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Columbus: The Four Voyages

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  881 Ratings  ·  126 Reviews
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, ...more
Hardcover, 423 pages
Published 2011 by Viking
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James Thane
Nov 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Laurence Bergreen has provided in this book an exhaustive account of the four voyages made by Christopher Columbus to the New World. He demonstrates the great challenges that Columbus faced, both from the magnitude of the task that he assumed and from the scores of people he managed to alienate along the way. Bergreen also describes the enormous consequences that are still playing out today as a result of the initial contact between the "Old" World and the "New."

As everyone knows, Columbus has
Mar 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I read Laurence Bergreen’s “Over the Edge of the World-Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe” years ago. I looked forward to this author’s book on “The Great Discoverer”. Bergreen is a first rate historian and a compelling writer. He seems to have found a niche in delivering early maritime history epics and the early explorers of the New World are rich with drama. I like the Christopher Columbus that Laurence Bergreen has portrayed and feel that it is an accurate presentation of th ...more
Jason Golomb
Oct 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Laurence Bergreen has made a habit of crafting well-told modern historical narratives about some of history’s greatest explorers. Bergreen went world-wide with an exploration of the great world navigator himself, Ferdinand Magellen in "Over the Edge of the World". Then he took readers East to follow Marco Polo on his travels in "Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu". And now Bergreen comes closer to home as he travels from Spain to the New World with Christopher Columbus in "Columbus: The Four Voya ...more
"Columbus: The Four Voyages" by Laurence Bergreen is an excellent account of Christopher Columbus' four voyages from Spain to the Americas between 1492 and 1504. The book is structured around the four voyages. However, there is also a good amount of biographical information about Columbus and a decent amount of historical information about Europe and the Americas of the time.

Bergreen paints a complex portrait of Columbus: A brilliant, courageous navigator, but a mediocre administrator. A person
Apr 23, 2017 rated it liked it
A detailed and extensive description of the four Columbian voyages, which also provides a good insight in the mysterious man behind Columbus. A perfect introduction to the discovery of the America's

How is it possible, that the man who discovered America, after two years was sent back to home in chains from Hispaniola to Spain? How was it possible that King Ferdinand disdained him, after he discovered rich lands that would enable Spain to dominate the European continent for the century to come? H
Lewis Smith
Apr 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Christopher Columbus - heroic bearer of the light of civilization and Christianity to a world lost in darkness?
Christopher Columbus - genocidal egomaniac who raped and plundered a virgin continent and sold its people to slavery and destruction?

Or . . . something in between the two?

Columbus is one of the most celebrated and vilified men of history, and also one of the least understood. Bergreen's new biography separates the man from the myth, showing a Columbus who was neither an enlightened geni
Jan 13, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Really sort of poor. Rife with small mistakes and inconsistencies that are distracting even if you're not looking out for them. There was hardly any analysis or even synthesis of different sources; he really just told me a story, and I couldn't help but think that I'd have gotten more out of it if I'd just read Las Casas and Columbus's letters.

In fairness, I realize after finishing this that the author is a biographer, not a historian (even a popular historian), and if I'm going to read a book b
Mar 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012, history
Prior to reading Mr. Bergreen's book, my knowledge of Christopher Columbus was sketchy, and my opinion of him generally negative. I came away from it with a greater understanding and even admiration for Columbus as a navigator and explorer. The book is easy to read, and well worth the effort to understand this exceptional person and his lasting effect on our world.
Christopher Fox
Jan 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
A wonderful chronological narrative of a little-known explorer. I say "little-known" because although everyone in the English speaking world knows the rhyme about "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue" and credits him with discovering the New World, almost nothing else is general knowledge about the extent of his voyages, his personality, his navigational skills, his leadership style, the politics surrounding his life and work, his brother and son, etc., etc. There is much to be told and Berg ...more
Drew Zagorski
Nov 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, biography
Have read a couple of Bergreen's previous works and this one lives up the standard. A very well written narrative of the four voyages. Bergreen doesn't polish over anything in the telling of Columbus' expeditions and exploitation of the Caribbean islands. This should be required reading for high-school and university level history classes. Columbus is presented as an unsympathetic figure who was driven and motivated to make his mark at the expense of whoever was in his way. And as he "found God, ...more
Dec 01, 2011 rated it it was ok
Bergreen has written about the four voyages of Columbus in a manner that is accessible to the non-nautical history buff. There are several maps of the voyages and three photo insert sections with pictures of contemporary maps, paintings of some of the key figures, and illustrations from historical texts. It is obvious that a lot of research about Columbus and his voyages went into this work. However, the telling of the information often seemed to take place in a back and forth motion through tim ...more
Michael Harrel
Sep 28, 2013 rated it liked it
This is a very fascinating book. The author takes you on all four of Columbus' voyages and gives a great amount of detail into the traumatic life of the great explorer. That being said, the author does suffer from that predilection, seemingly endemic among modern historians, to judge the past by the present. For instance, the author repeatedly and condescendingly asserts that Columbus "refused" to consider that his new discovery was in fact a new world and not merely the coastline of China, whic ...more
Feb 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Podia parecer um desafio de tentar escrever mais um livro sobre Colombo, personagem fora do comum que consegue, 510 anos depois da sua morte, atrair odios e paixões, favorecer mitos e teorias secretas. Mas Laurence Bergreen conseguiu brilhantemente. Guardando o rigor do historiador, ele mostra atravês das quatro viagens a personalidade complexa do genovês, seu imenso talento de navigador, sua fé mística, mas também sua arrogância, sua ganância, e mesma sua crueldade. Mesmo para quem conhece bem ...more
Ed Terrell
Sep 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Wonderfully well written book of all four of Columbus' voyages filled with nitty-gritty details from firsthand accounts. It took Columbus 33 days to make the first voyage from Canary Islands to the Americas, and forever the new and old worlds would be inexorably intertwined. As Bergreen accounts "He created history as he went, as if time and place were two aspects of the same entity that he chased for 12 years, guided by Marco Polo, inspired by the bible, and driven by his lust for gold." Columb ...more
I had no idea that Columbus had four voyages after discovering America so I knew I had to read this book when I came across it. It sounded too interesting to pass up.

