Tudor Adventurers -- An Arctic Voyage of Discovery: The Hunt for the Northeast Passage by James Evans, Pegasus Books '14, $27.95, 383 pages, ASIN #1605986119. Index, bibliography, notes, grouping of b&w and color glossy images. B&W maps.
"In the first half of the sixteenth century a fundamental change was taking place in western Europe," writes author James Evans in this compelling new work. "Spain and Portugal had thrown off the shackles of ancient geography. In Asia and America they had discovered new lands, unknown to the old writers, and they had reached them by uncharted routes across the oceans.
"It was a time when inventions and discoveries not only rivalled those of the ancients but exceeded them. What of theirs, asked the English scholar, translator and chemist Richard Eden, could possibly be compared with printing or with the making of guns or fireworks? Ptolemy, the second-century Alexandrian who had exerted such enduring influence on geographical ideas in Europe, had undoubtedly been an 'excellent man', but still, Eden noted, 'there were many things hid from his knowledge.'
"The ancients had not, as some still thought, comprehended all things. Ptolemy, after all, 'knew nothing of America.' Or consider St. Augustine: would such a clever and learned man have doubted that the earth was round had he known how the Spaniards and Portuguese would sail around it, returning, by a straight course, more or less, to the point at which they had set off?
"The lesson was simple. No man, however brilliant, could know beyond what was tried and discovered by experience. What lay in the unexplored regions of the globe could not be calculated or imagined. Men must travel there to find out."
Historian James Evans took a First in history at Oriel College, Oxford University, and went on to do doctoral studies there. Since then he has produced historical documentaries for TV as well as written the accompanying books. Tudor Adventurers is his first book.
Baghdad -- City of Peace, City of Blood -- A History in Thirteen Centuries by Justin Marozzi. DaCapo Press '14, $32, 459 pages, ASIN #1846143136. Index, bibliography, notes, appendix, grouping of b&w glossy images.
From the dust jacket:
"For much of its extraordinary life, Baghdad, known for centuries as the 'City of Peace,' enjoyed both cultural and commercial preeminence. For five centuries it was the seat of the Abbasid Empire, a marvel of glittering palaces, exquisite parks, magnificent mosques, and Islamic colleges.
"It was a city boasting the most accomplished astronomers, mathematicians, doctors, musicians, and poets -- it was here, in the time of the caliphs, that the great Arabic classic One Thousand and One Nights was set. With its teeming markets watered by the Tigris, Baghdad was a thriving trading emporium, attracting merchants from Central Asia to the Atlantic; its economy was the envy of West and East alike.
"Yet Baghdad's inhabitants have also seen many terrible hardships, from epidemics and famines to invasions and devastating floods. And it has also been one of the most violent cities on earth. When U.S. troops entered in 2003, they became the latest participants in a turbulent history stretching back to the city's founding in 762.
"Over most of its thirteen-century history, Baghdad has endured the rule of brutal strongmen, from capricious caliphs to Saddam Hussein; and it has suffered violent occupations at the hands of its conquerors, from the Mongol Hulagu, grandson of Genghis Khan, to Tamerlane, known as the 'Sword Arm of Islam.'"
Author Justin Marozzi is an author and journalist who has traveled extensively in the Middle East and Muslim world and has worked in conflict and post-conflict Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, and Darfur. He has written four previous books.