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Pathfinders: A Global History of Exploration

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High adventure and grand history from a master of the craft in a beautifully illustrated volume.

With characteristic flair, Felipe Fernández-Armesto gives us an entertaining and insightful history of world exploration. Presenting the subject for the first time on a truly global scale, Fernández-Armesto tracks the pathfinders who, over the last five millennia, lay down the routes of contact that have drawn together the farthest reaches of the world. From the maritime expeditions connecting Queen Hatshepsut's Egypt to the exotic land of Punt in the second millennium BCE, through the merchants and missionaries of the ancient Silk Roads and the great Iberian explorers of the fifteenth century, to the nineteenth-century explorations of the polar regions, interior Africa, North America, and the South Pacific, Fernández-Armesto spins a grand narrative full of character and story. Deftly embedding these explorations in the cultures, politics, and technologies of their times, he creates a history with unusual depth and breadth. Here is an intellectual adventure as rewarding as it is thrilling. 16 pages of color; 48 maps; 44 illustrations.

432 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2006

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About the author

Felipe Fernández-Armesto

104 books152 followers
Felipe Fernández-Armesto is a British professor of history at the University of Notre Dame and author of several popular works, notably on cultural and environmental history.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 43 reviews
Profile Image for Will Ansbacher.
315 reviews88 followers
July 8, 2020
“Passion”, which Fernandez-Armesto says is what drove him to write Pathfinders, is not really evident in this work. So although it is full of intelligent and thought-provoking observations – I hadn’t realized, for example, that maritime exploration had almost always been limited to the direction against the prevailing winds (because it was at least as important to get home as to get anywhere new) – it has a rather academic flavour and can be a bit dense in places. Better than 3 stars though.

He starts from the very earliest days of human life with the “divergence” of peoples spreading out across the world, before launching into all the “convergences” that resulted from intentional exploration, beginning many thousand years BC with the first agricultural societies around Mesopotamia. In later chapters he deals with the development of the Silk Roads between China and Eurasia, the 15th century Portuguese and Spanish voyages, and so on right to the present day (or at least the last century when exploration of the known world was essentially complete).

Also, he says, he wanted to limit his narrative to this:
“this book has a bigger objective and one we can accomplish if we stick to it: to trace the infrastructure of the history of the world – the routes that put the sundered peoples back in touch with each other after their long history of divergence and enabled them to exchange objects and ideas”
- which may explain the absence of certain explorers that, according to some other reviewers, should have been included.

But this is still a huge landscape, and in attempting to be so complete he has had to skim over so much that it’s at once excessively detailed but still feels like it misses too much.
For instance, he devotes many pages to the routes that the US railway pioneers explored from the Atlantic to the Pacific yet just one line to the corresponding trans-Siberian crossing.
Part of the problem may also be that he’s at his best on the renowned sea voyagers of the 15th to 18th centuries while the voyagers from earlier centuries are necessarily anonymous, so it’s impossible for him to treat every era in a similar way. And despite his intended limitation, he has thrown in a number of what one might call re-interpretations of earlier voyages - ones that follow in others’ footsteps – and explorations such as those to the Poles where there were certainly no “sundered peoples” to meet the explorers.

In short, a bit daunting and uneven, though Fernandez-Armesto is a good demolisher of myths and I did like one of his concluding remarks …
“An inescapable lesson of this book is that exploration has been a march of folly in which almost every step forward has been the failed outcome of an attempted leap ahead.”

Profile Image for GoldGato.
1,157 reviews40 followers
December 5, 2014
The ocean to be cross'd, the distant to be brought near,
The lands to be welded together.

-Walt Whitman

The stories of the great explorers have always enchanted me. I assumed they went off on their wild adventures simply for the heck of it all, but as this book makes clear, the main reason for the beginning of the 'Pathfinders' was to overcome the adverse balance of trade. Because China and the lands of the Indian Ocean provided silks and spices and gems, the Romans and later Europeans were the end-consumers with a burning desire to control the sources.

