Society for the History of Discoveries

46th Annual Meeting of the Society for the History of Discoveries

Williamsburg and Newport News, Virginia
September 6-9, 2005


Giovanni Battista Ramusio and the New World
J. Randall Barnes

Giovanni Battista Ramusio (1485-1557) was an outstanding scholar of the Renaissance, secretary to Venetian Senate, and associate of notable Renaissance scholars, such as Pietro Bembo, Hieronimo Fracastoro, and Andrea Navagero. Ramusio was keenly interested in geography, cartography, and travel literature, and his subsequent compilation of travel narratives in the first half of the sixteenth century played a important role in communicating European discoveries to a wide audience. He gathered all the travel accounts he could through his personal contacts and through the help colleagues, and translated them all into Italian. His results were published in his three volume work, Delle Navigationi et Viaggi (Venice: Giunti, 1550-1559). Along with the translated works by others, Ramusio adds his own insightful and interesting commentary, and some very interesting maps and images. The personal works of Ramusio have long been ignored, and will receive special consideration here.

Two discourses in particular, "Discorso Sopra li Viaggi delle Spetierie" and "Discorso Sopra La Nuova Francia," from the first and third volumes respectively of Delle Navigationi et Viaggi, relay Ramusio’s thoughts on potential exploration and colonization of the "New World." What is particularly interesting is Ramusio’s vision of the "New World," and his vision for the New World. His vision of the "New World" was of a civilization as worthy as the great societies of antiquity as can be seen through the classically inspired images throughout Delle Navigationi et Viaggi. Furthermore, he envisioned the New World as a staging ground for further voyages of exploration, primarily to see if there was a passage to the East Indies, or if the land mass extended from pole to pole. The classical backdrop to Ramusio’s ideas were not unusual for a humanist scholar, but his application of ancient sources to the contemporary efforts to capitalize on discoveries and colonization was unusual.

Ramusio’s proposals of how to best use the newly discovered lands were based from his knowledge of classical history. He turned to the history of Rome and its contacts with the Spice Islands as a basis for his analysis of fifteenth and sixteenth-century discoveries. For example, Ramusio references Pliny and his description of Rome’s commercial activities in Egypt and their desire for products similar to those imported into Italy during the Renaissance as a means to develop the "New World." He also finds possible "New World" parallels in Roman attempts to build a canal from Alexandria to the Red Sea. These examples, plus others, show Ramusio had a ready context in which to place new discoveries, view native American civilizations, and to cultivate the "New World" into classically informed Renaissance empire.

Ramusio’s significance is multifaceted. Not only did his work become the general reference for late Renaissance scholarship of the world, (as witnessed by Hakluyt’s great admiration for the work) his arrangements reiterate the humanistic tradition of both embracing and attempting to surpass the achievements of antiquity. Accordingly, this paper uses Ramusio’s Delle Navigationi et Viaggi as a means to understand the formation of European conceptualizations of the "New World" in the sixteenth century. It was, and remains, a work of great scholarly interest.

Lieutenant Simpson Discovers the Anasazi
George C. Chalou

In 1849 Lt. James H. Simpson accompanied a US Army military expedition that traveled deep into Navaho country. The objective was to stop the numerous raids into the New Mexico Territory just organized by the US and secured with Mexico in 1848 by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. What Topographic Engineer Simpson saw and described were the physical structures of an ancient civilization, most widely known today as the Anasazi. They lived between 700 and 1300 AD, and mainly occupied what we know today as the four corners area of the West. 

The military engineer was impressed with the “remains of the Anasazi” and provided the first detailed physical descriptions of several of their sites. In addition Simpson, and two assistants, Edward and Richard Kern, provided the American public valuable documentation of the Pueblo and Navaho peoples, the geography and geology of the region, as well as the Anasazi. Simpson’s journal was ordered published by Congress in 1850 and was soon out of stock. Simpson then arranged a second private printing and that also contained chromolithographs.

William Goetzmann, in his classic study, Army Exploration in the American West, called Simpson’s effort one of the “most important archeological finds made in America up to that time.”