The pacing of the book was a bit too slow for me but I found the locales and history engaging. I've spent a fair amount of time island-hopping around the Caribbean so I was intrigued to learn the history of some of the places I've been to.

I was appalled by how often Columbus and his merry men took advantage of the local Indian peopl
John Behle
Christopher Columbus is an interesting man, not just a historical figure from our grade school textbooks. His saga, his quests, his delusions make for material that can beat any novel, any TV miniseries for intrigue, action and adventure.

This book a solid three star. I liked it.

Bergreen does no broad brush judging. He pens a balanced, cross referenced portrait of this complicated human. Columbus was first a naturally gifted global navigator. His knack for achieving targets across the Atlantic
Lynne Pennington
Sep 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really like this book, and it is one of the few that will go on my "keep for a possible second read" shelf. I read everything I can get my hands on about Columbus and the European discovery of the Americas and this was one of my favorites. Good character assessment of Columbus (an interesting character by any standard--even Las Casas had good things to say in spite of his general criticism of how the Indians were treated). The old description of "flawed genius" comes to mind. Most people do no ...more
Dan Gobble
What Columbus did personally to the natives in the Americas and unleashed on them in the name of Christ in the form of unabated colonialism is criminal. Murder, torture, enslavement, rape, lie after lie, deceptions, taking advantage of their innocence, unfair trade deals (hawks bells and glass beads for gold!!!), and on and on. How can one hold such diametrically opposed ideas of Christ, on the one hand, which should include kindness, love, patience, self-control, humility, etc., to the brutal o ...more
Rk Wild
Not much story-telling here as it mostly repeats prose from Columbus' and his contemporaries' journals, strung together with the author's pedantic and repetitive observations about how out of touch Columbus was with 21st century mores and geographical knowledge. Nonetheless, the book serves as a decent overview of the four voyages, even if it is a bit of slog at times.
May 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
I have read a handful of books on Columbus. Including his travel narratives. What I really enjoyed about this book is that the author was able to offer valuable insight to the reader as far as what may have been going on during the journal passages. Very informative.
Brian Durfee
Sep 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Fairly good. If you are a history buff this is a nice book to have in your collection. However, I loved Bergreen's Over The Edge Of The World and would recommend that book over both this and his Marco Polo bio.
Jul 04, 2012 rated it liked it
It was OK. Seemed a bit choppy. Over the Edge of the World is much better written.
Jerry Crispino
Jul 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
I did not know that Columbus made four (4) voyages! The politics of the Spanish Court were just like today! Backstabbing and betrayal.
Gary Schantz
Nov 07, 2017 rated it did not like it
With the majority of the books that I read, I give the book ample chance to get into a rhythm. I could not do that with this book at all.

After 29 pages, the only thing that was on my mind was the "Grand Khan" which was repeated so many times that it became a distraction. It seemed that every island that Columbus ventured to was in search of the Grand Khan which I understood the first time the Grand Khan was referred to but for some reason the author felt the need to repeat this time and time aga
Brian McWatters
Dec 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
I found this book engrossing and it contains a wealth of detail about the four voyages of Columbus, but the author gives inconsistent accounts of the same event more than once. One such event during the fourth voyage is the rescue mission led by Diego Mendez after Columbus became stranded in Jamaica. In Chapter 12 the author says Mendez and his men paddled in canoes for five days and four nights to reach Hispanola, and they neither ate nor drank for the last two days. Then in Chapter 13 the auth ...more
Jun 30, 2017 rated it liked it
I had never really studied the "other three" voyages that Columbus made after his famous (but navigationally challenged) discovery of Hispaniola. I thought this book actually makes Columbus a slightly more sympathetic character in parts, if only because it gives personal accounts of some pretty shocking encounters with the natives, and because it really goes into a great deal of detail into his motivations and his declining mental health. I did think the author took a few too many liberties with ...more
Eric Leeson
Nov 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very hard look at one of histories most noted explorers. Columbus' expedition to seek out China and India resulted in one of the turning point of World History. The consequences of which are still be being felt even today. The ignorance, the wonder, the brutality and all the misconceptions/assumptions that led to the present day are all laid bare in this novel. An excellent work I have greatly enjoyed Mr Bergreen's works and I thank him for providing me with a greater understanding of my histo ...more
Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Gripping account of the trials and tribulations that Columbus faced in navigating and exploring this 'New World' he discovered when he was hoping to find China. The author covers the cruel treatment of the native tribes, the obsession with gold and treasures for the Spanish Royals, and the mutinies by disgruntled Spanish over the course of his four voyages.
Nov 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very interesting book, very surprising, including the fact that Columbus made four voyages to the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. He never made it to North America; he always thought he was close to China. Yes his treatment of the native populations was horrendous, particularly in the later voyages. No he didn't believe the world was flat.
Clint Fandrich
Mar 11, 2017 rated it liked it
This book provides a great explanation of the purpose and intent of Columbus's voyages to the New World, along with his writings and that of his contemporaries. It is a relatively dispassionate review of the encounters between Columbus and his men under his command and the natives they encountered in the Caribbean, and also lacks some of the zeal behind Spain's religious and political motivations of the time. All in all, a good work by Bergreen and would recommend to anyone interested in the fir ...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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