Columbus: The Four Voyages

Columbus: The Four Voyages

3.4 12
by Laurence Bergreen
     
 

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From the author of the Magellan biography, Over the Edge of the World, a mesmerizing new account of the great explorer.

Christopher Columbus's 1492 voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in search of a trading route to China, and his unexpected landfall in the Americas, is a watershed event in world history. Yet Columbus made three more voyages within

Overview

From the author of the Magellan biography, Over the Edge of the World, a mesmerizing new account of the great explorer.

Christopher Columbus's 1492 voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in search of a trading route to China, and his unexpected landfall in the Americas, is a watershed event in world history. Yet Columbus made three more voyages within the span of only a decade, each designed to demonstrate that he could sail to China within a matter of weeks and convert those he found there to Christianity. These later voyages were even more adventurous, violent, and ambiguous, but they revealed Columbus's uncanny sense of the sea, his mingled brilliance and delusion, and his superb navigational skills. In all these exploits he almost never lost a sailor. By their conclusion, however, Columbus was broken in body and spirit. If the first voyage illustrates the rewards of exploration, the latter voyages illustrate the tragic costs- political, moral, and economic.

In rich detail Laurence Bergreen re-creates each of these adventures as well as the historical background of Columbus's celebrated, controversial career. Written from the participants' vivid perspectives, this breathtakingly dramatic account will be embraced by readers of Bergreen's previous biographies of Marco Polo and Magellan and by fans of Nathaniel Philbrick, Simon Winchester, and Tony Horwitz.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Columbus’s first voyage to the New World was one of the formative events of human history. But who was Christopher Columbus? Renowned historian and biographer Bergreen (Marco Polo) seeks to illuminate the complex motivations and historical circumstances that shaped the explorer’s life, and the inquisitive, stubborn, and supremely self-assured nature that led him to sail to the end of the world and beyond. Focusing on the lesser-known events of Columbus’s three later voyages and his disastrous, near-genocidal rule in Hispaniola, Bergreen’s captivating narrative reveals a man obsessed to the point of delusion with acquiring gold and sending it back to Spain, perpetually unsure whether he should convert, enslave, or annihilate the natives he encountered, and dismissive of the continent he discovered, forever hoping to escape America and find a quick passage to the riches of China and India just beyond the next wave. His last voyage ended in a shipwreck, and Columbus died in 1503 disgraced, exhausted, and demoralized, although the toll of his voyages was surely felt more keenly by the oppressed Caribs and Taínos than by the admiral himself. While sensationalist and lacking in scholarly rigor, Bergreen’s biography makes good use of the firsthand accounts of Columbus’s contemporaries, rendering a dramatic story that will appeal to general readership. 7 maps. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
"Laurence Bergreen's Columbus was brillliant, audacious, volatile, paranoid and ruthless. What emerges in this biography,- a worthy addition to- the literature on Columbus is a surprising and revealing portrait of a man who might have been the title charcater in a Shakespearan tradegy."
The New York Times

"Laurence Bergreen's ambitious new biography, Columbus: The Four Voyages [is] a spellbinding epic that's simultaneiously a profoundly private portrait of the most complex, compelling, controversial creature ever to board a- boat. This scrupulously researched, unbiased account of four death-defying journeys to The New World reveals the Admiral's paradoxical personality."
USA Today

"A compelling new book [that] details the explorer's trips to the New World, including three you haven't heard about."
Salon

"Once you have read this superb acount of Columbus' four voyages, you will never be content with the cliche about the Italian-born explorer's sailing the ocean blue in 1492. Author of many prize-winning popular history books on topics as diverse as Marco Polo and Al Capone. Laurence Bergreen is a New York-based scholar whose portrayal of the life and times of Christopher Columbus is a tour de force."
Winnipeg Free Press

"Laurence Bergreen's new book, refreshingly, is fluid in style in its style and comprehensive in its research. Richly illustrated and enhanced with maps that are as legible as they are relevant. Columbus: The Four Voyages is complex in its themes, intriguing in its substance and sparkling with suprises."
The Washington Times

