SHORTLISTED FOR THE DUFF COOPER PRIZE 2022
A FINANCIAL TIMES BEST HISTORY BOOK OF 2022
‘Rigorous, deft and entertaining … a sparkling read’ – The Spectator
‘The ride is thrilling … a work of serious scholarship’ – Sunday Telegraph
For centuries, Ferdinand Magellan has been celebrated as a hero: a noble adventurer who circumnavigated the globe in an extraordinary feat of human bravery; a paragon of daring and chivalry.
Now historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto draws on extensive and meticulous research to conduct a dazzling investigation into Magellan’s life, his character and his ill-fated voyage. He reveals that Magellan did not attempt – much less accomplish – a journey around the globe, and that in his own lifetime, the explorer was abhorred as a traitor, reviled as a tyrant and dismissed as a failure.
Fernandez-Armesto probes the passions and tensions that drove Magellan to adventure and drew him to disaster: the pride that became arrogance, audacity that became recklessness, determination that became ruthlessness, romanticism that became irresponsibility, and superficial piety that became, in adversity, irrational exaltation. And as the real Magellan emerges, so too do his true ambitions, focused less on circumnavigating the world or cornering the global spice market than on exploiting Filipino gold.
Offering up a stranger, darker and even more compelling narrative than the fictional version that has been glorified for half a millennium, Straits untangles the myths that made Magellan a hero.
This excellent book is a model of elegant argument and authoritative research ... If this account of Magellan's voyage sounds like a history of failure, not success, that is because it was just that. The real triumph is that of Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, who has exposed the fallacies of five hundred years of literature about Magellan. * David Abulafia, Literary Review * Rigorous, deft and entertaining ... a sparkling read -- Horatio Clare * The Spectator * The ride is thrilling ... a work of serious scholarship -- Paul Lay * Sunday Telegraph * A brilliant display of virtuosity ... A masterfully persuasive book -- Matthew Restall * Times Literary Supplement * The enormously confident Fernandez-Armesto tells this story with gusto, rendering Magellan much more interesting because of his flaws than the cardboard hero we've been sold ... [He] is endearingly contemptuous of academic convention, inventing dialogue where appropriate and taking the reader down blind alleys simply because they're picturesque. He's not afraid of being funny, weaving into his analysis quirky remarks that reveal his mischievous side. -- Gerard DeGroot * The Times * A brilliant triumph -- Fernando Cervantes * History Today * Felipe Fernandez-Armesto is not just a pioneering scholar of the Spanish empire and the Age of Exploration, but a historian who tells wonderfully readable stories * Financial Times * In Straits, we see a master of his craft at work. Fernandez-Armesto is arguably the leading scholar of our times in making the early European Age of Discovery accessible to a wider audience. -- Margaret Small * BBC History Magazine * This is the story of a voyage that was in reality one of the most disastrous in the history of overseas exploration but which has now become one of its greatest triumphs - and of a man who failed at almost everything he set out to do and yet became one of the great heroes of modernity. Scintillating and compelling, and told with all of Felipe Fernandez-Armesto's habitual verve and wit, it is at the same time a sobering insight into how we have come to conceive our own increasingly globalized world -- Anthony Pagden, author of 'Worlds at War' Straits is a triumph of biographical writing. With his characteristic vigor and panache, Felipe Fernandez-Armesto circumnavigates Magellan's life and times with a clearer object in mind and far greater success than ever imagined for this subject. He shows us not only the skills and bravado but also the intrigues, the self-deception, and even the insanity that animated Magellan's quest -- Lincoln Paine, author of 'The Sea and Civilization' By pulling apart the usually willfully misread sources in their original languages with a detective's eye for contradiction and inconsistency, Straits unravels a yarn of unmitigated failure punctuated by hubris, meanness, and crafty power grabs. The Ferdinand Magellan who emerges from these freshly disinterred sources is no hero but rather a ruthless gentleman of fortune who died to tell the tale -- Kris Lane, author of 'Potosi'
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