Conquerors: How Portugal Forged the First Global Empire – Roger Crowley

Do not let the title of this book fool you, or, perhaps, let the title of this book fool you. It is indeed about the Portuguese conquerors of the 15th-16th century who rounded the Cape of Good Hope and established the first Western European presence in the Indian Ocean. Crowley’s conquerors were not just after the profit of the spice trade, of which there was much to be had, but were also seeking to carry through the holy crusade of winning back Jerusalem from the Muslims, a feat which, inexperienced and too far from home, they were ill-equipped for. Perhaps to Crowley’s eyes as well as to those of the Portuguese, India as an ends to itself was not quite the same as holy war. But, then again, Crowley focuses on only a few of Portugal’s leaders, and quite often notes how many of their men stood in opposition to the goal to eradicate Islam from Christian holy sites and trade networks. It’s not an academic study so much as an exciting historical investigation, a good door into the world of the Portuguese Indian Ocean that can lead to even more nuanced studies of the European invasion of the Indian Ocean.

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