A Global History of ExplorationBook - 2006
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, laid the routes of contact that have drawn together the farthest reaches of the world. A stirring story of individual adventure and achievement, Pathfinders is also a multi-dimensioned history that presents exploration as rooted in particular societies and cultures at specific times.
On the pivotal fifteenth century, for example, Fernández-Armesto gives us enthralling accounts of the massive seagoing expeditions led by China's eunuch admiral Zheng He and the pioneering Atlantic crossings led by a Genoese weaver's son, Christopher Columbus. But he enlarges the story to explore why Ming China, the country most capable of a vast maritime empire, decided to close down its oceanic explorations in 1433, and why later in the century a largely remote and poor region of Europe, the Iberian peninsula, launched a series of oceanic voyages that would remake world history and create for Spain the greatest empire of the pre-industrial world.
Fernández-Armesto's grand history shows great range as well as depth. From the maritime expeditions of Queen Hatshepsut's Egypt four thousand years ago, through the caravans of merchants and missionaries along the ancient Silk Roads connecting China and the West, to the nineteenth-century explorations of the polar regions, interior Africa, North America, and the South Pacific, his account is comprehensive. He is fascinating on the intricacies of wind and current in the monsoonal Indian Ocean and the fixed-system Atlantic and Pacific. He pauses to give us wonderful small histories of navigational technology, cartography, and travel literature. There are brilliant portraits of Columbus, Cabot, and Da Gama, of Cook, Burton, Livingstone, and Stanley, of Shackleton, Peary, and Scott. And throughout there is the signature wit and verve of Fernández-Armesto.
More than fifty illustrations and sixty-five maps in color and black and white augment this rich history. In Pathfinders we have a definitive treatment of a grand subject.