This book looks at exploration from the ancient times, providing chapters on every corner of the globe. Each discovery is presented chronologically, so that we see mankind grow braver as the centuries roll on. The Polynesians were quite exceptional, as they developed a system of sailing against the wind, which sounds crazy. However, by doing this, the masters of the currents could ensure the ability to return quickly with the wind, which could be life-saving. Hawaii was a one-off discovery, which allowed its culture to develop in isolation until Mr. Cook came along.

What makes an explorer go through great perils? The Norwegians felt the answer was in man's threefold nature. One motive is fame, another curiosity, and a third is lust for gain. Magellan's famous voyage was barely survived (minus the leader) thanks to scurvy and absolute fear. Franklin's men died in the frozen wastes of the Arctic. Chinese explorers fought with dragons who spit wind. Mysterious demons were blamed for lost paths and treacherous reefs.

"We are in an unknown world and we stop for...blubber."

The book shows there were always disputes about priorities. Find new lands or exploit new lands. Or do both. Propaganda was used to build up dreams of glory, such as naming the southern tip of Africa, the 'Cape of Good Hope'. As anyone who has ever sailed in those wild seas filled with huge rogue waves would know, the name was a misnomer. The greatest ocean in the world was named the 'Pacific' so that the next set of explorers would believe it was a benevolent and glassy field of blue.

Patriotic pride exempts explorers from sanity.

The author does not hold back on occasional slipped-in thoughts about various countries and explorers.

1. "Cortes is overrated as a conqueror."

2. "The English tend to be self-congratulatory about their maritime traditions."

3. "England was a realm of lightly gilded savagery and serious underachievement."

4. The Lewis and Clark Expedition was a "heroic failure".

I am right in the middle as to my thoughts about this publication. The research is there and I did rather enjoy some of the revisionist razzing. But the writing feels academic and the weird orientations of the maps...disoriented me. I had to keep turning the book around to get a feel as to where I was when a map appeared. Still, I could not stop reading, hearing the sirens much as the sailors heard the seas.

"Stop staring at the sail and steer by the feel of the wind on your cheeks."

Book Season = Summer (broiling sun, no water, no land)

Profile Image for Mark.
50 reviews
January 31, 2014
While this is mostly a good book with a very broad sweep I have several disagreements with some of the conclusions of the author. Three to be exact. First, he dismisses Sir Francis Drake as an insignificant explorer. While I recognize Drake's primary historical importance lies outside of his explorations, he did discover Drake's Straight and explored the west coast of North America and left invaluable information about the Native Peoples of northern California. Secondly, the Lewis and Clark Expedition he judges a failure. Despite their mapping of the Missouri River, their cataloging of over 170 species of plants and animals and their numerous contacts (mostly friendly) with many Native peoples and for some of them little else is known as they would be wiped out within a few years by smallpox or war. Third, he would prefer that we not spend the few billions of dollars every year on Space Exploration when we could more usefully use that money for better purposes. I for one would rather we didn't spend so much money on weapons in the world - which is several orders of magnitude higher than what is spent to explore the solar system. In all you will gain something from this book. And I do not have to agree with any author 100% and don't expect them to share all my opinions. Only saying that these 3 things were very glaring issues that I at least have about this book. Very well written and still recommended.
Profile Image for Tim Chamberlain.
114 reviews17 followers
May 30, 2020
This wasn't quite the book I was expecting it to be, given the many quoted "hype" of its sales blurb, my expectations might perhaps have been raised a little too high. Pathfinders: A Global History of Exploration is undoubtedly an excellent, comprehensive, globe-spanning survey of the history of human migration from the earliest epochs to the more recent era of globalised colonial expansion driven by commercial and scientific motives. And it certainly distills a lot of information with an engaging style which keeps the subject fresh and interesting throughout. Yet, I felt there are a few flaws worth highlighting which, for me at least, somewhat deflated the book's grandest plaudits.

