Conquerors: How Portugal Seized the Indian Ocean and Forged the First Global Empire

Crowley Conquerors

Conquerors: How Portugal Seized the Indian Ocean and Forged the First Global Empire by Roger Crowley (Faber & Faber, September 2015; RandomHouse, December 2015)

Reviewed by Jame DiBiasio 

 Cross-posted from Asian Review of Books

“Had there been more of the world,” wrote Luís de Camões of the Portuguese explorers, they “would have discovered it.” That’s a line from Roger Crowley’s fantastic new narrative history, The Conquerors: How Portugal Seized the Indian Ocean and Forged the First Global Empire.

Crowley is out to reset the primacy of Columbus and the Spanish discovery of the Americas that resides in contemporary Western society. The age of exploration was a European endeavor but particularly an Iberian one. The Portuguese explorers were the ones who did the bulk of the discovering. Moreover, as Crowley relates, Portuguese swashbuckling penetrated the heart of Asian commerce and achieved a stunning dominance there. The Portuguese, within a matter of years, had created the first Western-dominated world empire since Alexander the Great. Their achievement was Act One in the saga of the rise of the West – and what a bloody, thrilling and unlikely victory it was. Continue reading “Conquerors: How Portugal Seized the Indian Ocean and Forged the First Global Empire”