Fernández-Armesto, Felipe 1950-
Fernández-Armesto, Felipe 1950-
(Felipe Fermin Ricardo Fernández-Armesto)
PERSONAL: Born December 6, 1950, in London, England; son of Felipe (a journalist) and Betty (a journalist; maiden name, Millan) Fernández-Armesto; married Lesley Patricia Hook, July 16, 1977; children: Sebastian Felipe Xavier, Federico David Fermin Arturo. Education: Magdalen College, Oxford, M.A., 1976, D.Phil., 1977. Religion: Roman Catholic.
ADDRESSES: Office—Department of History, Queen Mary, University of London, London E1 4NS, England. Agent—Bruce Hunter, 5-8 Lower John St., Golden Square, London W1F 9HA, England. E-mail—[email protected].
CAREER: Educator and writer. St. John's College, Oxford, England, senior scholar, 1974–76; Charterhouse, Surrey, England, master, 1976–81; Warwick University, Coventry, England, visiting lecturer, 1981–82; Oxford University, fellow and director of Iberian studies at St. Antony's College, 1981–90, also visiting lecturer and member of the Faculty of Modern History, 1990–; Queen Mary, University of London, England, professor of global environmental history.
Contributor to British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) radio programs; served on the editorial board of the University of Chicago Press's History of Cartography and on the editorial committee of Studies in Overseas History at Leiden University; endowed lectures at various institutions, including the University of Minnesota, the University of Pennsylvania, and Edinburgh University; lecturer at the 2002 Paleislezing in The Hague and plenary lecturer and keynote speaker at conferences in Paris, Rome, Turin, and New York; served on the Faculties of the World Economic Forum and the European Technology Forum.
MEMBER: PEN (English committee), Royal Historical Society (fellow), Athenaeum, Hakluyt Society (member of council, 1992–).
AWARDS, HONORS: Arnold Modern History prize, Oxford University, 1971; Leverhulme research fellowship, 1981; commendation of the British Library Association, 1992; Caird Medal, National Maritime Museum, 1995; John Carter Brown Medal, 1999; D.Litt. from Oxford University.
Columbus and the Conquest of the Impossible, Saturday Review Press (New York, NY), 1974.
Ferdinand and Isabella (biography), Weidenfeld & Nicholson (London, England), 1975.
The Canary Islands after the Conquest: The Making of a Colonial Society in the Early Sixteenth Century, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1982.
Sadat and His Statecraft (biography), Kensal Press (Windsor Forset, Berkshire, England), 1982, 2nd edition, 1983.
Before Columbus: Exploration and Colonization from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, 1229–1492, University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1987.
The Spanish Armada: The Experience of War in 1588, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1988.
Columbus, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1991.
(Editor) The Times Atlas of World Exploration: Three Thousand Years of Exploring, Explorers, and Mapmaking, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1991.
Edward Gibbon's Atlas of the World, Folio Society (London, England), 1991.
Barcelona: A Thousand Years of the City's Past, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1992.
Columbus on Himself, Folio Society (London, England), 1992.
Antes de Colon: exploracion y colonizacion desde el Mediterraneo hacia el Atlantico, 1229–1492, Catedra (Madrid, Spain), 1993.
Canarias e Inglaterra a traves de la historia, Ediciones del Cabildo Insular de Gran Canaria (La Palmas de Gran Canaria), 1995.
(Editor) The European Opportunity, Variorum (Brook-field, VT), 1995.
Millennium: A History of the Last Thousand Years, Scribner (New York, NY), 1995.
Reformations: A Radical Interpretation of Christianity and the World, 1500–2000, Scribner (New York, NY), 1997.
Religion, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1997.
Truth: A History, Bantam (New York, NY), 1997, published as Truth: A History and a Guide for the Perplexed, Thomas Dunne (New York, NY), 1999.
Civilizations: Culture, Ambition, and the Transformation of Nature, Free Press (New York, NY), 2001.