Whilst it is inevitable that such a broad-ranging topic, covering such an extended time-period will necessarily or inadvertently omit some details, to miss out *any* discussion of female explorers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is very regrettable. There were many women who are worthy of note in this regard, for instance to name only a few: Mary Kinglsey, Isabella Bird, Amelia Edwards, Gertrude Bell, or Alexandra David-Neel. And even when writing about so-called 'travel writers' rather than bonafide explorers, mentioning Peter Fleming without even a passing reference to Ella Maillart seems quite an oversight. Hopefully this is a defect which could be rectified at some point in the future, given the book's success, if ever a revised edition is published.

Plus, (and this is not wholly a criticism) I found the chapters were oddly structured, seeming to start with a largely persuasive conclusion which is then followed by a sequential narrative of linked explorers' personalities/journeys to very deftly get the writer and reader chronologically from the A to B of the relevant time period. This does enable Fernandez-Armesto to lay-out some parallels and make some interesting comparisons which might not necessarily be so readily allied or immediately apparent in terms of geography or substance (this probably being the book's main virtue, and hence its 'global history' tag), but I would have liked it if he had returned to the points made at the start and dug a little deeper into them before closing off and moving swiftly on. That said though, this may well be how the book manages to maintain its remarkable sense of pace and forward momentum.

The book is filled with interesting illustrations, but the sketch maps accompanying parts of the text seem rather artificial devices/distractions, primarily aimed at prompting the reader to see the globe from a perspective which isn't bound to the standard north-point of a compass rose, yet sadly not giving enough geographical detail (i.e. - corresponding place names) to aid orientation with the main body of the text. There are admirably few typos throughout, and only a couple of surprising factual errors given the vast breadth of detail the book manages to encompass and include (for instance, a reference to a "Percy 'Jack' Fawcett" (p.386) - Percy and Jack Fawcett were actually two separate individuals; Jack was Percy's eldest son, who also went missing with his father during their exploration of Brazil's Mato Grosso region in 1925).

Likewise, there are some curiously personal authorial asides which tend to jut out from an otherwise smoothly academic-style of presentation, such as Fernandez-Armesto's dismissal of the "gigantic folly of wasting billions of cash on space exploration" (p.399). As another reviewer here on Goodreads has pointed out, depending on your perspective, you could see this money as being much better spent in this pursuit rather than the billions+ which gets spent each year globally and locally on developing and stockpiling military armaments and hardware. Also, the rather glib final sentence quoting Monty Python similarly struck me as an oddly flippant note to end the book upon. That said though, as a 'native Briton', I did enjoy the acerbic veracity of the barb about the "self-congratulatory" traditions of early modern English maritime adventurers (p.219). I'm sure other nations do it too, but no sour grapes there, especially if (ironically) the UK is *primus inter pares* in that respect!

On the whole, not wanting my criticisms above to prejudice any prospective readers against it, this is an excellent book. It does give a very broad yet admirably comprehensive account of mankind's wanderlust for exploration on a global scale across the many epochs of human history and our socio-political evolution from the prehistoric era to the present, which is no mean feat! - From early hominid migrations, Viking explorers, Admiral Zheng He, Columbus, Magellan, and Captain Cook, to Lewis and Clark, Burton and Speke, Robert Falcon Scott, John Hemming, and Robin Hanbury-Tenison, Pathfinders manages, through a deft narrative and discursive synthesis, to make some interesting contrasts and parallels across both time and space giving the breadth of the subject a sense of unity in each of those two dimensions.

