Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem by Carol Delaney; The Last Crusade: The Epic Voyages of Vasco da Gama by Nigel Cliff - review by Timothy Brook

Timothy Brook

Raise the Holy Sail

Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem

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Duckworth & Co 319pp £20 order from our bookshop

The Last Crusade: The Epic Voyages of Vasco da Gama

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Atlantic Books 547pp £22 order from our bookshop
 

Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama used to enjoy special status in our pantheon of heroes: Columbus for ‘discovering’ the continents that blocked his way to Asia, and da Gama for figuring out how to circumnavigate Africa for the same end. Both ventures ended up changing history by restructuring the networks of trade linking Europe to distant regions, and gave Europe an upper hand it had not previously enjoyed. Out of Europe’s seaward escape would emerge global capitalism and the social and political arrangements some call modernity. 

Both men therefore mattered to history, though their reputations were not secure at the time. As Stanford University anthropologist Carol Delaney reminds us in her careful and thorough reconstruction of Columbus’s life, aristocratic and personal politics nearly erased him from the official version of Spanish conquests. The fact that we

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