Food: A History, Pan (London, England), 2001, published as Near a Thousand Tables: A History of Food, Free Press (New York, NY), 2002.
The Americas: A Hemispheric History, Modern Library (New York, NY), 2003.
Ideas that Changed the World, DK Publishing (New York, NY), 2003.
(Editor, with Leonard Blussé) Shifting Communities and Identity Formation in Early Modern Asia, Research School of Asian, African and Amerindian Studies (CNWS), Universiteit Leiden (The Netherlands), 2003.
Humankind: A Brief History, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2004, published as So You Think You're Human?: A Brief History of Humankind, 2004.
Also author, with others, of The Times Guide to the Peoples of Europe, 1994, and The Times Atlas of European History, 1994. Author of introductions to books, including Questa e una opera necessaria a tutti li naviganti, 1904, by Alvise Ca da Mosto, Scholars' Facsimiles and Reprints, 1992. Contributor to periodicals, reference works, and journals. Translator of numerous books, including Franco: A Biography, by Juan Pablo Fusi, 1989. Also contributor to World of Myths, compiled and introduced by Marina Warner, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 2003–04. Works have been translated into twenty-two languages.
SIDELIGHTS: Felipe Fernández-Armesto is an educator and author specializing in history and Iberian studies. His first book, Columbus and the Conquest of the Impossible, was published in England and the United States in 1974. In 1991, an entirely new work titled Columbus was printed as part of the quincentenary celebrations of Christopher Columbus's 1492 voyage. In the 1991 book, Fernández-Armesto endeavors to expose the truth behind the myths surrounding Columbus's achievements, exploring events through the perspective of Renaissance Spain's economic, religious, and scientific standards. The author argues that Columbus was an ambitious man, a social climber whose ventures were backed by a lobby of powerful people who perceived an economic necessity for finding a trade route to the Orient. In addition, as Raymond Carr in the Times Literary Supplement pointed out, Fernández-Armesto asserts that Columbus also appealed to the "religious enthusiasms of his royal patrons" with the possibility of introducing Christianity to the ruler of China. David Ewing Duncan in the Washington Post Book World observed that in the work, Fernández-Armesto is determined to delfate "the long-held image of Columbus as the 'lonely man of destiny, struggling against prevailing orthodoxy to realize a dream that was ahead of its time.'" According to Fernández-Armesto, no intellectual of the time thought the earth was flat, and Columbus's historic voyage was a logical progression in the exploration of the Atlantic. Carr concluded that "one of the great contributions of Felipe Fernández-Armesto's scholarship is that he sets Columbus in the world of late fifteenth-century Genoa." A New York Times Book Review critic called Columbus a "wholly reliable" biography.
From the chronicles of Columbus, Fernández-Armesto turned again to Spain and her possessions with three historical accounts: 1975's Ferdinand and Isabella; 1982's The Canary Islands after the Conquest: The Making of a Colonial Society in the Early Sixteenth Century; and 1988's The Spanish Armada: The Experience of War in 1588. The first, a biography, focuses on the Catholic monarchs who helped finance Columbus's journeys, and who, in 1469, united the enormous kingdoms of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella of Castile with their marriage. Fernández-Armesto highlights the religious, foreign, and domestic policies of the monarchs through research into their private lives. Anthony Pagden in the Times Literary Supplement asserted that the work provides a "lucid general background" of Spain in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century.
Focusing on that same period of time, Fernández-Armesto next traced the settlement of the Canary Islands in the early 1500s in The Canary Islands after the Conquest. As quoted by Geoffrey Scammell in the Times Literary Supplement, the author declared that his purpose in writing the book was to "depict the society of a Spanish overseas colony in the sixteenth century, using the great mass of detailed information imparted by notarial archives." Fernández-Armesto examines the trade of the islands, including the sugar industry, and the effect of the imposition of both Christianity and, often, slavery on the inhabitants. Scammell noted that The Canary Islands "is an honest, competent and useful book, beautifully produced and printed."
