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 blitz of thirty years, a handful of visionary and utterly ruthless empire builders, with few resources but breathtaking ambition, attempted to seize the Indian Ocean, destroy Islam and take control of world trade.
Told with Roger Crowley's customary skill and verve, this is narrative history at its most vivid - an epic tale of navigation, trade and technology, money and religious zealotry, political diplomacy and espionage, sea battles and shipwrecks, endurance, courage and terrifying brutality. Drawing on extensive first-hand accounts, it brings to life the exploits of an extraordinary band of conquerors - men such as Afonso de Albuquerque, the first European since Alexander the Great to found an Asian empire - who set in motion five hundred years of European colonisation and unleashed the forces of globalisation.
Fast-paced and vivid narrative...a fascinating account of the rise of an empire. (Francois Soyer BBC History Magazine)
In his previous studies of 15th- and 16th-century struggles between Christians and Ottomans for control of the Mediterranean, Crowley has shown a rare gift for combining compelling narrative with lightly worn academic thoroughness as well as for balancing the human with the geopolitical - qualities on display here. The story he has to tell may be a thrilling one but not every historian could tell it so thrillingly. (Michael Prodger Financial Times)
Magnificently rip-roaring history of Portugal's rise to world empire ... Conquerors is a gloriously entertaining read ... it reads like an epic, bursting with colour and excitement. Unlike many academics who have written about the age of European expansion, Crowley never wastes a syllable on post-colonial gobbledegook, but just cracks on with the action ... prodigiously entertaining book. (Dominic Sandbrook Sunday Times)
Crowley brings a gift for vivid (and gory) storytelling buttressed by a firm grasp of the political and religious dimensions of the time ... Crowley's pages burst with action ... he opens the reader's eyes to a now lost chapter in the western encounter with the lands of the East. (The National)
Readers of Crowley's previous books will not be disappointed by this exciting tale of sea battles, land campaigns and shipwrecks ... Crowley makes a good case for reclaiming Portugal's significance as forger of the first global empire. (Daily Telegraph)
A] fast-moving and highly readable narrative, which covers the voyages of Dias and da Gama and the battles and conquests of Almeida and Albuquerque. [Crowley's] detailed reconstruction of events is based on a close reading of the works of the chroniclers, notably Barros and Correa, whose accounts were written in the tradition of the chronicles of chivalry. (History Today)
[Crowley] opens the reader's eyes to a now lost chapter in the Western encounter with the lands of the East. (The Oldie)