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Publisher's Summary

As remarkable as Columbus and the conquistador expeditions, the history of Portuguese exploration is now almost forgotten.

But Portugal's navigators cracked the code of the Atlantic winds, launched the expedition of Vasco da Gama to India and beat the Spanish to the spice kingdoms of the East - then set about creating the first long-range maritime empire.

In an astonishing blitz of 30 years, a handful of visionary and utterly ruthless empire builders, with few resources but breathtaking ambition, attempted to seize the Indian Ocean, destroy Islam and take control of world trade.

Told with Roger Crowley's customary skill and verve, this is narrative history at its most vivid - an epic tale of navigation, trade and technology, money and religious zealotry, political diplomacy and espionage, sea battles and shipwrecks, endurance, courage and terrifying brutality.

Drawing on extensive firsthand accounts, it brings to life the exploits of an extraordinary band of conquerors - men such as Afonso de Albuquerque, the first European since Alexander the Great to found an Asian empire - who set in motion 500 years of European colonisation and unleashed the forces of globalisation.

Roger Crowley read English at Cambridge. He has had a varied career as a teacher and publisher and is the author of three books on the history of the Mediterranean. He lives in Gloucestershire and now writes full time.

©2015 Roger Crowley (P)2015 Audible, Ltd

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Damien
  • Sydney, Australia
  • 04-19-18

More Roger Crowley please Audible

I try not to give many 5 star ratings but this was an excellent history and deserving of one. It was engaging in both content and narration. I had previously read about the famous voyage of Vasco da Gama to India and the decades of preparation that lead up to it but knew nothing of the aftermath. This book covers the journeys of Dias and Gama etc. as well as the immediate decades after. I found this fascinating and a topic I'll definitely read more about. Hopefully we'll see more Roger Crowley works appear on Audible.

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All the details I never knew

Awesome account of the pioneer Portuguese explorers. Impeccable research. The writing is captivating and I never was bored. I'm planning on reading other books by this author.

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  • Jim
  • 01-16-16

Conquistadors versus Sinbad

This is a joy because it's so well written and it also opens up a field of history which isn't much covered in the UK. The Portugese were stuck out on the atlantic coast of Iberia with very limited access to mediterranean trade so they were forced to hone their sailing and navigation skills voyaging south to Africa. Eventually this took them down to the freezing waters and mountainous storms of the south atlantic where they rounded the cape of good hope and found a route into the dazzlingly rich trading waters of the Indian ocean. The material about the voyages themselves is very good but if anything it's outshone by their adventures as they try to establish themselves in a wholly alien but very sophisticated culture covering South Asia, India, Goa, the east coast of Africa and beyond to Arabia. Think "Conquistador's versus Sinbad" and you're not far off. The cast of Portugese characters is brilliant because a large number of them come over as brilliant but unhinged psychopaths obsessed with personal glory, the acquisition of booty and (believe it or not) beard length. They also left enough personal correspondence that Crowley can paint believable charater portraits. He also acknowledges the awful impact that the Portugese had on the locals, who saw a relatively peaceful trading system thrown into uproar with the arrival of religious zealouts using next generation canon power to offset their small numbers. If you like this period of history I can't recommend this too highly. Personally, I listened to it as a double bill with Kirstin Downey's excellent "Isabella: Warrior Queen" which covers the same period in Spain and found it enhanced my appreciation of both books.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • swheelie
  • 11-16-15

Fascinating story, rarely told.

Any additional comments?

Very well-written and researched. Almost exclusively told from the Portuguese perspective, but this is not supposed to be a well-balanced historical analysis - it's a story, so that's OK I suppose. Well narrated and engaging.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Lesleyboyd
  • 10-11-15

Fascinating

Really informative book on the conquests of those early pioneering Portuguese seamen. Very well written and read. Brilliant insights into the lives of these people both the Portuguese and the poor people they dominated.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Stan
  • 06-16-16

Emotional Ride for me

Would you consider the audio edition of Conquerors to be better than the print version?

I think Audio - the format of the story lends itself well to narration, though a map would have been a welcome aid

What do you think the narrator could have done better?

Just to get the one flaw out of the way; John Sackville attempts to do accents for some of the races in his narration, which I found rather annoying. Plus he read far too quickly, and the sped adjusters didn't quite work out for me. To his credit though he did get a lot of the place names and Portuguese pronunciations correct

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

​As a Goan who grew up in Macau, and whose family has long been associated with the Portuguese administration, this was an emotional story for me. I was expecting this book to be a commentary and digested treatment of the Portuguese expeditions. This is, instead, a blow by blow account of who did what when and why.

Personally I would have preferred some analysis as to the motivations and a little more historical and political context, but that is my personal preference. This book reads almost like an action novel with Vasco de Gama and Alphonso de Albuquerque as the heroes and protagonists. If you know that going in, then it is quite a good read in terms of the first hand accounts and motivations.

It helped me understand a little bit more about my heritage, and yes it focuses on the East African coast as well as the Indian Ocean, but doesn't go into any real detail on China, Japan or Malaca. Perhaps that would be too ambitious for a single book.

In either case, if you are interested in the early stages of the Portuguese empire, in the personalities of Vasco de Gama or Alphonso Albuquerque and want what could be called a journalistic view of those events, then this would be a good book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 02-06-16

Excelente livro

An outstanding run through the formative years of Portuguese colonialism, looking at how those first steps into the Indian Ocean led to a wider empire. Full of engaging characters and told as an exciting story rather than dry history, this book was a pleasure from start to end. The narrator was particularly good and helped bring the text to life.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • R. Ripamonti
  • 01-16-16

Astonishing Portuguese

This is a brilliant short history of the early Portuguese exploration and conquest of the Indian Ocean. It's breathlessly written in such a way as to keep you on the edge of your seat in anticipation of the outcome of each key battle, voyage, negotiation, meeting and communique will be.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Kevin
  • 12-06-15

Highly researched

A highly researched book that covers facts in great detail. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I have a personal passion for Portugal and this book has helped to fill in a number of missing pieces.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • MonkeyMaster
  • 07-23-18

warts and all

I really enjoyed this and thought it was a detailed, well balanced interpretation of the historical achievements of the Portuguese during this era, recognising both the bravery and barbarity of those involved.

....as a consequence I now jokingly threaten to cut off the nose and ears of my wife for any perceived slight to myself.

I enjoyed the engaging narration and the only negative observation would be that of the prononciation of some Portuguese names

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  • mariana
  • 10-22-17

Very interesting

Enjoyed it and greatly enhanced my limited knowledge of Portuguese discovery. Would highly recommend it.

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  • Daniel K.
  • 06-03-17

Fascinating

Excellent narration and very witty at times. The Portuguese are often overlooked by history, but their feat in the Indies, the characters involved and their empire building make for fascinating listening.

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  • Vytautas
  • 10-01-16

Amazing Story

Incredible accounts during a bizarre time. Author seems oddly admiring of Portugese activities though cruel.

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  • Raymond
  • 09-27-16

Superbly written and compelling

A book I will remember for the rest of my life! Roger Crowley writes in a manner that places you in the years of discovery. Using the diverse landscape of the time with a zest of expression, every chapter delivers a more compelling adventure that will have you listening for hours on end. I loved everything about this book.