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The European Discovery of America: Vol 1: The Northern Voyages A.D.… (1971)

by Samuel Eliot Morison

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526633,066 (4.43)3
Includes discussions of fictional pre-Columbian voyages, Vinland voyages, voyages of Cabot, Cartier, Frobisher, and others. Good bibliographies.

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Adm. Morison has several advantages over a the majority of naval historians. One of those is his considerable expertise in the area of small boat sailing in sailing craft, and the large body of expertise he has tapped in this book. The other arises from his having already produced the fifteen volumes of the Official American Navy account of WWII. This gave him sufficient pull with the publishers to provide a large number of illustrations and charts covering the points raised by his texts. From the point of view described he produced a very readable account of the northern voyages . the direct sources are sometimes obscure to the modern reader, and thus the notes at the end of the chapters are quite a contribution to the understanding of the material.. He is also, quite even-handed in his examination of the personalities involved in the interactions across the European North American cultural boundaries. All in all, the best one volume account of the pre 1600 CE European efforts to explore the Atlantic coast. There are even moments of light-heartedness, very much appreciated in this genre. This is a book very likely to be further reprinted even after its fifty year career . ( )
  DinadansFriend | Jun 15, 2020 |
Excellent history, a counterpart to Morison's history discussing the voyages of exploration of Central and South America in roughly the same time period. Morison is particularly good at throwing cold water on alleged voyages before the Norse, and putting the original Norse voyages in perspective. (The archaeological discoveries at L'Anse Aux Meadows were relatively new when this book came out.) Morison goes into a great deal of detail as to why so many of the English voyages failed -- and why they kept going and kept trying. Many shrewd guesses as to what might have happened to fill in the blanks -- which Morison clearly identifies as guesses. As with the other book, many treasures are in the chapter-end notes, so don't miss those. Recommended. ( )
  EricCostello | Dec 12, 2018 |
At the turn of the century, I attended a book sale at the Library of Congress. I can vividly remember the three mile walk home with two shopping bags full of books on a sunny Saturday afternoon to inspect my purchases. Among them was a two volume set called “The European Discovery of America”, by Samuel Eliot Morison. The books seemed interesting. Once I started reading-I was hooked. This is history as it is meant to be written-history as a great adventure.

Admiral (appointed by President Roosevelt) Morison, has done a remarkable job. As the official historian of Navy for the Second World War, Morison is a sailor through-and-through. His position as an Admiral and as an enormously famous historian allowed him to do things that few historians can do. Throughout his account, Morison has sailed or flown over explorers routes, looking for landmarks and the books are packed with informative photos, illustrations and maps. The first book is the thrilling chronicle of the great era of exploration, in and around North America, from the Vikings to the planting of Roanoke.

Morison’s account starts with the legendary voyages of St. Brendan and the Irish monks, the account of which he takes fairly seriously. From there it goes on to the Vikings and Vinlanders, then on again to the legendary Prince Madoc and other more realistic precursors to Columbus, like Venetians and secretive Portuguese voyages. This is all handled skillfully by Morison.

Morison is at his best when he is describing the voyages themselves, and by the time he gets to John Cabot, the first post-Columbian explorer he has hit his stride. I find the nuts & bolts of history to be as interesting as the grand sweep-interspersed with his narrative chapters are chapters on the maritime life and background of England and France, from shipbuilding to navigation and the daily life of a mariner of the time. In less skilled hands this could bog down to mere listing of details, but not with Morison. His prose and illustrations work together well to give the reader a good idea of what it was like to see things for the first time, from Verrazano mistaking the Outer Banks of North Carolina for a Panama-like isthmus dividing the Atlantic from the Pacific, to Cartier seeing the St. Lawrence River for the first time in his search for the North-West Passage.

Each chapter has copious but fascinating end notes and a narrative bibliography, broken down by subject. I found this easier to use and refer to than the endnotes common today, and have read several books based on his recommendation on subjects I found interesting. Morison’s work is extraordinarily thorough and professional, and is so far from the dry as dust typical academic history as to be in another class altogether. Again, I cannot recommend this and its companion volume enough. ( )
2 vote Wolcott37 | May 20, 2012 |
An excellent book leading to an understanding of that which preceded the population of North America from the European continent and its impact upon the Native American population.
  BobEverett | Apr 18, 2012 |
1706 The European Discovery of America: The Northern Voyages A.D. 500-1600, by Samuel Eliot Morison (read 17 Apr 1982) I am very impressed by this book and I found the accounts readable and teeming with interest. He has a chapter on St. Brendan and the Irish 400 to 600, who supposedly got to North America. Leif Ericson certainly got here about 1000. Morison feels the settlement was on the north tip of Newfoundland. John Cabot of course came in 1497 (June 24)--Morison believes he landed on Newfoundland. Morison doesn't trace the fishermen voyages, but they came regularly to the area after Cabot. Morison also tells of the voyages of Verrazzano, Cartier, Frobisher, Gilbert, John Davis, and the voyages sent by Sir Walter Raleigh. I was really interested in Frobisher and Davis, since they were neglected in our fourth grade history. They spent a lot of time in northern Canada. In a note Morison tells of the search for the Northwest Passage up to 1969. This is a really excellent book, and I believe I should read Morison's book on the Southern Voyages also. ( )
  Schmerguls | Nov 12, 2008 |
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The European discovery of America flows from two impulses.
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Includes discussions of fictional pre-Columbian voyages, Vinland voyages, voyages of Cabot, Cartier, Frobisher, and others. Good bibliographies.

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