"In this scrupulously fair and often thrilling account of his four vorages to the "New World," Bergreen reveals Columbus as brilliant, brave, adventurous, and deeply flawed . . . A superb reexamination of the character and career of a still controversial historical agent." - Booklist

Library Journal
The story of Columbus's first voyage to the New World is an oft-told tale that ends triumphantly for Columbus and with utter devastation for the natives he encountered. Bergreen (Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu) tells the exciting story of all four voyages, a narrative with castaways, mutineers, shipwrecks, and warfare, that shows Columbus to be vain and naive. Columbus believed that titles gave him legitimacy and authority, only to discover that what power he had quickly evaporated with each successive voyage. Even Isabella I, who had been Columbus's primary patron in the Spanish court, on her deathbed rejected his efforts to secure funding for a fifth voyage. VERDICT This is a well-written, even gripping book, but it has limited research value since it lacks a detailed scholarly apparatus. However, lay readers will find it entertaining and enlightening. Those interested in a work that contextualizes Columbus's voyages should instead consider Hugh Thomas's Rivers of Gold: The Rise of the Spanish Empire, from Columbus to Magellan. [See Prepub Alert, 3/28/11.]—John Burch, Campbellsville Univ. Lib., KY
Ian W. Toll
What emerges in this biography, a worthy addition to the literature on Columbus, is a surprising and revealing portrait of a man who might have been the title character in a Shakespearean tragedy.
—The New York Times Book Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670023011
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
09/20/2011
Pages:
448
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.70(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Laurence Bergreen is the author of several award-winning biographies, including those of Louis Armstrong, Al Capone, Irving Berlin, and James Agee. He has written for many national publications including Esquire and Newsweek, taught at the New School for Social Research, and served as Assistant to the President of the Museum of Television and Radio in New York. Bergreen has also served as a nonfiction judge for the National Book Awards and as a judge for the PEN/Albrand Nonfiction Award. Voyage to Mars is soon to be an NBC-TV television movie that will premier in spring 2002, and a weekly series that will debut in fall 2002. Bergreen lives in New York City.

