Over the Edge of the World: book review by Mike.
Over The Edge of The World Recommendation:
To all lovers of historical literature I highly recommend Laurence Bergreen’s “Over the Edge of the World”.
If you are picking up this book, it is likely that you already know something about Ferdinand Magellan and his famous circumnavigation of the globe from 1519 to 1521. However, the detail Bergreen goes into regarding the geopolitical landscape of the time and the events leading up to Magellan’s voyage is impressive and may not be known to the casual reader of historical works. “Over the Edge of the World” employs impeccable research and a variety of little known first-hand accounts to weave a story that rivals any popular novel.
I have read this book twice and perused it several times, always picking up some new tidbit or little-known factoid. I implore you to take a journey with Laurence Bergreen and Magellan in this outstanding piece of historical writing. See you in Seville!
Over the Edge of the World Review:
Laurence Bergreen’s “Over the Edge of the World” is a well-written and thoroughly researched piece of historical writing about, perhaps, the most important expedition of mankind; Ferdinand Magellan’s circumnavigation of the globe. Bergreen’s depiction of this adventure does not begin when Magellan’s fleet sets sale, but discusses and dissects all the events taking place prior, most of which nearly prevented this massive feat.
The author begins the journey by explaining the geopolitical landscape between Spain and Portugal at the beginning of the 16th century. The countries were constantly at odds with one another, especially in the arena of world trade. Spain and Portugal were forever looking for an advantage over one another, specifically at sea and the discovery for trade routes in their quest for spice.
At this period in history, spice had the ability to create unthinkable wealth for kings who needed to fill their coffers and for adventurers who were seeking wealth that could potentially set them up for life. Bergreen describes in detail how loyalty to country took a back seat to seasoned explorers who needed to be commissioned by a monarch, such as Christopher Columbus, the Genovese navigator who claimed the New World for Spain. Such expatriation would also become the path for Magellan.
Magellan’s rise to the captain’s chair was almost as arduous as his journey around the globe, not only fighting wars to gain political favor and recognition but also a jealous king and spiteful rivals along the way. However, Magellan was steadfast in his ambitions and was offered a contract by King Charles I of Spain in 1518 for discovery of the Spice Islands.
Even the negotiation of the contract was treacherous and the first of Magellan’s five ships had not even touched water. Such were the politics of the day. But Magellan was as skillful a negotiator as he was a navigator and his course was finally set.
From the moment the fleet left the port of Seville, Bergreen’s account of the voyage grips you from all points of view, from the stories of the lowly deck hands to Magellan himself. There are class struggles between the wealthy and privileged cosmographers who relied on astronomy and mathematics and the pilots who were hired hands, those who actually risked their lives at sea but occupied a lower social status and were looked down upon by the cosmographers.
Then there was the constant struggle for water and food, the delicate balance between sailing on and stopping the fleet to replenish. With all these pressures, life threatening situations and with everyone watching and judging Magellan’s leadership and skill, mutiny was always tacking around every new corner of the globe.
This work is not just an historical account, it is a factual piece of legend that has all the workings of a fantastical novel filled with political intrigue, sex, power, greed and in the end one of the most gripping endings that will rival anything offered in fantasy. Moreover, it changed the field of exploration forever.
Please leave a comment on your thoughts on Over the Edge of the World book review below in the comments area.
See our other Book Reviews.