The best books on the European re-discovery of America

David Boyle Author Of Toward the Setting Sun: Columbus, Cabot, Vespucci, and the Race for America
By David Boyle

The Books I Picked & Why

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

By Ian Wilson

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

Why 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.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

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

By Samuel Eliot Morison

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

Why 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.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Amerigo: The Man Who Gave His Name to America

By Felipe Fernández-Armesto

Amerigo: The Man Who Gave His Name to America

Why 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.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

European Approaches to North America, 1450-1640

By David B. Quinn

European Approaches to North America, 1450-1640

Why 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.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Many Landfalls of John Cabot

By Peter E. Pope

Many Landfalls of John Cabot

Why 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.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Closely Related Book Lists

Distantly Related Book Lists

Random Book Lists