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Columbus: The Four Voyages 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The authors bias is anti-European, and neglects to point out human behavior is universal when he excuses the violence of the natives, it seems the author didnt think atroceties like slavery murder and rape they commited even to each other warrented a mention of how cruel they also were at times. I love to read history, but do prefer to read the facts and draw my own conclusions about good and bad, which is found in every human interaction since history has been recorded so we may as well admit it.Hence only the 3 stars. Its worth the read for the story and the biases are easy to pick out and leave behind.
GAN More than 1 year ago
Another example of judging past historical figures based on the morality of the present. The author captured the excitement of planning and sailing and the new world discoveries. But the author executed judgment on Columbus's motives and decisions, judging him from the comforts of the twenty first living room. Columbus found natives who ate their fellow man...who cut off their genitals to fatten them up for eating..who impregnated women only to eat their offspring..where is the outrage from the history revisionists? If you can get past the amateurish psychoanalysis this author so often attempts on Columbus..you will find in Columbus a man of great intelligence, a leader, an adventurer, and a human being, with all the sinful characteristics we all posssess. Columbus not only deserves the tribute one day a year we have here in the USA, but his full adventurous life, and his discoveries and accomplishments scream out to be taught to our youth. After reading this book it is clear no modern human could hold a candle to what this man went through physically, mentally and spiritually during his 4 voyages. I have a brand new, deep, profound, respect for this man and all he accomplished. Columbus a sinner, yes, but aren't we all!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The e-book version had no illustrations, other than the maps, as shown in the printed version. There was a listing in the final pages of the e-book alluding that there were to be illustrations. Also the index did not have page numbers. Overall, I found the book enjoyable to read. The book was very infromative in the life of Columbus and his voyages to Columbo.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was slow in spots but was a great source of information about a subjct I knew little about. Certainly different from stories I heard as a child. you certainly have to admire the courage and fortitude of of the early explorers, to bad they never learned the difference between exploring and exploitation!
JGolomb More than 1 year ago
Laurence Bergreen has made a habit of crafting historical narratives about some of history's greatest explorers. Bergreen went world-wide with an exploration of the great world navigator himself, Ferdinand Magellen in "Over the Edge of the World". Then he took readers East to follow Marco Polo on his travels in "Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu". And now Bergreen comes closer to home as he travels from Spain to the New World with Christopher Columbus in "Columbus: The Four Voyages". Moving from Marco Polo to Christopher Columbus is not such a long leap for Bergreen. Columbus carried a well-worn copy of Polo's "Travels" during all his journeys and used it as guidebook in his own search for a route west: from Europe to the Indies and to see the Great Khan in China, then known as Cathay. Marco Polo was a 15th Century Frommer, apparently. Unfortunately, what Columbus had no way of knowing was that "...two oceans and two centuries separated..." Columbus from his target, wrote Bergreen. Bergreen paints Columbus in a rainbow of personality traits. He was the brave, god-fearing (and preaching), navigational genius that traditional history remembers and teaches us as children. And at the same time he was confused, lost, indecisive and downright delusional. He single-handedly expanded an empire, while at the same time ignited a slave trade across both sides of the Atlantic. Bergreen wrote that Columbus "was more than a discoverer, he was an intensifier of both his voyages and his inner struggles. This penchant for self-dramatization is part of the reason Columbus's exploits are so memorable; he insisted on making them so." Columbus was a creation of the time period in which he lived. He saw the world and his explorations through his very medieval perspective. Columbus was referred to as a "priest of exploration". And there's no better example of the dichotomy of who Columbus was than to understand that, according to his son, he "was so pious that he could be mistaken for a man of the cloth. And a real rarity among sailors was his strict personal policy to never swear." "Somewhere at the confluence of Ptolemy's flawed cartography, the legends of antiquity, Marco Polo's account, and sailor anecdotes lay clues of a great prize waiting to be discovered." Columbus never truly gave up on his search for Marco Polo's Cathay and gold. He adjusted. He modified his trips, as circumstances forced. He kept hunting for gold, and when he couldn't find enough, he focused on colonization, expansion and conversion. In about 400 pages, Bergreen pulls together all four of Columbus' trip to the new world. He blends Columbus's story into the context of his time. And despite the fact that he died miserable, poor and a broken old man, Bergreen writes, "...he could not, nor could anyone else, have imagined...the long-term implications of this voyage. To him, it was the fulfillment of a divine prophecy. To his Sovereigns and through ministers, it was intended as a land grab and a way to plunder gold. Instead, it became, through forces Columbus inadvertently set in motion and only dimly understood, the most important voyage of its kind ever made."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book uncorks the truth about the myth of Columbus, not the by wrote propaganda most of us were taught in school. This work starts slowly and builds momentum. From today's perspective the explorer comes across as somehat base and evil and greedy. However, taken from the mindset of the 15th century, we see a brave, and confused, explorer who loses himself in greed and conquest. This book will open one's eyes to the true nature of the so-called discovery of the New World. I never believed Columbus to be an admirable person and this book brings shame on everyone involved, from the crown, the church, to merchants and the explorers too. A valuable read on many levels. The writing is concise, factual and informative.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book goes far beyond what we're taught about Columbus: Simply, that he sailed "the ocean blue in 1492" and discovered the New World. Bergreen takes much from Columbus's writings & intelligently interprets them. I'll look for other books by this author.
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Mc
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This isnt going to be a picture book sweethear
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
They retraced first trip of course the norse got there first and then there were the group that crossed over from asia but columbus brougt over enough new diseases to destroy several nations already here he might have stayed at home or gone the other way like the others who got to ibdia and then japan
JewelPrincess More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book, and I am happy that I read it. I gave it 4 stars because of the author's judgmental writing. I see many other readers did not like that aspect either. But the information is good, and I certainly did not know as much about Columbus beforehand!