Archive for March 21st, 2013

Sanjay Subrahmanyam’s Vasco Da Gama

March 21, 2013

A must-read and strongly recommended: Sanjay Subrahmanyam does a fabulous job of summarising what the book is all about in the last two paragraphs:

… In adding one more to the many contested portraits of Vasco Da Gama, this books has intended to make an implicit plea for a rather more nuanced, indeed ironical, look at the history of `European expansion’, … No dramatic shifts of paradigm have been proposed, merely the careful sifting of mass of tangled materials, to which the continuing  research of other historians will doubtless add over the years. For the task admits of no easy solutions, with perhaps the greatest of our burdens being the historian’s classic sin: anachronism.

In a recent essay, a well-known Portuguese historian (…) begins by quoting Spinoza: `Concerning human actions, I have tried not to laugh, not to weep, not to detest them, but to understand them.’ To the reader of this volume, I hope the message that I have conveyed has been somewhat different, and rather less `Christian’: concerning past human actions, to laugh when they are ridiculous, to weep when they are tragic, to detest them as they were often detested by those who were their victims, for how else would we ever come close to understanding them?

Have fun!