Pathfinders by Felipe Fernández-Armesto


A distinguished scholar traces the history of exploration from a global perspective, following the pathfinders and their expeditions over the course of five millennia to the farthest reaches of the world, from ancient Egypt, through the merchants and missionaries of the Silk Roads, to the discovery of the New World and the nineteenth-century expedi

Details Pathfinders

Release DateNov 1st, 2006
PublisherW. W. Norton & Company
GenreHistory, Nonfiction, World History

Reviews Pathfinders

  • GoldGato
    The ocean to be cross'd, the distant to be brought near,The lands to be welded together.-Walt WhitmanThe stories of the great explorers have always enchanted me. I assumed they went off on their wild adventures simply for the heck of it all, but as this book makes clear, the main reason for the beginning of the 'Pathfinders' was to overcome the adverse balance of trade. Because China and the lands of the Indian Ocean provided silks and spices and...
  • John Lowrie
    This is a wonderful retrospective of human exploration, starting with the dispersal of humanity from tropical Africa to the farthest reaches of the globe and continuing up until the present with all groups of humans back in touch with each other (not counting the few Amazon tribes still to be contacted). The book is great up until the last couple of pages where Mr. Hernandez-Armesto sneers at the future of exploration with such blatant hypocrisy ...
  • Mary
    It took me a while to slog through this. The main problem, I think, was that the author didn't seem to think much of any of the explorers. Yes, the myths that have grown up around them need to be cleared away in a history, but when the author dismisses an explorer's motives or accomplishments so often, I start to wonder why I should bother to read about them. A secondary issue was the maps. There *are* maps, but not always where I needed them and...
  • Grant
    Armesto provides a nearly comprehensive history of the world through the pathfinders, those individuals who sought out new routes and new places, on land and sea. By considering so many individual explorers and their accomplishments, Armesto gives the reader a very meaty book, but succeeds in explaining the divergence of humanity, led out of Africa by explorers, then the convergence of human societies, again led by those extraordinary individuals...
  • Fabián Pérez
    Ive read some of the reviews criticizing that he makes a wrong apreciation of some historical charachters. Yes, he is a critic of some. Some I found right some I found wrong. But this is irrelevant.The most notable and relevant virtue of this book is not only the tale of exploration as a story of humanity, but most remarkably that the writer makes the most interesting questions, theories and reasonings as to how and why things happened.The fact o...
  • Srikanth
    Pathfinders is a book about maritime exploration mostly. Why the Arabian Sea monsoon system facilitated trade in the Arabia Sea early, why the Atlantic trading system emerged much later and how it came to dominate the trading systems. He spends some time on deconstructing the legends and myths about well known explorers. But the most fascinating thing about the books was that he mentions so many place names without saying which country they are i...
  • Robert Frecer
    Written in a witty, interesting and objective prose style. This is an amazing read if you want to know more about the Dark Age Javanese thalassocracy, colonization of Iceland by Irish hermits, the wind systems of the Indian Ocean and their influence on the region's culture, and all manner of facts and stories connected to the one theme - of the world getting back in touch with itself.
  • TG Lin
  • Mark
    While this is mostly a good book with a very broad sweep I have several disagreements with some of the conclusions of the author. Three to be exact. First, he dismisses Sir Francis Drake as an insignificant explorer. While I recognize Drake's primary historical importance lies outside of his explorations, he did discover Drake's Straight and explored the west coast of North America and left invaluable information about the Native Peoples of north...
  • Ferruccio Fiordispini
    La storia in viaggio.Bel saggio che ci porta in giro per il mondo (consigliato l'uso di un bel mappamondo mentre lo si legge), alla scoperta delle scoperte geografiche dell'uomo. E non solo geografiche. Direi alla scoperta dell'uomo stesso.La teoria di fondo dell'autore è che la storia dell'umanità ha avuto una prima lunga fase di "dispersione e diversificazione". Dal cuore dell'Africa origine dell'homo sapiens, le attitudini di questo bipede m...
  • Ian
    A book somewhat too ambitious for its subject - it spans most of human history, from the traces of evidence of prehistoric migrations to about the 1960s, when contact was "finally" being made with the most remote tribes in the Amazon and New Guinea interiors. It's not short, but that's still a lot of ground to cover, especially because Fernando-Armesto is careful to cover many of the explorers who didn't get much credit in our 4th grade social st...
