Paperbacks: Pathfinders, by Felipe Fernández-Armesto

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The Independent Culture

Stretching, reaching, stirring, springing, vaulting, girdling... The chapter headings of this epic history of exploration suggest that voyaging into the unknown is a fundamental human activity.

Though his transglobal narrative is underpinned by prodigious learning, Fernández-Armesto has a journalist's eye for detail. These include a grisly human sacrifice that shocked a visitor from Baghdad in ninth-century Russia, the "intense disappointment" of Spanish explorers at the table manners of native Americans and the sub-Saharan tribulations of Mungo Park, imprisoned with a hog "to display the inferiority of the infidel".