Professor Spate’s book is the first installment of what promises to be a multivolume work. It is a history of the Pacific Ocean in the sixteenth century; of the Pacific, not of the Pacific peoples, a distinction that—as the author explains—accounts for its Eurocentric emphasis. The existence of the Pacific as a separate and finite ocean was a European discovery. No one but Europeans had any obvious motive for crossing it, and so far as the written record is a guide, no one hut Europeans, until recent times, ever deliberately tried. All the early attempts to establish contact across the ocean were the result of Iberian or Ibero-American initiative. Magellan’s voyage at once made the Pacific a theater of European power conflict. Direct voyages from Spain to the East Indies, it is true, produced little result, and some were disasters. More promising, and more to the purpose of this journal, were the voyages made from the Pacific harbors of Spanish America; and among them, not so much the heroic madness of Mendaña and Quirós, as the sober self-interested planning of Miguel López de Legazpi, the meterological intuition of Andrés de Urdaneta, and the professional skill of Luiz Váez de Torres. These Iberian explorers began the process whereby the biggest blank on the map became a nexus of global commercial and strategic relations; and this process is the theme of Professor Spate’s work.

The book is based on secondary sources and on printed collections of documents, inevitably, in view of the immensity of the theme. It is none the worse for that. Not all that is found outside archives is insignificant; not all that is found in manuscripts really matters. Professor Spate marshalls his sources comprehensively, discusses them with acute critical judgment, and presents his findings with elegance and wit. Particularly useful (and readable) are the chapters on “The Silver Tide,” and “Seville and the Pacific,” which deal with Spanish commercial shipping in the Pacific, including the Manila-Mexico trade (on the whole, a neglected topic among historians of Latin America). The penultimate chapter, on Drake’s Pacific incursion, is an admirable critique of the recent (and voluminous) literature on that controversial topic. Due regard is paid throughout—as befits the history of an ocean—to oceanographical and meteorological considerations. There are occasional slips: a reference, for example, to the 1600 edition of Hakluyt’s Principali Navigations (p. 249) and a description of Pedro Pizarro, the chronicler, as Francisco’s brother (p. 308); but these are minor matters. In general, Professor Spate’s book is worthy of its theme. It is to be hoped that successor volumes on later Pacific history will follow in due course.