Peter Russell's Henry 'the Navigator' is one of those rare books which has had classic, or rather legendary, status even before it was published.
In a seminal article on Portuguese merchants published 35 years ago (1), David Grant Smith suggested (on p. 247) that emigrants from Madeira ‘constituted a sort of gentile Diaspora’, highlighting how family ties and friendships originating on this small Portuguese Atlantic island ‘endured and formed the basis for a network of commercial relationships’.
This is an important volume that hopefully will disseminate new ideas and stimulate new research outside and beyond the communities of Enlightenment and Atlantic historians that have contributed to it. The Southern Atlantic has been the site of some of the most interesting recent work in Atlantic history.
The proliferation of computer databases and the digitization of sources online are transforming the profession. Scholars can now do substantial original research without needing to travel to distant archives. Massive collections of documents are at our fingertips. Online databases are encouraging the democratization of historical research.
Serge Gruzinski compares Cortés’s actions in Mexico with suggestions for the invasion of China, adumbrated by Portuguese captives in Canton in 1522–3.