Building an Image: Gottfried Bernhard Goetz's Representation of America
Susan Danforth

Historically, the effort to show what the New World "looked like" was manifested in books via thousands of woodcuts and copper engravings, many half-imaginary in content. There were also drawings and watercolors painted by European artists, sometimes from direct observation, engraved copies of which often found their way into books or were issued separately. Many of these were in turn translated into other mediums such as tapestries and ceramics. In his "Marvelous Possessions" (1991) Stephen Greenblatt referred to these images as a kind of stockpile of representations that were accumulated, or "banked," in books, archives, and other cultural storehouses until they were called upon to generate new rounds of representations. The John Carter Brown Library's recently launched Archive of American Images data base is intended as a tool to provide research access to this wide array of images produced, primarily in
Europe, between 1492 and 1800.

This power point presentation will begin by taking a look at several image "relationship groups," selected to provide examples from a wide chronological (1493-1800) and geographical (North and South America) range. The focus will then turn to a "case study" of sorts, an examination of the sources mined by Gottfried Bernhard Goetz to supply the imagery for his mid-eighteenth-century engraved allegories of the four continents.

Those Double Entries in the Diario: Por Que?” 
Bill Dunwoody

Sunday 9 September
He made 15 leagues that day and he decided to report less than those actually traveled so in case the voyage were long the men would not be frightened and lose courage...The sailors steered badly, straying to the west by north and even to the half division,...

Thus did Bartolom de las Casas interpret the presence of two differing distances logged in many of the daily entries in his Diario of Columbus’s first voyage across the western ocean. Las Casas certainly had Columbus’s motive wrong and he obviously didn’t know much about shipboard routine, but there is good reason to believe that Columbus did have sound navigational reasons for reducing the distances logged on some of those days.

The hour by hour navigation of the ships was not Columbus’s job and we know from the Diario that the pilots of the Pinta, Nina and the Santa Maria were logging their own calculations of the distances sailed, no doubt using various members of their crews to collect the data. Columbus’s attempt at deceiving the crew was impossible.

James E. Kelley, Jr., in extensive analyses of Columbus’s westbound voyage suggested that the double entries were the result of Columbus calculating the distances sailed in Mediterranean Geometric Leagues and then converting into Portuguese Maritime Leagues so the crew could understand. But the Diario states that the crews had their own pilots’ calculations and hence, would not have needed those of Columbus.

Further, Columbus had eighteen years experience in Portugal and Spain working with Portuguese Maritime Leagues and certainly would not have found it necessary to convert the pilots’ calculations from Portuguese Maritime Leagues into Mediterranean Geometric Leagues so he could understand them.

This paper offers another view of Columbus’s “double entry” bookkeeping, which he used only on the westbound crossing, by demonstrating that Columbus may have been adjusting the distances sailed by the ships to provide an accurate determination of the distance made good to the west. By correcting for deviations from the westerly track, excessive estimates of the distances sailed each day and for contrary winds and currents he was attempting to obtain the most accurate estimate of the straight-line east-west distance from the Canaries to the “Indies.” Essentially he was trying, by the dead reckoning methods available to the Fifteenth Century navigator, to determine the longitude of his anticipated landfall, wherever that might be.

Finding the Near East in the Far West:
The Orientalist Impulse in Nineteenth Century Exploration
Richard Francaviglia

The exploration of the American West was part of a broader nineteenth century push to abolish terra incognita on all continents. From about 1800 to 1850, the interior geographies of Australia, Africa, and North America were finally revealed as maps depicted the configuration of previously unknown lands. Even areas that were relatively known -- for example, the interior of the Holy Land -- were now scientifically surveyed to determine their topographic configuration: the determination of the actual level of the Dead Sea in the mid nineteenth century is a case in point. These Old World and New World explorations are normally considered separately, but explorers sometimes conflated one geographic area with another -- for example the Dead Sea and its New World counterpart the Great Salt Lake. This presentation addresses the tendency to equate geographic mysteries in the New World with phenomena in other lands, especially “The East.” Given the Orientalist thinking that was common in the explorers’ mindset, it is not surprising that the interior West was equated with the Near East. Narratives and images from several travelers and explorers -- Sir Richard Burton, Emmanuel Henri Domenech, and Charles Frémont -- are herein plumbed for how they found the Near East in the far West.