The Spanish Armada was published in 1988, commemorating the quadricentennial anniversary of the 1588 naval battle with an account from a Spanish perspective. According to David Starkey in the Times Literary Supplement, Fernández-Armesto emphasizes that "more united the Spanish and English than divided them." The author points especially to the challenges faced equally by both Philip II and Queen Elizabeth of raising funds and resources to pay military expenses for the battle. Starkey, however, wrote that Fernández-Armesto "is wrong to deduce from these difficulties that there was no enthusiasm for the conflict." Fernández-Armesto argues further that, despite the loss of several ships in battle, if the remaining fleet had successfully returned to Spain without being ravaged by bad weather, historians would not have proclaimed such a decisive victory for the English. While some reviewers have questioned Fernández-Armesto's conclusions, Edwards Park in the Washington Post Book World declared that "Fernández-Armesto adds valuable scholarship" to the historical record.
History, cartography, and exploration are the focus of Fernández-Armesto's next works. In Barcelona: A Thousand Years of the City's Past, the author documents the city's history from Roman times to pre-World War II. Fernández-Armesto traces key events of the city's history, including the effects of the Arago-Catalan kingdom of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the riots between 1835 and 1856, the week of unrest in 1909, and the influence of the labor movement, the Confederacion Nacional del Trabajo (CNT). In 1991, as editor of The Times Atlas of World Exploration: Three Thousand Years of Exploring, Explorers, and Mapmaking, Fernández-Armesto attempted to set the work of explorers in their historical context, reproducing "antique maps" to show the cartography familiar to various explorers from 1700 B.C. to modern times. According to Ronald Hyam in Spectator, the volume is remarkable, "an impressive example of interdisciplinary collaborative scholarship matched to a stunning expertise in state-of-the art cartography and typography." Isabel Butterfield, reviewing The Times Atlas of World Exploration in the London Times, concluded that "superb maps, clear, scholarly text and imaginative illustrations ensure this handsome newcomer has a distinguished place in the Times Atlas series."
In 1995, Fernández-Armesto anticipated the turn of the century with his book Millennium: A History of the Last Thousand Years. His thesis in this 800-page history is that, according to a writer for the Economist, "the West's dominance of the rest of the world has been briefer and more precarious than is generally acknowledged and is now in decline. He sees its rise as almost an irrelevance." Some reviewers, including Lawrence Stone in the New Republic, found the author to be guilty of hyperbole. Nevertheless, Stone noted that "his erudition is staggering," and noted "his often brilliant comments on paintings, statues and works of art." A Publishers Weekly commentator called Millennium a "vivid tapestry, generously illustrated,… continually engaging and challenging," while Jay Freeman in Booklist named it an "ambitious, unique and masterful work, which succeeds as both a scholarly project and a piece of popular history." Freeman went on to note: "This is history written at its best: grand in scale and outlook but at the same time precise and focused."
Following his history of the world, Fernández-Armesto tackled another massive subject in Truth: A History. He examines four distinct approaches to truth, sum-marized by Bryce Christensen in Booklist as "the primal emotional truth of tribal peoples; the magisterial truth of oracular authority; the rational truth of logic; and the empirical truth of sense perception." Illustrating each with vivid historical anecdotes, the author then proceeds to examine the state of truth in the world today. He sees it as under attack from both fundamentalists and sophists, yet he "inspires hope that we may yet extricate ourselves from our cultural crisis of doubt by renewing our collective quest for truth," commented Christensen. A Publishers Weekly wrote that the book is "provocative, often illuminating reading." Christensen noted in his review of Truth: A History: "No title ever announced greater authorial confidence! And Fernández-Armesto delivers."