This book also clearly demonstrates how, in its later phases from the early modern period onwards, when global exploration seems to accelerate with rapidly advancing technology and scientific know-how, exploration predominantly became the preserve of white men; but it also shows how in certain regions this was either led or assisted (both voluntarily and under violent compulsion) by local indigenous peoples. To give just a few examples it cites: Christopher Columbus kidnapping locals in the West Indies and compelling them to act as guides and pilots; or when certain Mexican polities allied themselves with European Conquistadors in order to overthrow their regional-rivals, the Aztecs; or the Polynesian navigator, Tupaia, who voluntarily joined Captain Cook's crew, and who was of pivotal assistance to Cook's exploration of the wider Pacific region. Yet sadly, as Fernandez-Armesto rightly points out, we are mostly left with the white man's record and perspective on such interactions and collaborations. Likewise, it is an unavoidably male-dominated history, for sure; but this book would, without a doubt, have benefited from making this fact stand out more clearly by nuancing it with an examination of some of the foremost examples of female explorers, for instance as Gerry Kearns has done in a paper contrasting the nineteenth-century African expeditions, respectively led by Mary Kingsley and Halford Mackinder (cf. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Vol. 22, No. 4 (1997), pp. 450-472).

Generally it is a very well-written and accessible book which isn't overly burdened by academic jargon. Hence it is a highly enjoyable and similarly, a highly recommended read - good for both students of historical geography and for general-interest readers alike.
Profile Image for John Lowrie.
2 reviews3 followers
May 18, 2012
This is a wonderful retrospective of human exploration, starting with the dispersal of humanity from tropical Africa to the farthest reaches of the globe and continuing up until the present with all groups of humans back in touch with each other (not counting the few Amazon tribes still to be contacted). The book is great up until the last couple of pages where Mr. Hernandez-Armesto sneers at the future of exploration with such blatant hypocrisy that it's hard to fathom how he came to his conclusions. If his attitudes toward the exploration of space were to be consistent back to the dawn of humanity we can only assume that he would think people never should have left central Africa because there are still things to learn about the area. But other than this embarrassingly fatuous inconsistency it's a wonderfully inclusive account of humans exploring their world.
Profile Image for Mary.
242 reviews6 followers
February 9, 2016
It took me a while to slog through this. The main problem, I think, was that the author didn't seem to think much of any of the explorers. Yes, the myths that have grown up around them need to be cleared away in a history, but when the author dismisses an explorer's motives or accomplishments so often, I start to wonder why I should bother to read about them. A secondary issue was the maps. There *are* maps, but not always where I needed them and often from such an unfamiliar perspective or projection that I had trouble orienting what I was looking at to what I know. There are plenty of location names within the text that do not appear on the maps, so you might want to read with a good atlas at hand.
Profile Image for Fabián Pérez.
11 reviews1 follower
January 29, 2019
I´ve read some of the reviews criticizing that he makes a wrong apreciation of some historical charachters. Yes, he is a critic of some. Some I found right some I found wrong. But this is irrelevant.

The most notable and relevant virtue of this book is not only the tale of exploration as a story of humanity, but most remarkably that the writer makes the most interesting questions, theories and reasonings as to how and why things happened.

The fact on itself that Columbus discovered America is not remarkable. The remarkable thing on this book is how he traces the political, technological and social analysis of why and how it happened there and then. And why it couldn´t happen before, or elsewhere.