Learning to Look:
A Phenomenological Study of Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 World Map
John Hessler

The 1507 World Map by Martin Waldseemüller, which shows for the first time a depiction of the New World as a separate land mass detached from Asia, was the subject of scholarly study and speculation even before the discovery of the only surviving copy of the map by Joseph Fischer in the collections of the Wolfegg Castle in 1900. 

Scholars beginning with Alexander von Humboldt, through Avezac Macaya in the early and mid-nineteenth century, to the more the modern studies of Fischer himself and later twentieth century investigators have all concentrated on the map’s context and its place in cartographic history, showing little regard to its actual accuracy, possible geographic sources and structure. 

The following paper is a mathematical and geometrical study of the 1507 World Map that attempts to fill this gap. Polynomial warping algorithms and regression analysis are applied to various coastlines shown on the 1507 map and compared with known coastal shapes. Differential projection equations are derived for Waldseemüller’s projection and the known form of the continents is re-projected with these equations for geometric comparison to Waldseemüller’s continental shapes. Finally, a geometric and statistical analysis of Waldseemüller’s own survey of the Upper Rhine that is contained is his 1513 edition of Ptolemy, and that is perhaps the first map known to be based on actual surveys, is presented as a comparison to the findings on the 1507 World Map. 

The above results are brought together along with archival evidence on Waldseemüller’s sources to show that he and his fellow geographers at St. Die made maps whose geometrical accuracy has been vastly underestimated. Directions for future research are also discussed.

Julius von Rohr, an Enlightenment scientist of the colonial Atlantic
Daniel Hopkins

Julius von Rohr, a German immigrant to Denmark, was appointed municipal buildings inspector and government land surveyor of the Danish West Indies (now the United States Virgin Islands) in 1757. At the same time, he was commissioned by the Danish crown to study the natural history of the islands, and botany was his particular passion. He established a botanic garden on the island of St. Croix and corresponded with major figures of natural history in Denmark and elsewhere. In the 1780s, he made an agronomical study of cotton cultivation all along the length of the Antilles, traveling as far as Cayenne and Cartagena. In the 1790s, when Denmark's abolition of the Atlantic slave trade was imminent–a measure which was expected to doom the rich sugar plantations of the Danish West Indies–the government asked von Rohr, who by this time, besides his scientific expertise in the tropics, had more than thirty years' colonial administrative experience, to undertake an expedition to assess the potential of the territory around the old Danish slaving forts on the West African coast for plantation agriculture. He sent ahead of him surveying instruments and a substantial little library, the catalog of whose titles is highly indicative of his colonial concerns. Von Rohr traveled by way of the United States, where he hobnobbed with prominent politicians and natural historians in Philadelphia and New York. The Danish government's reliance on a West Indian scientist in its ambitious new African colonial venture brings out the importance of natural history in colonialism and underlines the economic and geographical coherence of the Atlantic plantation world in the minds of high-ranking European policy-makers. The economic model of the West Indian plantation was central in European speculations and projects for the African tropics at the turn of the nineteenth century. Von Rohr's errand came to an abrupt end, however, for the ship carrying him to Africa from New York vanished in the Atlantic.

Explorers in Reverse: Eskimos in Europe, 1566-1900
H. G. Jones

The word “explorer” has a double-edged meaning, for often those being explored are simultaneously exploring their explorers. The same can be said of discoverers and those being discovered. That was particularly true of aboriginals captured and taken to a foreign land where, like exotic animals, they were exhibited to disbelieving audiences speaking in an unintelligible tongue, eating unpalatable foods, and wearing strange clothing in a suffocating climate.

That was the unenviable fate of scores of residents of the Canadian and Greenland Arctic who suffered the indignity of being taken across the Atlantic as prizes of the steadily advancing voyages of westward exploration conducted by Europeans. Although earlier contact may have resulted in similar abductions, the first incident recorded by an artist occurred in 1566, a decade before Martin Frobisher’s voyages introduced Eskimos to the awed English public, and, through the drawings of John White and other artists, to Europeans generally.

My paper traces, through text and slides, more than fifty Canadian and Greenlandic Inuit who were taken, only occasionally willingly, to Europe. It is not a pretty story, for virtually none of the “explorers in reverse” lived to return westward to share their experiences with their anxious relatives and friends.

Instruments of Spanish Imperial Administration:
The Maps of Juan Lopez de Velasco
Greg Kelm

The reign of Philip II is marked by the inclination to govern in the light of a well-informed administration. For an empire in the throws of a period of far-flung expansion, extensive knowledge of overseas territories was prerequisite for effective rule, particularly during the peak of Spanish Atlantic trade which experienced accelerated growth between 1580 and 1620. It is the instruments of imperial administration, namely the cartographic resources of the day, that served not only sixteenth-century royal purposes, but also continues to serve twenty-first century historians with insights about Spain’s position and its role in the world of transatlantic imperial expansion.

The comprehensive regulation of commerce with the Indies was centralized under the Casa de la Contratación (House of Trade); this included supervision of Spanish mapmaking during this period. It can be noted that quality of maps produced by the Casa de la Contratación increased after the appointment of mathematician and orthographist Juan Lopez de Velasco (1530-1603)—a multifaceted sixteenth-century scientist. In 1571 Velasco was appointed to a pivotal role—the first cronista de las Indias (official chronicler and historiographer of the Indies)—and was charged with the task of compiling all information relative to the Indies that had been accumulated over the preceding twenty years. 

Most widely recognized for his work with the Relaciones Geográficas, Velasco also produced two vitally important works prior to this: ‘A geography and general description of the Indies’ and ‘A demarcation and division of the Indies,’ both of which were presented before the Council of the Indies in 1574-75. In the latter, Velasco cataloged, both textually and graphically, Spain’s possessions in the Americas and the Philippines. The Descripción y demarcación de las Indias consists of both written text and fourteen maps, and is considered a first step toward a more complete systematic organization of information about the New World, culminating in the subsequent Relaciones. Though not published in full until 1894, the importance of the Descripción is made evident by its use three decades later. In his Historia general de los hechos de los castellanos en las Islas y Tierra Firme del Mar Oceano (1601-15), author-compiler Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas saw fit to utilize Velasco’s maps, finding them still relevant and unsurpassed as an accurate representation for the purpose of charting the Spanish Empire.

Charting England’s Atlantic: 
The Thames School of nautical cartography and the Americas in the 17th century
Alistair Maeer

Early modern European commercial expansion and imperialism depended upon a functioning maritime community, replete with innovations in guns, sails, capital, consumerism, and cartography. The rise of capital and consumerism has heretofore dominated discussions of the rise of early modern empire. The neglect of the insights of cartographic historians and, indeed of the map-sources themselves, has led to a gap in our understanding of the process of English overseas expansion. Yet maps offer unrivalled opportunities both for assessing the nature of English understanding of the outside world, and for gauging the degree of expertise that her mariners had attained. Maps and charts are graphic representations of reality; and, given that early modern Europeans were interested in expansion, charts, then, are an embodiment of commerce and empire. Discussions about the rise of capitalism and consumerism are incomplete unless they include charts and explanations of readers’ understanding of them since charts are instruments of acquisition and reflections of desire. 

Clearly, navigational and spatial relationships became increasingly important as merchants and mariners grappled with commercial markets that had expanded to encompass the globe. The disregard of the significance of nautical cartography to English overseas expansion is therefore mistaken. Examining the maturation of English nautical cartography from the late-sixteenth century to the end of the seventeenth century, then, is fundamentally important to more fully understanding the rise of the English and the British Empire. This study, however, does not focus on individual chart-makers, but uses an understanding of the rise of their profession, and of the surviving charts, to throw light on London’s expanding overseas interests. Interestingly, London, as England’s commercial and imperial center, was also the center for England’s emergent nautical cartography, the Thames School. 

It is surely no coincidence that the dates of the Thames School (1590-1720) and of the emergence of England’s maritime empire are largely parallel. Moreover, as late-comers to expansionism and cartography, England’s charts were somewhat anachronistic. The Thames School has been defined as a group of cartographers who used a portolan-like style with “bold colored outlines, clear and well-formed pen and brush strokes in the place names, the cartouche, wind-rose and borders: all highly professional and very decorative.” As representatives of the portolan-style, the Thames School itself is intriguing, in that the style of the charts ties the medieval and early modern charting traditions together. Still, the existence of the Thames School in London reaffirms the pivotal role of London as the nucleus to England’s overseas expansion during the seventeenth-century. As instruments of commerce and empire, or as cultural reflections of perceptions and aspirations, seventeenth century Thames School charts are a consistent cartographic representation of English interests. And yet one of the vital components to London’s rise to prominence—its ability to service the maritime community of England as purveyors of charts—has not been fully studied by historians. In effect, including the cartographic evidence enables one to contextualize, visualize, and understand the interrelatedness of the integral ingredients of England’s empire and worldview: a maritime community replete with established commercial, mapping, and shipping traditions who shaped their known worlds into seemingly orderly reflections of their own understanding.

Botanical Commodities in the Colonial Americas: The Goal of European Explorers
Russell M. Magnaghi

In 1492 when Columbus going westward and the Portuguese sailing eastward were seeking routes to Asia, they sought the fabulous wealth of China goods. The Portuguese found their water route to Asia, Columbus landed on a new continent blocking his voyage to the Indies. Eventually the Spanish realized that they had found a New World. They had not arrived in Asia, but the Americas. In the years following 1492, European explorers led by the Spanish would travel throughout the Americas seeking gold, but falling back on items less valuable, but ones which would bring them a profit.

What did this land, stretching from pole to pole, have to offer them – a people seeking gold and precious stones or the wealth of China? They quickly found the gold and silver of the Aztecs and the Incas and the emeralds of the Chibchas. Was there more?

This paper focuses on the botanicals of commercial value that are to be found throughout the Americas. In the past, the more commonly known such as chocolate, tobacco, cochineal items have been discussed, but the lesser known items have been ignored. For instance in 1735, aboard over a dozen ships sailing back to Spain were the usual cargoes of gold and silver, but there were also 2.9 tons of quinine or Jesuit’s bark for malaria and 40.5 tons of jalap a strong purgative. The items are placed in the following categories: dyes (logwood, cochineal, indigo); medicinals (quinine, jalap); naval stores (tar/brea, turpentine, pitch); shipbuilding timbers; aromatics and balsams (oil of Maria and Tolu); the better known commodities will also be briefly discussed. What the early explorers did not immediately realize was that this new land was home to new botanical commodities that would change the eating habits and lives of the rest of the world. Many of these products would bring wealth to the mother country once uncovered through Native American intermediaries.

Santa Elena: Some Comments and a Proposal on the Location
Richard Melvin

Sixteenth Century Spanish explorers made a number of expeditions into the wilderness continent that is now the Southeastern United States, called the “Land of Florida.” Among the most important of these were expeditions under Captain Juan Pardo into the interior from Santa Elena, the Spanish coastal base. Santa Elena was contemporary with and of equal importance with Saint
Augustine, but being in the “debatable land,” has been abandoned and lost for almost five centuries. Based upon a new method of research, it will be possible to finally determine the true location of the site and to open a new window on the earliest settlements and explorations of the United States.