In Food: A History, published in the United States as Near A Thousand Tables: A History of Food, Fernández-Armesto tells the history of humankind's eating habits. The author focuses on the connections between the modern fare of today and the meals of the past as he divides the history of food into eight "revolutions," such as the development of cooking, that changed the way we eat. Mary Russell, writing in the Library Journal, called the book a "well-written, thought-provoking overview of food history." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote: "For sheer volume of fascinating facts, this survey of gastronomic lore can't be beat."
The Americas: A Hemispheric History focuses on several principal themes or theses involving a wide range of issues, from pre-Columbian cultural history to how people on both the North and South American continents identify themselves as "Americans." Peter J. Ling, writing in History Today, commented that the history "offers the pleasures of a good lecture," adding that, "with economy, he argues the case for seeing the hemisphere holistically." In a review for the Spectator, Raymond Carr noted: "This book starts off with a magnificent gallop through the Americas before the discovery of the New World."Carr went on to write that the author's "gifts as an imaginative—and revisionist—historian will give his readers an exhilarating ride through the hemisphere." A contributor to the Economist called The Americas "a short and stimulating … book." Writing in the New Statesman, Jan Morris noted: "His theses are never dull; indeed, they are sometimes surprising and often memorably expressed."
Fernández-Armesto focuses on the development of major discoveries and concepts in his book Ideas that Changed the World. For example, the author presents a case that humans only moved out of the prehistoric era when they developed the ability to conceptualize and ultimately use symbols. "Key intellectual moments … are all surveyed in accessible prose and with hundreds of fascinating illustrations," wrote David Pitt in Booklist.
The author continues his broad historical scope and themes in Humankind: A Brief History, also published as So You Think You're Human?: A Brief History of Humankind. In this extended essay, the author looks at our concept of humanity and how it has changed over the years, from the earliest historical times to modern days. He then presents his case that our shifting concepts of what it means to be human pose a danger to humankind. The author is "suggesting that science and philosophy have combined in the last two generations to blur hitherto hard-and-fast distinctions between human beings and other primates, thus undermining 'our traditional concept of humankind,'" wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor. In a review for Spectator, Mary Furness called the book "fascinating … refreshingly slim, full of interest and food for thought."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
America, April 4, 1998, Robert E. Sullivan, review of Reformations: A Radical Interpretation of Christianity and the World, 1500–2000, p. 35.
Booklist, April 15, 1992, review of The Times Atlas of World Exploration: Three Thousand Years of Exploring, Explorers, and Mapmaking, p. 1554; September 15, 1995, Jay Freeman, review of Millennium, p. 133; November 1, 1999, Bryce Christensen, review of Truth, p. 484; April 15, 2001, Gilbert Taylor, review of Civilizations: Culture, Ambition, and the Transformation of Nature, p. 1530; April 1, 2003, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Americas: A Hemispheric History, p. 1373; October 15, 2003, David Pitt, review of Ideas that Changed the World, p. 383; June 1, 2004, Gilbert Taylor, review of Humankind: A Brief History, p. 1675.
Commentary, March, 1996, George Weigel, review of Millennium, p. 48.
Economist, July 9, 1988, review of The Spanish Armada: The Experience of War in 1588, p. 83; September 9, 1995, review of Millennium, p. 88; December 13, 2003, review of The Americas, p. 36.
History Today, July, 1992, review of Barcelona: A Thousand Years of the City's Past, p. 51; July, 2003, Daniel Snowman, "Felipe Fernández-Armesto," profile of author, p. 34; November, 2003, Peter J. Ling, review of The Americas, p. 74.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2002, review of Near a Thousand Tables: A History of Food, p. 542; March 1, 2003, review of The Americas, p. 360; May 1, 2004, review of Humankind, p. 429.
