Initially setting out with nothing more than the idea of taking a shortcut to the Orient, early explorers of North America stumbled upon a confusing array of rivers and wild lands inhabited by strange peoples. This volume encompasses four centuries in the discovery and exploration of North America---the great roadblock to the Orient---and focuses on a theme of interaction between the Old World and the New.
David B. Quinn explores European interest in the New World, elaborating on the tradition that the French came for commercial reasons, the Spanish to seek wealth and spread the Catholic faith, and the English to find land on which some of their people could become prosperous and self-sufficient. Robert H. Fuson investigates the background of "The John Cabot Mystique," highlighting the known facts and fictions about the man claimed by some as the first post-Viking European visitor to Canada. The issues behind Olive Patricia Dickason's look at "Old World Law, New World Peoples, and Concepts of Sovereignty" are fascinating examples of the legal and religious mindsets that led European nations to seek out new lands and new subjects for their temporal and spiritual leaders. Cornelius Jaenen discusses interdependent trade ties forged by the French and the Indians, while Elizabeth A. H. John studies the role of maps in territorial disputes and the role of one particularly influential mapmaker. Finally, "Seeing and Believing: The Explorer and the Visualization of Space," by William H. Goetzmann, looks at how eighteenth- and nineteenth-century artist-explorers helped further the romantic notion of the West with dramatic renderings of such icons as Indians, canyons, mountains, and buffalo.
Stanley H. Palmer is associate professor of history and Dennis Reinhartz is associate professor of history and Russian at the University of Texas at Arlington.