‘Conquerors: How Portugal Forged the First Global Empire,’ by Roger Crowley

61hJIZVd2yL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Ian Morris at The New York Times:

Afonso de Albuquerque died 500 years ago, after spending a dozen years terrorizing coastal cities from Yemen to Malaysia. He enriched thousands of men and killed tens of thousands more. Despite never commanding more than a few dozen ships, he built one of the first modern intercontinental empires. And this was just the beginning: The next step, he said, was to sail up the Red Sea, destroy Mecca, Medina and the Prophet Muhammad’s body and liberate the Holy Land. Perhaps, he mused, he could destroy Islam altogether.

The 18 years between December 1497, when Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and December 1515, when Albuquerque died off the Indian coast, were a pivotal point in history, and in “Conquerors” Roger Crowley tells the story with style. It is a classic ripping yarn, packed with excitement, violence and cliffhangers. Its larger-than-life characters are at once extraordinary and repulsive, at one moment imagining the world in entirely new ways and at the next braying with delight over massacring entire cities.

Crowley’s craftsmanship comes through most clearly in telling this story of relentless, one-sided slaughter without glutting the reader with gore.

more here.