And also it is beautifuly written. Fascinating to read. I couldn´t drop the book for hours and hours each time I sat to read.
Profile Image for Tony Mercer.
190 reviews
October 10, 2011
This was an absolutely fascinating book that tells the story of the global exploration since the beginning of time. The beginning is a little slow, but as Da Gama, Cabot, Cook, and Amundsen take off the book is an addicting read. The tales of the first explorers to infiltrate the gold filled yet impossible to find realms of Timbuktu, navigate the winds to New Guinea, and attempts to find the Northwest Passage. It is a comprehensive yet storylike history of some of the most exciting adventures of all time. I would recommend it to anyone who loves history or adventure.
Profile Image for Grant.
1,043 reviews6 followers
September 26, 2013
Armesto provides a nearly comprehensive history of the world through the pathfinders, those individuals who sought out new routes and new places, on land and sea. By considering so many individual explorers and their accomplishments, Armesto gives the reader a very meaty book, but succeeds in explaining the divergence of humanity, led out of Africa by explorers, then the convergence of human societies, again led by those extraordinary individuals whose curiosity, search for profit, and above all, need for glory drove them to go where no one had gone before.
543 reviews8 followers
October 18, 2019
"What good came of all this exploration? It was a question philosophes found irresistable. Progress was their almost irresistable answer. But Diderot, the secular pontiff of the Enlightenment, the editor of the Encyclopédie, did not agree. In 1773 he wrote a denunciation of explorers as agents of a new kind of barbarism. Base motives drove them: 'tyranny, crime, ambition, misery, curiousity, I know not what restlessness of spirit, the desire to know and the desire to see, boredom, the dislike of familiar pleasures' - all the baggage of the restless temperament. Lust for discovery was a new form of fanaticism on the part of men seeking 'islands to ravage, people to despoil, subjugate and massacre.' The explorers discovered people morally superior to themselves, because more natural or more civilized, while they, on their side, grew in savagery, far from the polite restraints that reined them in at home. 'All the long-range expeditions,' Diderot insisted, 'have reared a new generation of nomadic savages ... men who visit so many countries that they end by belonging to none ... amphibians who live on the surface of the waters,' deracinated, and, in the strictest sense of the word, demoralized.

Certainly, the excesses explorers committed - of arrogance, of egotism, of exploitation - showed the folly of supposing that travel necessarily broadens the mind or improves the character. But Diderot exaggerated. Even as he wrote, the cases of disinterested exploration - for scientific or altruistic purposes - were multiplying.

If the eighteenth century rediscovered the beauties of nature and the wonders of the picturesque, it was in part because explorers alerted domestic publics to the grandeurs of the world they discovered. If the conservation of species and landscape became, for the first time in Western history, an objective of imperial policy, it was because of what the historian Richard Grove has called 'green imperialism' - the awakened sense of stewardship inspired by the discovery of new Edens in remote oceans. If philosophers enlarged their view of human nature, and grappled earnestly and, on the whole, inclusively with questions about the admissability of formerly excluded humans - blacks, 'Hottentots,' Australian Aboriginals, and all other people estranged by their appearance or culture - to full membership of the moral community, it was because exploration made these brethren increasingly familiar. If critics of Western institutions were fortified in their strictures and encouraged in their advocacy of popular sovreignty, 'enlightened despotism,' 'free thinking,' civil liberties, and human 'rights,' it was, in part, because exploration acquainted them with challenging models from around the world of how society could be organized and life lived."
Profile Image for Gary Brecht.
243 reviews10 followers
June 24, 2019
Tracing the “global” history of most subjects would seem to be an intimidating and ambitious endeavor; not for this author though. Armesto has the advantage of being multilingual. Many of the records of Europe’s earliest and most significant discoveries were written in Portuguese and Spanish naval logs. But these records are only a small part of the greater picture.

The author identifies ancient trade routes on land and sea that connect various cultures throughout the civilized world. He informs us of why the islands discovered by Polynesian navigators were always routes against the wind. We learn that trade routes in the Indian Ocean were well known and well-travelled long before Europeans entered the picture.

According to Armesto, early European discoverers were driven by searches for wealth or fame. Others were inspired by the romanticism of the era. Regardless of what motivated these moments of discovery, they all contributed to knitting together the threads of communication between civilizations.
104 reviews
October 6, 2017
Pathfinders is a book about maritime exploration mostly. Why the Arabian Sea monsoon system facilitated trade in the Arabia Sea early, why the Atlantic trading system emerged much later and how it came to dominate the trading systems. He spends some time on deconstructing the legends and myths about well known explorers. But the most fascinating thing about the books was that he mentions so many place names without saying which country they are in. I had to repeatedly open google maps to find where such and such place was. In that way I learnt more than I normally would by casually reading any history book. It is an enjoyable read, but somewhat heavy if you are not prepared to research more about places and people whom he mentions.
Profile Image for Pat.
632 reviews
June 14, 2020
Utterly fascinating history of humanity's sometimes futile efforts to expand its worldview. Commerce is invariably the spur to so many of the seemingly insane attempts to scale peaks, hack through, jungles, haul sleds over ice and slog through scorching sands. One is left with the question of "Why?" for many of the expeditions, which result in such hardships and needless death.
Many limiting factors I hadn't really considered hampered exploration. Scurvy alone was a big one. Technological changes finally enabled many areas to be opened up via steamship and airplanes.
Written with literate grace and sometimes wry humor.
Profile Image for Steve.
59 reviews1 follower
September 13, 2021
An excellent book, but I'm a sucker for the topic. The author covers details, even minutia, you don't get elsewhere and avoids tedium via a unique and personable narrative voice.

