I’m sure by now many of you have noticed along the right-hand column of my blog a quartet of book covers belonging to books titled 1491, 1492, 1493 and 1494. With all four books labeled, “to read” you’ve probably wondered when, if ever, I was going to read and review them. Well, wait no more. Inspired by the hopes and promises of a new year, I finally got off my lazy butt and started reading them. Just to make things a bit more interesting, I’ve decided to make them part of a four-part series called Farewell to the 15th Century. Of course, since I’m starting with a book titled 1494, it’s pretty obvious I won’t be featuring them in any perceived chronological order. But does anyone including myself really care about that little detail? Of course not.
Published in early 2012, 1494: How a Family Feud in Medieval Spain Divided the World in Half is Stephen R. Brown’s account of 15th century Iberian power politics and how it led to a Borgia Pope’s division of the New World into Spanish and Portuguese competing spheres of influence. According to Brown this Church-sanctioned imperial duopoly would go on to shape the course of history, inspiring modern concepts of international law, not to mention European colonialism with its attendant rivalries.
What I probably enjoyed the most about Brown’s 1494 was the attention he paid to the major personalities associated with the Age of Discovery. While his depictions of the lives of Columbus and Magellan made for entertaining reading, it’s his account of the larger than life adventures of Ferdinand and Isabella that rival anything one might see on such TV costume dramas like The Tudors or Borgias.
I admit, when I grabbed 1494 from my public library my expectations of the book, while not exactly low, were pretty modest. I’m happy to report that 1494 definitely exceeded those expectations. Not only has it inspired me to continue with my Farewell to the 15th Century series, but it’s also rekindled my interest in Laurence Bergreen’s 2003 page-turner Over the Edge of the World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe. After all, a good book always inspires me to read more.