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Conquerors: How Portugal Forged the First Global Empire

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  1,014 Ratings  ·  144 Reviews
As remarkable as Columbus and the conquistador expeditions, the history of Portuguese exploration is now almost forgotten. But Portugal's navigators cracked the code of the Atlantic winds, launched the expedition of Vasco da Gama to India and beat the Spanish to the spice kingdoms of the East - then set about creating the first long-range maritime empire. In an astonishing ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published December 1st 2015 by Random House (first published September 2015)
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Apr 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this read. Excellent use of primary texts, told in a narrative type way that focuses on direct accounts of primary players in the history. This gives a nice worm's eye view of the action and story and makes for a very readable text and history.

The one negative is that I thought the macro, bird's eye view of the history was lacking. I would've been interested in grander scope analysis of the economics and trade flows going on. There was a bit of it but not very much. But there wa
The decade of the 1490s was without doubt one of the most significant in human history. Nowadays we see the European (re)discovery of the Americas in 1492 as the event which more than any other shaped the world we live in today, but at the time it was Vasco da Gama's discovery of the sea route to India in 1498 that seemed the more significant event. Mr Crowley tells the story of how, within 20 years of that event, a tiny, poverty stricken country on Europe's western fringe created a global empir ...more
"Conquerors: How Portugal Forged the First Global Empire" by Roger Crowley is a good introduction to Portugal's development of its maritime empire in the Indian Ocean.

This book covers approximately a 40-year period (1480 to 1520) and is primarily focused on the Portuguese point of view of the events described.

Portugal's armadas were the sharp "tip of the spear" of modern European colonialism that was erupting in the late 1400s and would impact world history for several centuries.

The small kin
Tariq Mahmood
Oct 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, europe
This invaluable book of a most intriguing time in history when a tiny and poor European country managed to almost dethrone the main enemy of Christian Europe by strangling the rich spice trade away from the Mamluk sultans of the Muslims. The book also explains 'gunboat diplomacy' in quite some detail. How the Portuguese with their ships, guns and muskets posed as extraterrestrial beings appeared in the coasts of Africa, India, and the Middle East to plunder in the name of 'trade' completely disr ...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
Aug 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing

‘How Portugal seized the Indian Ocean and forged the First Global Empire’

Portugal had a population of about one million people at the beginning of the fifteenth century. A tiny country, with an economy which largely depended on fishing and subsistence farming. A country where the kings were too poor to mint their own gold coins. But, as Mr Crowley writes, a country with big aspirations.

‘In August 1415, a Portuguese fleet sailed across the Strait of Gibraltar and stormed the Muslim port of Ceuta,
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, non-fiction
This book blew my mind. Full stop. The Portuguese exploration of the African coastline and the race to conquer the Indian spice trade is at least as impressive a feat, and perhaps even more improbable, than America’s moon landing. That being said, their achievement is soaked in gore and nothing about this story is nice – death was a constant companion, and they had no qualms about killing. The men who faced down the Mamluks and conquered Goa, Cochin, and Malacca are aliens to the 21st century We ...more
Maria Espadinha
May 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Paz à sua Alma

O Berço dum Império que já morreu.
Não contrariando expectativas, trata-se duma narrativa didáctica mas algo maçuda.

Para os apreciadores da nossa História!
Feb 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Conquerors: How Portugal Forged the First Global Empire, is an interesting book by Roger Crowley on the Portuguese conquest of the Indian Ocean. The book follows the Portuguese conquest of Cueta in Morocco, through the journey's of exploration around the African coast, to the conquests of coastal cities on the Western coast of India, the city of Malacca in modern Malaysia, and Ormuz in Persia, amongst others. This is more of a narrative history, following the likes of Henry the Navigator, King M ...more
Oct 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
I had very high expectations from this one based on the author's earlier books I've read or am currently reading (the siege of Constantinople and a history of Venice are both excellent and the book about Lepanto seems quite good also) and the book starts very well with the early years of Portuguese exploration after they defeated the Moors at Ceuta (in Marocco) in early 1400's and got a hold on the North African coast, while later slowly going down the coast, exploring the inland rivers, some up ...more
Mar 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"...Apesar de todo o seu feito e da sua estratégia militar em ter procurado fechar todas as passagens navais para o Índico, foi destituído de governador por D. Manuel I, o que o deixou desiludido com o monarca, morrendo pouco tempo depois.

