A fascinating snapshot of Europe at the threshold of modernity, during the critical year when the great powers of the Continent, particularly Spain and Portugal, turned away at last from the intellectually hobbled world of the Middle Ages. Litvinoff (The Burning Bush, 1988, etc.) presents Columbus's voyage, authorized by Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabelle of Castile as an afterthought in the wake of their triumph over the Moors at Granada, as the culmination of a series of voyages by intrepid Iberian mariners. With the completion of the reconquista of Spain from the infidel, Litvinoff argues, the Spanish monarchs completed the great medieval task of Spanish Christendom: the unification of Spain under a Christian monarchy. With that, Spain dispensed with its medieval legacy (Spain promptly destroyed or expelled its Jewish and Muslim populations) and assumed a commanding role in Europe and, by discovering the Americas, in the world. Litvinoff points out that the year 1492 sets off the parochial world of medieval Europe from the modern (and, Litvinoff argues, recently completed) period, marked by European primacy and colonialism. A thoughtful, comprehensive analysis of modern history's watershed year.