The first accessible, authoritative, and complete modern account of Vasco da Gama's historic and audacious attempt, in 1497, to seize the spice routes and re-conquer the Holy Land.
In 1497, the last bastions of Christendom were crumbling. The Ottomans had sacked the Vatican, Iberia was under Arabian control and the tidemark of Islam threatened Paris. Against this hostile canvas, four ships left the shores of Portugal under the charge of a young Christian captain, Vasco de Gama. His mission was as quixotic as it was audacious: cut off Islamic wealth by seizing the spice routes, and re-conquer the Holy Land.
De Gama succeeded in carving out the first accessible route to the riches of the East. But when he retraced his steps six years later, as the admiral of a fleet of war ships, his youthful diplomacy had ripened into violence and righteousness; and his second encounter with Islam was stained with the blood of massacre and oppression.
Today, as the Arab world reclaims oil fields and the West flocks to the strength of India's tiger economy, the tide of religious imperialism continues to ebb and flow. In The Last Crusade, Nigel Cliff pinpoints De Gama's voyages into Islam as the first relevant clash of theocratic tribalism, the aftershocks of which are as resonant today, as when Vasco de Gama set sail 500 years ago.
Nigel Cliff is a historian, biographer, and critic. He was educated at Oxford University, where he was awarded a double First in English and the Beddington Prize for English Literature. He is a former theatre and film critic for the Times and a contributor to The Economist and other publications. He is the author of The Shakespeare Riots.