  • Karson
    I was actually really suprised at how much i loved this book. It is the history of world exploration. It is actually really well written. It is the type of stuff you learned in second grade! You know Magellan, Cook, Marco Polo! You know you want to know all about these guys! The themes this guy picks out to discuss and explore are really interesting like legend vs reality. Where were these guys really exploring? Why were so many lives spent tryin...
  • Tony Mercer
    This was an absolutely fascinating book that tells the story of the global exploration since the beginning of time. The beginning is a little slow, but as Da Gama, Cabot, Cook, and Amundsen take off the book is an addicting read. The tales of the first explorers to infiltrate the gold filled yet impossible to find realms of Timbuktu, navigate the winds to New Guinea, and attempts to find the Northwest Passage. It is a comprehensive yet storylike ...
  • Lucas
    This man is a genius. As a historian, Fernandez-Armesto is extremely thorough. As an author, he is witty and weaves a factual narrative that even the most history-adverse reason will find entertaining. Of course there are books that go more into depth than Pathfinders, but that is not Fernandez-Armesto's goal. He is looking at the overall picture and how all those various components of history fit together to push Europeans out into the unknown.
  • Nicole
    I used this in my graduate historiography class in Fall 2013 in conjunction with Prof. Fernandez-Armesto's visit to campus for a symposium. For teaching, it was a good book, since there was a lot to think about in terms of the writing style and the use of varying types of evidence. The big downside for teaching is that it doesn't have an introduction (or much else in the way of apparatus). It's not really my kind of history, as -- for me -- it is...
  • Dave
    I like the global and historical context he gives to exploration, and he avoids simple explanations about why exploration happened. Solid historical vignettes are sprinkled throughout. A weakness is that while lots of answers are debunked, few positive 'answers' are offered. That's better than offering simple explanations, but the book lacks some power as a result. The books moves 'laterally' very well, but does not move 'forward' as much - if th...
  • Marcus
    I read this trying to imagine what sort of "Explorer" I would have been throughout the different phases of history. Its a fascinating read, and I actually read it around the same time as I read Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, & Steal and found the two books to be complementary in understanding each of them.
  • Vera
    A fairly comprehensive discussion of the exploration of the earth. Most of this was fascinating, and did not overlap too much with my memories of 6th grade history where a lot of this was discussed. It took a long time for me to read though because of the length and subject matter.
  • Sid
    This is the kind of book that I had been looking for - and am so glad I found it. I also read his book on Amerigo, so I knew it would be good. A really fascinating book, filled with all of my heroes.
  • Iain
    Pathfinders helped me to understand what I should have understood before, how "the age of exploration" is a misnomer because all ages are ages of exploration. The portion of history we refer to as the age of exploration is simply the period in which we all came back together.
  • Jonathan
    Comprehensive, well illustrated, filled with the explorers comments and failures. Unbelievable what the explorers went through and did (to themselves and others) only to reemdure once barely surviving the first time.
  • Belleofthebrawl
    Great book about Exploration. Begins in pre-history and follows through to moder day. Amazing to see how exploration has shaped mankind and has been the driving force behind so many changes over the last thousand years.
  • Sherry Alexander
    A thorough examination of the exploration of man, and his desire never to stay in one place too long. Pathfinders not only explores the motivations that led to exploration, but it whisks the reader into a world of understanding.
  • Ralph Miller
    I liked this book but it went into a little more detail than I was anticipating. Fernandez-Armesto's erudition is daunting and comprehensive. I would've enjoy a digest more (sorry to admit it).
  • Anastasia
    I thought it was terribly interesting. He contextualizes human history and makes connections to all parts of the past to create a comprehensive story of humanity.
  • Alfredo González
  • Ryan
    Great book on the history of exploration.
  • Sean
    What let's call a thorough overview of the entire history of humans traveling the globe to find all the other humans. A slow read. Good, though.