This book explores the first encounters between Europeans and those living in newly discovered lands. Beginning with the discovery of the Canary Islands in 1341, the European view was characterised by a mixture of curiosity and greed.
Though their culture was regarded as primitive, the Canary islanders gained "grudging admiration" for their resistance. It took over 150 years for the squabbling Portuguese and Spanish to conquer them. After that, disease polished them off.
At the heart of Abulafia's accomplished book is Columbus. A familiar enough type ("he was self-important and brooked no opposition"), his main interest was gold, though his journals express wonder at the dazzling beauty of the Americas. Two decades on from 1492, Spain evolved an official policy for conquered peoples: the Doctrine of Submission.