His general thesis is that we humans spent our first hundred thousand years or so separating into distinct cultures, but in the last couple of thousand years we have been bringing ourselves back together in a process of globalization.

Although he pays some attention to early pathfinders, the main story is about Europeans, partly because we know a lot about them, mostly because European pathfinding has had such a large impact.
Profile Image for Sıla J..
35 reviews
August 11, 2019
A fascinating book. Professor Fernández-Armesto writes with clarity and his way of telling the story of convergence is informative as well as thought-provoking.
The maps could be better, though. I had to read with Google Maps at hand to visualize the majority of the explorations.
Profile Image for Willie Kirschner.
453 reviews1 follower
May 12, 2021
An interesting book about the history of exploration and the people who did the exploring. This provides some history I was not familiar with and showed the routes of the explorers and the problems they faced.
71 reviews
June 14, 2023
It's always dispiriting how many professional historians seem to hate what they write about. The author's contempt for the men he covers is palpable.

Docked an extra star because of the book's truly terrible, unconscionably bad maps.
Profile Image for TG Lin.
269 reviews38 followers
August 28, 2018

Profile Image for Ferruccio Fiordispini.
107 reviews6 followers
December 18, 2019
La storia in viaggio.
Bel saggio che ci porta in giro per il mondo (consigliato l'uso di un bel mappamondo mentre lo si legge), alla scoperta delle scoperte geografiche dell'uomo. E non solo geografiche. Direi alla scoperta dell'uomo stesso.
La teoria di fondo dell'autore è che la storia dell'umanità ha avuto una prima lunga fase di "dispersione e diversificazione". Dal cuore dell'Africa origine dell'homo sapiens, le attitudini di questo bipede mobile e curioso lo hanno portato a diffondersi in tutto - o quasi - il globo terraqueo, adattandosi alle condizioni più disparate, e moltiplicandosi in gruppi, culture e lingue sempre più numerosi.
Da un certo momento in poi, invece, il pendolo ha iniziato a muoversi dall'altra parte, quello di una rapida, sempre più rapida, "concentrazione e omogeneizzazione".
Questa visione è riscontrabile in altri autori di successo, quali Diamond (che nel suo famoso "Armi, acciaio e malattie" fa iniziare questo processo con la rivoluzione agricola) e il suo allievo Harari (che nel suo recente successo editoriale sulla storia dell'homo sapiens ci informa dell'inesorabile tendenza alla globalizzazione).
Il libro di Fernandez-Armesto è fondamentalmente in libro di storia e di storie, ma lo si può leggere anche come un libro di geografia. E ci aiuta a capire molto della natura umana.
Profile Image for Ian.
18 reviews7 followers
August 26, 2008
A book somewhat too ambitious for its subject - it spans most of human history, from the traces of evidence of prehistoric migrations to about the 1960s, when contact was "finally" being made with the most remote tribes in the Amazon and New Guinea interiors. It's not short, but that's still a lot of ground to cover, especially because Fernando-Armesto is careful to cover many of the explorers who didn't get much credit in our 4th grade social studies classes (including a number of non-western explorers—and the reasons there aren't more of those are discussed in some detail), and he carefully debunks the contributions of some who did.

