“Conquerors: How Portugal Forged the First Global Empire”

Roger Crowley

I enjoyed this history of Portugal’s exploration around Africa to India. It’s a story of violent men who, Crowley writes, had, previous to the period of exploration, only seen Muslims “through the slit of a helmet”. But they were also practical men capable of learning as their world expanded and dealing with other cultures pragmatically (though not always kindly or knowledgeably). It makes the point that Portugal’s strategic intent to was to conquer Islam and only later did its empire became mostly a trade venture.

“Conquerors” takes place in the 15th and 16th centuries, from the first Portuguese voyages of exploration through the death of Alfonso de Albuquerque, a fascinating character who, I confess, I’d never heard of before reading this book.

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