«Os meus pecados certamente são grandes para o rei. Condena-me pelo amor pelos homens, e os homens condem-me pelo amor que tenho ao rei.»

Acompanhado de imagens, cartas e de uma extensa bibliografia. Conquistadores de Roger Crowley é um relato emocionante dos f
Jun 28, 2016 rated it liked it
I read this in preparation for a trip to Portugal later this summer. It was well-written and gave more information than I can really handle. It is amazing that a small nation like Portugal had such a huge influence on the world exploration of the 16th century. The world was different then and voyages lasted months and even years. Communication, too, took way too long. But the violence! I wonder just how many innocent people died at the hands of the Portuguese as they sought to claim lands along ...more
Manuel Lobo
Mar 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Um livro que fornece um relato suficientemente distanciado e desapaixonado dos factos para poder fazer uma análise correcta do que se passou.

Os factos que nos foram narrados como epopeias brilhantes, foram forjados por muitos fracassos, massacres e desejo de enriquecer.

Ainda assim é notável o que os portugueses daquele tempo conseguiram, com tão poucos homens e com tão poucos meios. Apenas com a coragem, ambição e fé como armas
Todd Payne
Apr 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Gripping account of Portuguese conquistadors whose accomplishments, and reign of terror, equaled those of their Spanish rivals but seem somehow less known. Inspires one to learn more about the peaceful Chinese expeditions to the Indian Ocean before they burned their ships and closed off their society -- the exact opposite of their European counterparts.
Omar Ali
Mar 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
A great read. A detailed and fair account of the rise of the Portuguese empire; violent, vicious, greedy, fanatically religious and cruel..but also very capable and almost insanely courageous and venturesome. A great story, though he ends it rather abruptly and with a less than satisfying epilogue. Also, don't expect data..
Maurício Linhares
Apr 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Could another nation eventually do what the Portuguese did? Definitely. Was there any other nation at the fifteenth century capable of doing it? Not a chance.

Portugal was many years ahead of the competition both in it's ships, naval war power and knowledge of the seas. After Henrique O Navegador (Henry The Navigator) instigated his father, king João 1 a tomar Ceuta, in Northern Africa, he becomes the patron of naval exploration, kicking off the age of discoveries. Under his direction Portugal d
Apr 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Roger Crowley writes a cracking piece of narrative history. This one is what it says - the 30 year purple patch when the Portuguese were the first Europeans to navigate round the cape and up to India - where they stayed, set up bases, conquered Goa, set up in Calicut, started trading and never stopped fighting. In fact, when I say purple patch, rather large sticky red patch is probably more accurate given the copious amounts of blood shed. Crowley writes very well and makes no secret of the bloo ...more
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rita by: KOMET
Shelves: n-reino-unido
"Uma narrativa brilhante e cheia de ritmo.
Um relato admirável sobre a ascensão de um império."

" Fast-paced and vivid…a fascinating account of the rise of an empire ."

BBC History magazine
May 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
An exceptional account on history of South and SE Asia.
Sorin Hadârcă
May 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asia, history, india
Amazing how Crowley narrates the events of long ago, as if everything has happened just about now. No deed goes unnoticed, no account neglected, and all that in good perspective.
Hari Tulsidas
Five hundred years of European domination of the oceans. This was set into its course by a “tiny marginalized” Portugal. How could this tiny nation do what the great powers of Europe at that time could not even imagine? Portugal made ‘discovery’ a matter of state policy and put in place a robust system for acquiring knowledge and applying it.

The real aim was to break the Mamluk - Venetian trade monopoly on spices and other trade from India, though religious zealotry of defeating Islamic power a
Shawkat Kamal
Oct 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Generally a very well written book with lot of factual information. However, I did not like the tendency of the author to portray savage Portuguese pirates who killed so many innocent people as great military commanders. Having powerful and modern cannons that were not available to the dwellers of the Indian ocean allowed most of the so called "asymmetric victories"; nothing to do with bravery of the Portuguese.
A very good history of Portugal's imperial adventures that sometimes reads more like a classic adventure novel than history. Could have used a little more analysis and less fight scenes, but a very good book...worth the read.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Feb 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Excellent book where history is presented at the pace of a good novel. If you put yourselves in the shoes of an East African or Indian at the start of the 16th century, these Europeans turning up bringing death and destruction must have been like aliens from another planet.
Edoardo Albert
Nov 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book is subtitled 'How Portugal forged the first global empire' and that gives an accurate summary of its contents. What it doesn't convey is the sheer, breathtaking excitement of it all. Over the space of a few decades, a group of Portuguese navigators transformed the whole idea of the world, opening it up in a way that had never been achieved, even in the antiquity that Renaissance humanists so revered. They had outdone the ancients. Roger Crowley, one of my favourite historians, tells the ...more
Aug 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015, history
I read this book courtesy of the publisher, via Net Galley.

