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

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  13,510 ratings  ·  1,010 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, biographer and journalist Laurence Bergreen entwines a variety of candid, firsthand accounts, bringing to life this groundbreaking and majestic tale of discovery that changed both th ...more
Paperback, 438 pages
Published November 2nd 2004 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published January 1st 2003)
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Grommit The physical paper version has one map. It is a 2-page, "fold out" inside the cover. It helps a great deal in understanding where Magellan led his 5 s…moreThe physical paper version has one map. It is a 2-page, "fold out" inside the cover. It helps a great deal in understanding where Magellan led his 5 ships. But, I needed to supplement this map with some of my own because the details, especially around the Philippines and Spice Islands, were not clear on this map. The lack of maps is a syndrome of most historical books, but such is life.(less)

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Jason Koivu
Jul 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
When you're old like me, you hear stories about these explorers (if ya know what I mean...wink wink), but usually it's a truncated version handed down to you from a school teacher back in the 1970s, who wasn't much more well-versed in the subject than yourself...

"In 1521, Mr. Magellan was the first man to sail around the world. This was at a time when the world was flat, so it was very tricky!"

Okay, my miseducation wasn't as bad as all that. However, it is nice to fill in the gaps of knowledge w
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Apr 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015

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
Aug 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Alice Lippart
Captivating and educational. A surprisingly fun read.
Aaron Million
Apr 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Are schoolkids taught about Ferdinand Magellan anymore? The reason I ask is because I do remember reading in a textbook about Magellan's around-the-world trip and how he had been the first person (at least documented) to do so. That led me, all these years later, to deciding to read this book and learn more than just some superficial facts about his voyage. I am glad I did so, and I think most people with an interest in world history or exploration will also find this to be an engaging read.

3.5 stars.

This book is well researched and makes for relatively interesting reading. But I think it suffers from a misleading subtitle. I mean, there's nothing PARTICULARLY terrifying about the circumnavigation, other than the fact that no one knew where they were going. And, like, the fact that a bunch of their ships sank. But that almost seems to be glossed over and therefore has very little impact.

The part that was most interesting for me is the sections where the armada reached the Philipp
Feb 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have sometimes idly wondered what it must have been like to have been with Columbus, Magellan, Cook, and others when they first encountered new lands, and when societies with no previous knowledge of each other met for the first time. This book provides some wonderful descriptions of how Magellan’s fleet encountered the natives of Patagonia, and of Guam, as well as their wonderment at the journey through what is now the Strait of Magellan. In contrast, when the Spanish fleet arrived at what is ...more
May 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 25, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Rex Fuller
Dec 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 08, 2009 rated it did not like it
(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
Nancy Oakes
Feb 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
May 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
This is the best account of life aboard a ship in the Age of Sail that I’ve come across, and I’ve read dozens and dozens of books on the subject, including many of the Patrick O’Brian novels. His descriptions of the perils inherent in a life at sea were so convincing that I actually went out and stocked up on fresh fruit so that I wouldn’t get scurvy, because, you never know.

Spoiler Alert! Magallanes (his name in Spanish which was a bastardization of the Portuguese Fernão de Magalhães) was an as
Last Ranger
Dec 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 unknown. Filled with danger and intrigue Ma
Mar 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nf-history
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
Oct 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, history
A good read, however it only gets a 4 star because it was worth a soupçon more than a three and I am feeling philanthropic. It was a little disconcerting that the author could not get his incredulity around the fact that Magellan's demise is still re-enacted annually in the Phillipines - with pride in the act. ...more
Nov 10, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Nov 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was amazingly good! I had never given much thought to Magellan circumnavigating the globe before but this book promised to be a gripping page turner according to the reviews. It was just that.

For a nonfiction book, this flowed well and kept up a good pace. I learned and relearned about the Age of Discovery and about life on a ship in the 16th century. It wasn't pleasant. It seemed if the storms didn't get you, the scurvy would.

Everything is presented here: the good, the bad, and the ug
Sep 25, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, history
This book gets a few ratings of 'biography', and... yes, actually, this is a fairly decent biography of Fernão de Magalhães, or Ferdinand Magellan, as it goes into his background and life as a whole. However, it is primarily about the Armada de Molucca and the circumnavigation of the world.

As a biography, it is more of a tragedy, as Magellan, a determined and ambitious man, is repeatedly snubbed by the King of Portugal, and Magellan goes to Spain with his plan to go west to get to the East. Howe
Anthony Meaney
Dec 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had no expectations about this book, I mean how much information could we have about a voyage that took place 500 years ago?

Turns out quite a bit due to an Italian fellow who shipped aboard Magellan's vessel and managed to survive the entire 2+ year journey. No small feat considering most of the crew of the five ships (including Magellan) died en route and only one ship made it back.

Fascinating glimpse into the early days of European global exploration and conquest, we tend to forget that Por
Aug 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
The circumnavigation of the globe by the expedition of Ferdinand Magellan was an amazing odyssey, an incredible story sometimes reading like fiction. Of course, as most may know,if they know anything about Magellan, Magellan himself did not make it around the world. He was killed in the Philippines after the long crossing of the Pacific. Only one ship out of his five made it back to Spain after the 6000 mile ocean voyage, a crew of only 18 left of the 260 men who had set sail three years before ...more
Gerald Sinstadt
Jan 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Joshua Rigsby
Oct 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nautical
Over the Edge of the World provides a blow by blow account of Magellan's fateful voyage to the spice islands, and his crew's return to Spain through enemy waters. It provides quite a bit of backstory regarding the political intrigue that inspired the voyage, and the crew's sometimes conflicting perceptions of Magellan's true loyalties as a Portuguese sailing for Spain.

What makes this book compelling is the fascinating character of Magellan himself, an idealist, a warrior, and a leader-by-decre
Bandar AL Dossari
Laurence Bergreen will make your imagination sale to The worlds of adventures & horrors. Experiencing a truly epic tale & share the feeling of danger and exploring new worlds & encounter with the deferent type of minds, people & their life’s.

I found myself amazed how Magellan was blindly chasing his dreams regardless of the situations he faced such as treason & mutiny among his crew, diseases and starvation. He even adopted nonhumanitarian attitudes in some points in the sake of his own commerci
A solid read about a person of history I knew little about. Over the Edge of the World tells the story, in detail, of Magellan's voyage around the world. It also tells, in detail, the history of everything associated with Magellan and his trip. I enjoyed the read, although at times I wished the author would move the story ahead rather than digress to look at the history of everything.

The writing itself is fantastic. Bergreen is a journalist as opposed to a historian, and the writing style plays
Christine Boyer
Feb 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Sep 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Fred Donaldson
Oct 07, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
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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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“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.” 3 likes
“Magellan's thirst for glory, under cover of religious zeal, led him fatally astray.” 2 likes
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