Books: 1494



Exclusive interview with author Stephen R. Bown and a review of his historical novel about control for the ocean in 1494  *** 3 stars

By Gabrielle Pantera

Hollywood, CA (Gosh!TV) 2012/9/22- “The Borgias tv show came out, featuring Jeremy Irons as Pope Alexander VI, Rodrigo Borgia – the same pope who divided the world in half,” says author of 1494 Stephen Bown. “I remember reading about the Treaty of Tordesillas in a book about Magellan or Columbus and thinking “That sure is weird, the world being divided in half. How come no-one has written a book about that?”

In 1494 award winning author Stephen R. Bown tells the feud between explorers, the Monarch and priests.  This feud between Spain and Portugal crossed the oceans and created a battleground on the sea.

Columbus returned to Spain in 1493 when he’s discovered America. His discovery would create a rift between the Spanish monarchy of Ferdinand and Isabella, and Portugal’s João II.

Who would get control and sail the sea? Pope Alexander VI, Rodrigo Borgia, stuck his ore in the issue and issued a proclamation that would become the Treaty of Tordesillas of 1494. the treaty created an imaginary line in the Atlantic Ocean dividing the entire ocean between Spain and Portugal. This encompassed both the known and unknown areas of the world.

This treaty was good for the catholic Spain and Portugal, but not good for the other countries. Which created friction with other European countries. Why did the pope think he could decree who gets control of the oceans?

Many people will recognize the names of  Isabella and Ferdinand Monarchs of Spain, the Borgias, Columbus, Magellan and Sir Francis Drake all advanced sea travel. If you like to travel and have traveled to Portugal or Spain you will be interested in the history in this book.  Bown introduces us to Dutch legal theorist Hugo Grotius. His  arguments became the foundation of international law.

“1494 is my seventh non-fiction book,” says Bown. “I write primarily about history. Scurvy: How a Surgeon, a Mariner, and a Gentleman Solved the Greatest Medical Mystery of the Age of Sail is perhaps my most unusual book. I have balso written about the great proto-capitalist/conquerors in Merchant Kings: When Companies Ruled the World, 1600-1900, which features Robert Clive, Cecil Rhodes, and George Simpson, among others. My next forthcoming book is The Last Viking: The Life of Roald Amundsen, a revisionist biography of the great polar explorer who beat Robert Scott to the South Pole. He was also a pioneer in the use of primitive airplanes for Arctic exploration, and died attempting to rescue an Italian airship commander in 1928.”

“I read hundreds of books and articles,” says Bown. “I know that doesn’t sound exciting, but the topic is incredibly fascinating on so many levels. So many old source documents are now available online, as either scanned originals or translated copies. Internet accessibility is the single greatest transformative event of the past decade, as it relates to historical research. I quite honestly couldn’t have written this book a decade ago without years of expensive travel.”

“I’ve been asked to speak at a medical conference, discussing scurvy, to a room full of physicians who had no idea about the history of the disease,” says Bown.

Bown has been shortlisted for several awards. He won the BC Booksellers Choice Award for Madness, Betrayal and the Lash: The Epic Voyage of Captain George Vancouver. He’s currently working on The Last Viking.

Bown was born in Ottawa, Ontario Canada and currently lives in the Canadian Rocky Mountains near Banff, Alberta.

You can download occasional free ebooks and collections of article by Bown at

1494: How a Family Feud in Medieval Spain Divided the World in Half  by Stephen R Bown Hardcover, 304 pages, Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (February 14, 2012) Language: English, ISBN: 9780312616120 $27.99

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *