Why couldn't both countries share the wealth? Well, after Columbus had reported his New World discoveries back in 1493 to the Pope, both countries got into it over territory. A bit later the Pope divided the world into two parts, half belonging to Spain and half belonging to Portugal. I had to go and lo
Nov 20, 2009 Thomas rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sailbook fanatics
A quick and pleasant listen. The reader's voice doesn't really qualify him to work at SportTalk 101, but I thought he did a good job anyway.

I thought I knew this story, and in some ways I did. The book (probably the abridged version) contains many details not included in the usual narrative. I especially enjoyed hearing about the pre-voyage politics.

Near the end, the author declares that Magellan's voyage had a great influence on the world to come. Yet he gives no convincing arguments to suppo
Christine Boyer
Feb 24, 2013 Christine Boyer rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Early ships, ocean navigation, Spain vs. Portugal, world history teachers
Recommended to Christine by: John
This was really 4.5 - excellent! Often, when I read nonfiction, I notice in my reviews that I say something like, "great book, but not for everyone, just those really interested in...". Well, everyone should read this book! Once again, I was put back into the 1500's and reminded of how the world was so very different back then. Also, I am very impressed with this author, Laurence Bergreen. I see in his bio that he has written several nonfiction books on a wide variety of subjects from Louis Arms ...more
Fred Donaldson
This historical non-fiction book tells the story of Magellan's journey west to reach the Spice Islands, his discovery of the straight that bears his name, and the crew's return to Spain. Cue sarcasm< Major spoiler: Magellan dies. >End sarcasm. Who knew cloves were such an important spice? Those Europeans must have really liked pumpkin pie. Read a little too much like a history textbook for my taste. I thought the book was pretty dry and I ended up skimming parts. Some objectionable content ...more
i have become a huge fan of Dan Carlin's Hardcore History podcast and recently a friend downloaded the whole archive of his work so i had access to all the podcasts Carlin had done before i began listening. one of them was on the voyage of Magellan and he cited this book as a primary source.

the name Magellan was of course instantly recognized and i flashed back to the pleasure of social studies in grade four (five?) when we covered the adventures of the explorers. now i admit my enjoyment of thi
Greg Strandberg
I thought this was a very good book! It follows the journey around the world and you see the viewpoint of the crew. They really wanted to mutiny at times and this was not a walk in the park.

The world political scene and economic realities are all explained, but it's not like a lot of that textbook rubbish you read in school. No, this is what we call interesting.

You know, I'm going up there right now and...yep, I just gave this an extra star.
If you liked "Devil in the White City", "In Cold Blood", or any other non-fiction novel, then you'll probably really like this one. I have a fascination with times past, so this one had my interest before I even read page one. A great read about a very interesting subject, character, and time.
(If you don't know the story of Magellan, there are spoilers here.)

Where to begin? This book was terrible. The story of Magellan is interesting, but this author completely ruined it, in my opinion.

First, the author skips around in time so often that I found myself having to stop reading in the middle of a chapter just so I would forget the jarring transitions from being on the ships to loading them with swine before leaving port to suddenly being 1000 miles further along in their journey. Some p
Popular history at its best, Over the Edge of the World makes good use of the rich primary source material for Magellon's expedition and Bergreen doesn't stint on any adventurous detail.

It's a tricky feat to put out a readable history book that stands up under academic scrutiny. There's a lot of temptation to describe motives and recreate scenes that were never recorded, but Bergreen avoids this - for the most part. There were a few scenes that come off as fanciful; Cartagena and the priest cryi
Jeffrey  Sylvester
Overall, I thought this book was great. Having read Bergreen’s accounts of “Columbus” and “Marco Polo”, one of the things that struck me as different with Magellan’s voyage was the troubles he had culturally, politically and economically prior to leaving Spain. Given such obstacles, his success was amazing.

Of course the reader can also expect the usual socio-cultural excitement that characterizes these novels. The inner conflicts, conflicts between the crew, desperation, critical problem-solving
N.E. White
This review original posted over at

Over the Edge of the World – Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe is an illuminating read. Filled with wonders, betrayal, murder, navigational feats, culture, and more history trivia to wow your friends – this is a book worth a few weeks of your time.

The beginning chapters, in which the preceding events leading up to Magellan’s voyage are detailed, can be a chore to get through, but once you get past the list of players and their in
I enjoy accounts from the Age of Discovery. The encounter of Western Europeans with natives in other parts of the world is a meeting of aliens more interesting than encountering something found on another planet because of the similarities in the body even as what is considered normal in one culture is completely baffling to another. Just enough similarity exists for there to be expectations of the other - ah! but let's just see what happens.

Will that person who looks so strange and speaks in a
A very readable description of the historic circumnavigation of the globe by Magellan and his crew, 1519-1522. Well, some of them made it, anyway. In writing this book, the author benefited from the fact that there are numerous contemporaneous accounts of the voyage, at least one of which was quite detailed, so he doesn't have to imagine what happened. His writing style is lively, and he adds much helpful side information to help the reader understand the context of the times. He bogs down occa ...more
Gerald Sinstadt
How 260 men set out from Seville in September 1519 to find a new route to the Spice Islands, and how a mere 18 returned having completed the first circumnavigation of the globe after nearly 60,000 miles and three years is an epic story that has found a worthy author. Laurence Berggreen rewards the reader by marrying scholarly research with eloquent, readable prose.

There is no attempt to portray the achievement as heroic, astounding though it was. This is an account of hardship, disease, torture
When I was about eight I became obsessed with Magellan. I have no idea why as I was an uncurious kid other than my interest in WWII (all the Dads in town were vets including mine) and late-model cars, of which I had an idiot savant's ability to identify by the smallest detail (my sisters would actually try to stump me by cutting out a taillight section or fin from a magazine ad, but I would promptly respond, "62 Rambler Classic in the special trim edition. Obviously").

My Magellan kick abruptly
I read this book aloud with my husband. If you like a gripping, historical travel tale (like the River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candice Millard), you'll love this book. Besides the amazing story of how Magellan, a Portuguese, came to lead a Spanish armada to the Spice Islands and how this voyage changed the world, the book covers many other interesting historical areas. Included in this is the division of the world by the Pope into 2 parts (1/2 Portuguese and half Spanis ...more
More water! Every third-grader knows about Magellan, but this non-fiction read will introduce you to amazing incidents that have been carefully picked from diaries and journals of those on board. Coping with multiple mutinous acts, stormy seas, incompetent maps, terrible food and long, long days with only water as your friend, it is a wonder that anyone would sign up to be a sailor. A great book to bring history alive again and highlight the political struggles and intrigues of any good voyaging ...more
Mar 26, 2011 Adrian added it
The incredible story of Ferdinand Magellan's circumnavigation of the world. I was totally unaware of the politics and rivalry that plagued this expedition from its outset. It's astonishing that anyone made it home alive too. Much of Bergreen's history comes from the diaries kept by Antonio Pigafetta who we can be all glad survived so this history could be written. Magellan remains one of my heroes but not without qualifications. This book is an improvement I think on SE Morison's account which I ...more
Jimmy Tarlau
One of the most fascinating books I've listened to. There is so much in history I missed (or forgot). I never read much about the age of discovery and knew very little about Magellan (a Portguese pilot who had to go to Spain to get a commission for his voyage). I didn't realize he didn't make it back (did I spoil the story or does everybody know that). Their encounters with the peoples in South America, the Phillippines, and the Indonesian islands are quite entertaining. A lot of the writing is ...more
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Laurence Bergreen is an award-winning biographer, historian, and chronicler of exploration. His books have been translated into over 20 languages worldwide. In October 2007, Alfred A. Knopf published Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu, a groundbreaking biography of the iconic traveler. Warner Brothers is developing a feature film based on this book starring Matt Damon and written by William Monahan ...more
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“Magellan's thirst for glory, under cover of religious zeal, led him fatally astray.” 1 likes
“Of all the weapons the Europeans brought to the Pacific, guns included, none was more powerful and more capable of effecting lasting change than written language.” 0 likes
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