Roger Crowley has done a wonderful job of acknowledging the truly stupendous effort that was required for Portugal - tiny, generally-ignored-by-Europe Portugal - to get a trading foothold in India... while also detailing, in occasionally remorseless detail, just how barbarous the Portuguese practises were in getting and maintaining that foothold.

I believe it's important to acknowledge things like the astonishing insight that, in order to
Aug 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quick Summary: This is a very good book about a period rarely covered in popular history which is not quite up to Crowley's best work.

Longer Summary: I have read Crowley's other works (CITY OF FORTUNE, EMPIRES OF THE SEA, and 1453). At a time when Islam has moved to the center of global attention, Crowley's popular works are useful and accessible histories to a particular chunk of Islamic history, specifically the intersections of the Ottoman Empire and Europe (when it was still known as Christe
Jan 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
This is the third book I read by this author and like the others this was a joy to read. Again choosing to chronicle the aspirations and adventures of an empire located near the Mediterranean, this one focuses on Portugal's discoveries and conquests of India and its surroundings, going as far as Malacca and the Red Sea. Crowley is at his best describing battles and other military exploits as well as his portraits of various main characters that kept me reading way past bedtime. The author effort ...more
Mar 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The second of Crowley's books I have read. Probably my favorite popular historian ever. As in the previous book I read, "Holy War" Crowley truly knows how to make the story come to life in all its tensions, horrors and, occasionally, its beauty. This is a great introduction to the influence of the Portuguese colonialist project. For me, it brought together material I had read elsewhere in a readable, sensible way. Crowley's strength isn't always the depth of his scholarship, although he is thoro ...more
Nov 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 4-stars, nonfiction
Crowley is so good. His battle descriptions are always well done and he has a good eye for historical figures with whom he can center his narrative. In this case, Afonso de Albuquerque is a controversial figure who left bloodshed in his wake but successfully established a Portuguese empire in the Indian Ocean. This actually reads more like a biography of Albuquerque rather than a history of Portugal. However, the thirty years covered in this book successfully portrays how Portugal became the gre ...more
Feb 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
Great story telling of Portugal road to global empire. Brings out some interesting questions to me.

1. How should we look at these empire extension? Are they facilitating growth of the world, or just another atrocities against humanity? Or maybe theres just no black and white answers.
2. Author mentioned China as the even earlier fleet exploring the places, why didn't China rose to become a global empire? Issue with ideology?
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Roger Crowley was born in 1951 and spent part of his childhood in Malta. He read English at Cambridge University and taught English in Istanbul, where he developed a strong interest in the history of Turkey. He has traveled widely throughout the Mediterranean basin over many years and has a wide-ranging knowledge of its history and culture. He lives in Gloucestershire, England.
More about Roger Crowley

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“In the process, Albuquerque was consolidating a revolutionary concept of empire. The Portuguese were always aware of how few they were; many of their early contests were against vastly unequal numbers. They quickly abandoned the notion of occupying large areas of territory. Instead, they evolved as a mantra the concept of flexible sea power tied to the occupation of defendable coastal forts and a network of bases. Supremacy at sea; their technological expertise in fortress building, navigation, cartography, and gunnery; their naval mobility and ability to coordinate operations over vast maritime spaces; the tenacity and continuity of their efforts—an investment over decades in shipbuilding, knowledge acquisition, and human resources—these facilitated a new form of long-range seaborne empire, able to control trade and resources across enormous distances. It gave the Portuguese ambitions with a global dimension.” 1 likes
“Albuquerque practiced the intimidatory tactics that had made the Franks so feared along the coast of India. Passing vessels were captured and ransacked for provisions. The unfortunate crews had their hands, noses, and ears cut off and were put ashore to announce the terror and majesty of Portugal. The ships were then burned.” 1 likes
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