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The Discovery of Mankind: Atlantic Encounters in the Age of Columbus [Hardcover]

David Abulafia
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

22 Feb 2008
The first landings in the Atlantic World heralded striking and terrifying impressions of peoples entirely isolated from the explorers' continents, customs and religions. From the first recorded encounters with the native inhabitants of the Canary Islands in 1341 to Columbus's explorations in 1492 and Cabral's discovery of Brazil in 1500, western Europeans struggled to make sense of the existence of the peoples they met. Were they Adam's children, of a common lineage with the peoples of the Old World, or were they a separate creation, the monstrous races of medieval legend? Should they govern themselves? Did they have the right to be free? Emphasising contact between peoples rather than the discovery of lands, and using archaeological findings as well as eyewitness accounts, David Abulafia explores the social lives of the inhabitants, the motivations and tensions of the first transactions, and the swift transmutation of wonder to vicious exploitation. Lucid, readable and scrupulous, this is a work of humane engagement with a period in which tragically violent standards were set for European conquest across the world.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (22 Feb 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300125828
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300125825
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.6 x 3.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 353,655 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"This meticulous and gripping study ... couldn't be more relevant to our contemporary situation."
-- Alban McCoy, Tablet, November 29, 2008

'Abulafia pulls no punches... there is no denying his brilliance at analysing European motivations and responses.'
-- The Independent, April 18, 2008

'This book is a wonderful work of scholarship." -- BBC History Magazine, July 2008


'This book is a wonderful work of scholarship."

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A thorough and engaging book 30 Jan 2010
The book claims to show how the European discovery of different lands and peoples changed ideas and beliefs. It certainly succeeds at this. However, it is also a very good narrative history. Its arguments are also put into the wider context which means that it is possible to follow these arguments with the minimum of prior knowledge on this interesting topic.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent account of European encounters with the wider world 27 Jan 2011
By Diatonic - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a fine book, by a reknown historian of Cambridge University. His account of Europe's first encounters with the wider world is extremely well done and distinguished by its good sense. (He eschews the nonsense that is fashionable in Portugal about "secret voyages", etc.). His wide and deep knowledge of the sources is clear throughout. No better introduction to the topic could be had.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very well-written, very informative 1 Mar 2013
By P.H. - Published on
Along with "1491," this is one of the very best books written about European understandings of the New World before, during, and immediately after its discovery. Abulafia's prose style is vaguely scholarly but still very accessible; there are occasional questionable digressions and the book could have perhaps been a bit shorter (I'm not sure that the reader needs to spend the first 100 pages of the book being led through the minutiae of the century-long conquest of the Canary Islands). The most interesting parts of the book are where Abulafia examines the legal/theological/philosophical implications of the discovery of a "new" type of human being that Europeans could not, at first, figure out how to categorize.

Overall, 4.5/5, a very impressive work.
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