Library Journal, July, 1983, review of Sadat and His Statecraft, p. 1358; September 1, 1988, review of The Spanish Armada, p. 167; October 15, 1991, William F. Young, review of Columbus, p. 90; September 1, 1995, review of Millennium, p. 189; August, 1996, review of The Times Illustrated History of Europe, p. 89; April 1, 1997, Sandra Collins, review of Truth, p. 98; March 15, 2001, Gloria Maxwell, review of Civilizations, p. 93; June 1, 2002, Mary Russell, review of Near a Thousand Tables, p. 184.
Nation, October 19, 1992, Kirkpatrick Sale, review of Columbus, p. 439.
New Republic, January 6, 1992, Simon Schama, review of Columbus, p. 30A; December 23, 1996, Lawrence Stone, review of Millennium, p. 35.
New Statesman, November 14, 1997, Robert Winder, review of Truth, p. 50; August 18, 2003, Jan Morris, review of The Americas, p. 37; April 5, 2004, Kenan Malik, review of So You Think You're Human?: A Brief History of Humankind, p. 48.
New Statesman & Society, September 1, 1995, Roy Porter, review of Millenium, p. 31.
New York Review of Books, February 16, 1989, review of The Spanish Armada, p. 30; November 21, 1991, Garry Wills, review of Columbus, p. 12; January 28, 1993, Kenneth Maxwell, review of The Times Atlas of World Exploration, p. 38.
New York Times Book Review, May 1, 1988, William Herrick, review of Franco, p. 23; p. 23; October 6, 1991, Richard L. Kagan, review of Columbus, pp. 27-28; October 8, 1995, review of Millennium, p. 36; June 29, 1997, Geoffrey Parker, review of Truth, p. 26; January 23, 2000, Mary Lefkowitz, review of Truth, p. 18.
Publishers Weekly, September 19, 1994, Paul Nathan, "Editorially Led Project," p. 16; August 28, 1995, review of Millennium, p. 94; March 24, 1997, review of Reformations, p. 73; October 18, 1999, review of Truth, p. 59; April 30, 2001, review of Civilizations, p. 65; May 20, 2002, review of Near a Thousand Tables, p. 57.
RQ, summer, 1992, Richard A Spohn, review of The Times Atlas of World Exploration, p. 581.
School Library Journal, May, 1992, Dolores M. Steinhauer, review of Columbus, p. 153.
Science News, August 21, 2004, review of Humankind, p. 127.
Spectator, June 25, 1988, pp. 36-38; April 11, 1992, Ronald Hyam, review of The Times Atlas of World Exploration, p. 29; November 10, 2001, Digby Anderson, review of Food: A History, p. 75; September 13, 2003, Raymond Carr, review of The Americas, p. 53; April 17, 2004, Mary Furness, review of So You Think You're Human?, p. 36.
Times (London, England), November 9, 1991, Isabel Butterfield, review of The Times Atlas of World Exploration, p. 48.
Times Literary Supplement, August 22, 1975, Anthony Pagden, review of Ferdinand And Isabella, p. 948; July 2, 1982, Geoffrey Scammell, review of The Canary Islands after the Conquest: The Making of a Colonial Society in the Early Sixteenth Century, p. 723; August 26, 1983, p. 911; December 2-8, 1988, David Starkey, review of The Spanish Armada, p. 1346; April 26, 1991, p. 21; November 1, 1991, Raymond Carr, review of Columbus, p. 3.
Washington Monthly, June, 2001, Nicholas Thompson, review of Civilizations, p. 55.
Washington Post Book World, August 14, 1988, Edwards Park, review of The Spanish Armada, p. 1; October 13, 1991, David Ewing Duncan, review of Columbus, p. 9.
Wilson Library Bulletin, November, 1988, Stephanie Martin, review of The Spanish Armada; December, 1991, Stephanie Martin, review of Columbus, p. 127; February, 1992, James Rettig, review of The Times Atlas of World Exploration, p. 112.
David Higham Associateshttp://www.davidhigham.co.uk/ (February 20, 2006).
Queen Mary, University of London University Web site, http://www.history.qmul.ac.uk/ (February 20, 2006), faculty profile of author.