Result: a surprisingly breezy book that has some genuine insight into trends in exploration but doesn't discuss any particular journey or explorer for more than a dozen pages. It would be a great place to start further study, and manages to be pretty light reading as well.

One minor quibble - thought Fernando-Armesto explains he's exclusively interested in exploration that leads to cultural exchange or contact, he covers trips to the North and South Poles but not the arguably more significant moon landings or deep sea exploration.
Profile Image for Helen.
29 reviews3 followers
June 15, 2019
I read this book as part of my Exploration course in Geography at University, but while academic it is very accessibly written. I found it an absolutely fascinating topic. The book operates on a grand scale, telling the history of human movements through the viewpoint of pathfinders - those who found their way to new areas of the globe - from the first dispersions of human populations out of Africa right up to contemporary explorations of the oceans and outer space. This gives the book a global perspective, seeing exploration through networks and flows of navigation, trade and cross-cultural contact, which are continually shaping our world.
Profile Image for Karson.
184 reviews11 followers
July 9, 2015
I was actually really suprised at how much i loved this book. It is the history of world exploration. It is actually really well written. It is the type of stuff you learned in second grade! You know Magellan, Cook, Marco Polo! You know you want to know all about these guys! The themes this guy picks out to discuss and explore are really interesting like legend vs reality. Where were these guys really exploring? Why were so many lives spent trying to find a passage through northern canada? Aren't you salivating!?
Profile Image for Lucas.
51 reviews2 followers
August 9, 2011
This man is a genius. As a historian, Fernandez-Armesto is extremely thorough. As an author, he is witty and weaves a factual narrative that even the most history-adverse reason will find entertaining. Of course there are books that go more into depth than Pathfinders, but that is not Fernandez-Armesto's goal. He is looking at the overall picture and how all those various components of history fit together to push Europeans out into the unknown.
126 reviews9 followers
April 18, 2010
I like the global and historical context he gives to exploration, and he avoids simple explanations about why exploration happened. Solid historical vignettes are sprinkled throughout. A weakness is that while lots of answers are debunked, few positive 'answers' are offered. That's better than offering simple explanations, but the book lacks some power as a result. The books moves 'laterally' very well, but does not move 'forward' as much - if this makes sense.
Author 3 books9 followers
November 3, 2013
I used this in my graduate historiography class in Fall 2013 in conjunction with Prof. Fernandez-Armesto's visit to campus for a symposium. For teaching, it was a good book, since there was a lot to think about in terms of the writing style and the use of varying types of evidence. The big downside for teaching is that it doesn't have an introduction (or much else in the way of apparatus). It's not really my kind of history, as -- for me -- it is too sweeping and too much "boys in boats."
39 reviews3 followers
June 6, 2008
I read this trying to imagine what sort of "Explorer" I would have been throughout the different phases of history. Its a fascinating read, and I actually read it around the same time as I read Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, & Steal and found the two books to be complementary in understanding each of them.
Profile Image for Robert Frecer.
Author 2 books6 followers
June 9, 2019
Written in a witty, interesting and objective prose style. This is an amazing read if you want to know more about the early Medieval thalassocracy in Java, the colonization of Iceland by Irish hermits, the wind systems of the Indian Ocean and their influence on the region's culture, and all manner of facts and stories connected to the one theme - of the world getting back in touch with itself.
Profile Image for Belleofthebrawl.
23 reviews
June 10, 2008
Great book about Exploration. Begins in pre-history and follows through to moder day. Amazing to see how exploration has shaped mankind and has been the driving force behind so many changes over the last thousand years.
Profile Image for Sid.
15 reviews1 follower
September 19, 2009
This is the kind of book that I had been looking for - and am so glad I found it. I also read his book on Amerigo, so I knew it would be good. A really fascinating book, filled with all of my heroes.
34 reviews
January 2, 2010
Comprehensive, well illustrated, filled with the explorers comments and failures. Unbelievable what the explorers went through and did (to themselves and others) only to reemdure once barely surviving the first time.
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