Conquerors: How Portugal Seized the Indian Ocean and Forged the First Global Empire
Roger Crowley

Conquerors: How Portugal Seized the Indian Ocean and Forged the First Global Empire

As remarkable as Columbus and the conquistador expeditions but far more wide-ranging, the dynamic burst of Portuguese voyaging at the start of the sixteenth century  is one of the tipping points of world history : the moment that the world went global. Within a short time span a tiny country, whose population did not exceed a million, created a maritime empire that stretched from Brazil to Nagasaki. 

Conquerors  tells the almost forgotten story of how  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 thirty years, a handful of visionary empire builders, with few resources but breathtaking ambition, attempted to seize the Indian Ocean, destroy Islam and take control of world trade.

This is history at its most vivid – a 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 first-hand 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 the forces of globalisation.

Portugal was the imperial pathfinder, the template for a wave of successors. Its empire connected the world and created a framework for profound interactions. It left a huge and long-lasting influence on the culture, food, flora, art, history and languages of the globe. It marked the start of 500 years of domination by the West which is only reversing now.

Book Details:

  • Author: Roger Crowley
  • On Submission
  • Rights Sold
    • UK: Faber
    • US: Random House
    • Germany: Theiss
    • Portugal: Presenca
    • China: Social Sciences Academic Press
    • Poland: Rebis
    • Brazil: Planeta
    • Russia: Centrepolygraph

Roger Crowley

Roger Crowley was born in 1951 and educated at Cambridge University. As the child of a naval family, early experiences of life in Malta gave him a deep interest in the history and culture of the Mediterranean world. After finishing school he spent his summers pottering in Greece; after university the Mediterranean bug took a more serious turn with a year spent on and off teaching English in Istanbul, exploring the city and walking across Anatolia with friends and donkeys. In recent years he has made return trips to the Greek-speaking world, including two visits to Mount Athos, spiritual hom...
More about Roger Crowley

Book Reviews

  • "  Fast-paced and vivid…a fascinating account of the rise of an empire ."
    BBC History Magazine
  • "An impressive history of global clashes, religious zealotry, and economic triumph."
    Kirkus
  • "Fast-paced and vivid narrative...a fascinating account of the rise of an empire."
    BBC History Magazine
  • "…magnificently rip-roaring history of Portugal’s rise to world empire…Conquerors is a gloriously entertaining read…it reads like an epic, bursting with colour and excitement. Unlike many academics who have written about the age of European expansion, Crowley never wastes a syllable on post-colonial gobbledegook, but just cracks on with the action…Crowley makes a powerful case that it was the Portuguese, not the Spanish (and still less the British), who built the world’s first truly global empire…this prodigiously entertaining book.."
    Sunday Times
  • "The story he has to tell may be a thrilling one but not every historian could tell it so thrillingly…"
    Financial Times
  • "The historian Roger Crowley promises: “a long-range epic of navigation, trade and technology, money and crusade, political diplomacy and espionage, sea battles and shipwrecks, endurance, reckless courage and extreme violence”. His pulsating narrative does exactly that."
    The Times
  • "...a fast-moving and highly readable narrative."
    History Today
  • "....the latest in his series of vivid Boy’s Own-style narrative histories about the great military, naval and religious conflics of the early modern age…readers of Crowley’s previous books will not be disappointed by this exciting tale of sea battles, land campaigns and shipwrecks..Crowley makes a good case for reclaiming Portugal’s significance as forger of the first global empire."
    Daily Telegrah
  • "hugely entertaining narrative, which covers the short period from 1488 to 1516 with enormous gusto."
    Sunday Times
  • "A darting account . . . Crowley vividly captures the crusading spirit."
    Literary Review
  • "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."
    New York Times
  • "[A] cinematic account . . . Crowley brings a gift for vivid (and gory) storytelling buttressed by a firm grasp of the political and religious dimensions of the time . . . Crowley’s pages burst with action; he is a fine writer."
    National
  • "Roger Crowley promises “a long-range epic of navigation, trade and technology, money and crusade, political diplomacy and espionage, sea battles and shipwrecks, endurance, reckless courage and extreme violence”. His pulsating narrative, which describes sea fights, sieges and shipwrecks, does exactly that ."
    Sunday Times
  • "History on a grand scale grippingly told and vividly drawn ."
    Mail on Sunday