Although not the first mariner to explore North America, Henry Hudson (1565-1611) left a powerful legacy, vividly described in this richly detailed biography 400 years after his journey up what became the Hudson River. Canadian historian Hunter (God's Mercies: Rivalry, Betrayal, and the Dream of Discovery) reminds readers that 16th- and 17th-century European entrepreneurs remained obsessed with finding a shortcut to Asia. An experienced English seaman, Hudson was hired by the Dutch East India Company in 1609 to sail east above Russia. Having already failed at that route, Hudson departed with other ideas. He quickly found his way blocked by ice, but instead of returning to Holland sailed west across the Atlantic, eventually stopping near Manhattan and sailing up his eponymous river as far as present-day Albany. Hunter has clearly immersed himself in the period, producing a meticulous account of Hudson's three months in the New World. Readers may prefer to skim precise descriptions of his navigational difficulties, but few will resist the colorful personal conflicts, tortuous politics and alternately friendly and vicious encounters between Europeans and Native Americans. Photos. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Hunter (God's Mercies: Rivalry, Betrayal, and the Dream of Discovery) presents an exhaustively researched and highly detailed history of the discovery of the Hudson River by English explorer Henry Hudson in 1609. Hunter's sprawling and complicated tale almost overflows with a dizzying array of historical data and a vast cast of characters, yet somehow this potentially unwieldy wealth of information is successfully shaped into a deftly organized and balanced portrait of the unpredictable Hudson, his volatile crew, and their voyage aboard the Dutch ship Half Moon. Complete with mutiny, political maneuvering, spying, and conflict with natives, Hudson's sometimes bloody adventures are full of incident and accident brought to vivid life in Hunter's nuanced prose. VERDICT This work is a somewhat dense and complex historical narrative that is best suited to history buffs and researchers, or patient readers with a strong interest in the early exploration of the Hudson River and of what became the New York City area. Recreational readers may prefer Tom Lewis's The Hudson: A History.—Ingrid Levin, Salve Regina Univ. Lib., Newport, RI
Canadian sailor and scholar Hunter (God's Mercies: Rivalry, Betrayal, and the Dream of Discovery, 2007, etc.) returns to the subject of British explorer Henry Hudson. The author's previous work addressed Hudson's rivalry with French explorer Samuel de Champlain, but here the focus is on Hudson's 1609 trip to the New World, where he and the crew of the Half Moon charted unexplored coastline from Florida to the Grand Banks off the coast of Newfoundland. Hunter provides valuable insights into the explorer's enigmatic motivations. Why did Hudson-who was commissioned by the Dutch East India Company to find an Artic route to China-venture so far west, conducting a long, wandering sojourn into mysterious and potentially dangerous territory? It's a mystery that has long puzzled historians, but Hunter convincingly argues that Hudson may have been more than a mere employee of the Dutch. He may have also been acting as a spy for business interests in his native England, which had claims on land that Hudson explored and mapped for the first time. Hunter ably chronicles Hudson's daily progress on his voyage-which included conflicts with, and abductions of, Native Americans-and he skillfully establishes the global context, involving Dutch, Spanish, English and French interests. Poring over hydrographic charts and picking through often-sparse historical material, Hunter assembles a comprehensive timeline of the 400-year-old voyage, but his firm grasp of the politics and history of Hudson's time make the book stand out. Insightful look at Hudson, his pivotal achievement and the world events surrounding it. Agent: Sally Harding/The Cooke Agency