1492 – Felipe Fernandez-Armesto

An early map of the world - C12
An early map of the world – C12

1492 was sourced cheaply, as always, being part of a 4 for £10 deal in the Totnes remaindered bookshop – and well worth the punt.

Narrative history is a genre that I really like.  There is the excuse of its educational value: the benefits of vicarious travel, with the convenience of a cup of tea and a toasted teacake.

1492 is disingenuous title for a book that covers a longer historical period around that time, but the concise title is a good way in, and the case for this period as a significant point of global change is interesting.  Broadly the writer argues that the major political blocs that dominate the modern world were formed or consolidated around this time – the beginnings of the Russian empire, the final conversion or expulsion of non-Christians from Spain, the division of Africa into spheres of either Islamic or Christian influence, the consolidation of an inward looking China.  And that’s not even to mention Columbus.  The chapter on the discovery of the New World was one of the most interesting, with much information, new to me, about that as an extension of Spanish incursions into the Canary Islands.

Fernandez-Armesto is well informed and the book full of the small details of character and culture that bring history to life.  It has a global reach and an interesting conclusion on the course of history, and the limitations placed on its development by culture and geography.

All in all a great read.


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