Pathfinders: A Global History of Exploration by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto

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"History has two big stories to tell"--the story of how humans diverged over many millenia, and the story of how they later re-converged, "lac[ing] the world together with routes of contact." Pathfinders: A Global History of Exploration by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto chronicles human exploration throughout history beginning with the peopling of the earth through the earliest pathfinders and continuing up to the near-present age of globalization.
Felipe Fernández-Armesto is an historian and the William P. Reynolds Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame. Fernández-Armesto is a prolific, award-winning author with work published in 27 languages. Many of his books were written for popular audiences including, 1492: The Year the World Began, Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States, Near a Thousand Tables: A History of Food and The Conquistadors: A Very Short Introduction to name a few. According to Candice Millard of the New York Times, Fernández-Armesto's "breadth of knowledge and depth of understanding" of such an "enormous subject" more than qualifies him to write a history of exploration. He leaves no question in the mind of the reader of his diligence in researching and retelling a story of human exploration with careful detail. Michael Upchurch from The Seattle Times states, Felipe Fernández-Armesto's "lively mind, pithy phrasing and stunningly thorough and diverse knowledge are a constant pleasure."
According to Fernández-Armesto, "explorers were the engineers of history's infrastructures, the builders of the causeways of culture, foragers of links, spinners of webs." For many, the idea of exploration evokes images of adventure and excitement, risk and anticipation. Explorers are the trailblazers, ...

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...d that challenges contemporary American romanticized ideas about early explorers motives and contributions to global history such as Christopher Columbus' tendency to exaggerate and Captain John Smith's tyrannical forced submission of the Powhatans. Some parts of Pathfinders were reminiscent of Tolstoy's presumption in War and Peace that the reader had a thorough prior knowledge on warfare and military strategies and tactics. Many of Fernández-Armesto's explanations and descriptions relied on assumed depth of knowledge of maritime navigation and world geography that many among a general audience may not possess. No doubt, "wanderlust, vainglory, and self-romanticization were always parts of the explorers' psychic equipment." That same "threefold nature: fame, curiosity and lust for gain" will surely carry modern day explorers into new realms yet to be charted.

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