The best books on the European re-discovery of America

Why am I passionate about this?

Of all the books I have ever written, this one most allowed me to make it possible to see how the full story adds to the history we know – the vital importance of context. For example, that Cabot set sail just as Bristol was defending itself against the approaching rebel army led by Perkin Warbeck. Or that the Pope at the time, ruling over the church and the world, was the Borgia Pope Alexander VI. I loved researching it and I still feel part of it. My father lives in Spain, which helped enormously.


I wrote...

Toward the Setting Sun: Columbus, Cabot, Vespucci, and the Race for America

By David Boyle,

Book cover of Toward the Setting Sun: Columbus, Cabot, Vespucci, and the Race for America

What is my book about?

When Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in 1453, the long-established trade routes to the East became treacherous and expensive, forcing merchants to find new ways of trading their goods. Yet, because their stories have been told separately until now, it’s easy to forget that Cabot, Columbus, and Vespucci not only knew of each other, they were well acquainted.

Columbus and Vespucci worked closely together; Cabot and Columbus were born in Genoa about the same time and had common friends who were interested in Western trade possibilities, and the huge rewards that could follow. They collaborated, knew of each other's ambitions, and followed each other's progress. This book tells their story.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Columbus Myth: Did men of Bristol reach America before Columbus?

David Boyle Why did I love this book?

Every European nation has its own conspiracy theory about discovering America. This is the best and most readable evocation of the British conspiracy theory – that, far from being called after Amerigo Vespucci, the new world was called after John Cabot’s backer Richard Ameryk – who, bizarrely, had the stars and stripes as his family crest.

By Ian Wilson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Columbus Myth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Casts a new light on the conventional story of America's discovery by showing how a chain of clues point towards Bristol mariners reaching America before Columbus. The author has also written "The Turin Shroud" and other bestselling investigative works.


Book cover of The European Discovery of America: Volume 1: The Northern Voyages A.D. 500-1600

David Boyle Why did I love this book?

The classic account of the voyages from Leif Erikson and the Vikings onwards, and including Columbus, Cabot (father and son), Vespucci, and Francis Drake. By an American admiral who spent his retirement retracing many of the voyages himself. He was a great admirer of Columbus, which has to be taken with a pinch of sea salt these days – but is still a stirring read.

By Samuel Eliot Morison,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The European Discovery of America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The late Samuel Eliot Morison, a former U.S. Navy admiral, was also one of America's premier historians. Combining a first-hand knowledge of the sea and transatlantic travel with a brilliantly readable narrative style, he produced what has become nothing less than the definitive account of the great age of European exploration. In his riveting and richly illustrated saga, Morison offers a comprehensive account of all the known voyages by Europeans to the New World
from 500 A.D. to the seventeenth century. Together, the two volumes of The European Discovery of America tell the compelling stories of the many intrepid explorers…


Book cover of Amerigo: The Man Who Gave His Name to America

David Boyle Why did I love this book?

In 1507, the cartographer Martin Waldseemuller published a world map with a new continent on it which he called ‘America', after the explorer and navigator Amerigo Vespucci. The map was a huge success and when Mercator's 1538 world map extended the name to the northern hemisphere of the continent, the new name was secure, though Waldseemuller himself soon realised he had picked the wrong man. This is the story of how one side of the world came to be named not after its discoverer Christopher Columbus, but after his friend and rival. A fabulous historical detective story.

By Felipe Fernández-Armesto,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Amerigo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Amerigo, the award-winning scholar Felipe Fernández-Armesto answers the question “What’s in a name?” by delivering a rousing flesh-and-blood narrative of the life and times of Amerigo Vespucci. Here we meet Amerigo as he really was: a rogue and raconteur who counted Christopher Columbus among his friends and rivals; an amateur sorcerer who attained fame and honor through a series of disastrous failures and equally grand self-reinventions. Filled with well-informed insights and amazing anecdotes, this magisterial and compulsively readable account sweeps readers from Medicean Florence to the Sevillian court of Ferdinand and Isabella, then across the Atlantic of Columbus to…


Book cover of European Approaches to North America, 1450-1640

David Boyle Why did I love this book?

Professor Quinn wrote this book about 25 years ago, yet I learned a vast amount from it. It is certainly dryer than some accounts, but he could see beyond the immediate stories. In fact, it was this book that first suggested that the so-called ‘Enterprise of the Indies’ began as a joint venture between Cabot and the Columbus brothers that went wrong. I certainly subscribe to that view myself.

By David B. Quinn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked European Approaches to North America, 1450-1640 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

European Approaches to North America, 1450-1640 by David Quinn provides a series of insights into the early cartography and exploration of the North Atlantic and North America, and what was believed and written about this by Europeans. Its focus is the two hundred years from the mid-15th century. The work demonstrates how detailed studies can throw much light on more general developments, and enable them to be seen close up. It is primarily concerned with English developments, but looks also at Champlain and Henri IV and the origins of French settlement in Canada, while the final paper - one of…


Book cover of Many Landfalls of John Cabot

David Boyle Why did I love this book?

On 24 June 1497, John Cabot landed somewhere on the eastern coast of what is now Canada, yet even today, 500 years later, nobody knows quite where. Once this was an issue that lay behind diplomatic negotiations over who controlled the continent – more recently, they have played a role in different stages of Canadian nationalism. This book is a fascinating description of the various theories and their implications – right up to today.

By Peter E. Pope,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Many Landfalls of John Cabot as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On 24 June 1497 John Cabot landed somewhere on the eastern seaboard of what is now Canada, yet even today, five hundred years later, no one knows precisely where. Once an issue in diplomatic negotiations over title to a continent, Cabot's landfall has also been the subject, especially in centennial years, of competing attempts to appropriate the meaning of the event.Beginning with the historical context of Cabot's journey, Pope traces the various landfall theories which have placed his landing in locations from the Strait of Belle Isle to Cape Breton. The very uncertainty of our knowledge, he argues, has allowed…


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Conditions are Different After Dark

By Owen W. Knight,

Book cover of Conditions are Different After Dark

Owen W. Knight Author Of The Visitors

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Visionary Compassionate Imaginative Conspiracist Apophenia (or apophenic)

Owen's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

In 1662, a man is wrongly executed for signing the death warrant of Charles I. Awaiting execution, he asks to speak with a priest, to whom he declares a curse on the village that betrayed him. The priest responds with a counter-curse, leaving just one option to nullify it.

Over four centuries later, Faith and James move to the country to start a new life and a family. They discover their village lives under the curse uttered by the hanged man. Could their arrival be connected? They fear their choice of new home is no coincidence. Unexplained events hint at threats or warnings to leave. They become convinced the village remains cursed despite their friends’ denials. Who can they trust, and who are potential enemies?

Conditions are Different After Dark

By Owen W. Knight,

What is this book about?

In 1660, a man is wrongly executed for signing the death warrant of Charles I. While awaiting execution, he asks to speak with a priest, to whom he declares a curse on the village that betrayed him. The priest responds with a counter-curse, leaving just one option to nullify it.
Over four centuries later, Faith and James move to the country to start a new life and a family. They learn that their village lives under the curse uttered by the hanged man. Could their arrival be connected?
Faith and James fear that their choice of a new home is…


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