Henry Morton Stanley and the Map of Africa
James L. Newman

When Henry Morton Stanley made his first African journey in 1868, the interior of Africa remained largely unmapped. When he came out for the last time in 1889, few blank or white spaces remained. His role in filling them in was unparalleled. It led some to call him the Columbus of Central Africa, Columbus then still a mostly admired figure. Of course Stanley did more than provide place names for map makers. His books were filled with environmental and ethnographic observations and he wound up serving the causes of imperialists like King Leopold II and William Mackinnon in many important ways. One can safely say that when Stanley appeared anywhere in Africa consequences followed, sometimes immediately, sometimes later. But a funny thing happened. As time passed he increasingly fell from view, becoming mostly a footnote to African history. Recent biographies haven't helped. They've been of the "psycho" variety and thus mostly sensationalist. In this paper, I will try to re-position Stanley with regard to Africa's changing map in the latter decades of the nineteenth center. What, exactly, did he contribute? I'll build my answer to this question around maps that are included in Imperial Footprints: Henry Morton Stanley's African Journeys. Each is an original.

Myths, Fables, and Legends: The Catalyst for Exploration
and Colonization of the Eastern Seaboard of the USA
Douglas T. Peck

Mythical lands beyond the horizon have inspired sea voyages throughout history from Jason to Odysseus, Pytheas, Euthymenes, St. Brendan, and even Columbus who looked for the mythical isle of Antillia in the Atlantic on his way to the Indies. Columbus’s destination was the known and existing land of Cathay, a part of what was then called the Indies that had been visited by Europeans and was shown with reasonable accuracy on maps and globes of the period. But many of the explorers who followed Columbus were vainly seeking legendary or mythological lands located in a nebulous and unknown area. These legendary or mythological lands were not only described by chroniclers of the Columbian era, but appeared prominently displayed in various locations on cartography of the time.

Juan Ponce de Leon was the first of these explorers in seeking the Taino mythical land of Beimeni (and not the fountain of youth) which he thought lay north of Cuba. The Taino mythical land of Beimeni was actually the realm of the Maya on the Yucatan. But Peter Martyr had placed the mythical Beimeni north of Cuba on his 1511 map of the Indies which undoubtedly influenced Ponce de Leon to seek Beimeni in that area.

The next legendary land which attracted explorers and adventurers was the illusive land of Chicora and the Jordan River that Martyr described as, “a utopian land inhabited by giant and docile Indians that would require no military conquest for settlement.” This legendary land was first sought by Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon, followed by Rene Goulaine de Laudonniere, and Sir Walter Raleigh. Raleigh’s search for Chicora resulted in his short-lived attempt to colonize his “Virginia” on Roanoke Island, North Carolina. After his failure at Roanoke Island, Raleigh searched for the mythical lost kingdom of “El Dorado” which he did not find, but his voyage resulted in valuable geographical knowledge of the Amazon River delta area.

In Frobisher’s time, the legendary and illusive passage to the South or China Sea was tied to northern climes and given the name “Northwest Passage,” but in earlier times this legendary passage was believed to be further south in the vicinity of North Carolina and Virginia. Gerolamo de Verrazzano’s 1529 map graphically shows a short passage leading to pictured large Oriental cities. Verrazzano described this passage as being in the vicinity of Cape Hatteras. And John Farrer’s much later 1651 map of “Virginia” shows a completely fictitious (based on legend) broad river just north of Delaware Bay that runs west all the way to the Sea of China on which sails the annotated frigate of Sir Francis Drake.

This study emphasizes the important but unforeseen role that reports of myths and legends by chroniclers and graphically portrayed in cartography had on encouraging and providing the basis for early exploration.

The Kimmen Line:
17th Century North Atlantic Navigation and the Continental Shelf
Jeremy Pool

A fascinating feature on many North Sea and north Atlantic sea charts of the 17th century is a line labeled “De Kimmen” (or “The Kimmen” on English charts). This line extends from the Jutland Reef (off of western Denmark), curving up through the North Sea between Scotland and Norway, turning west north of the Shetland Islands, then extending south-west past St. Kilda, the outer Hebrides, and out into the Atlantic Ocean towards Rockall, where the line ends.

The earliest instance of the Kimmen line on a printed map, as far as I am aware, is on Blaeu’s sea chart of Europe (Pascaarte van alle de zè-custen van Europa) from c.1625. After this date it becomes a standard feature on the sea charts of this area produced by Dutch, English and French map publishers for the next century.

The period during which the Kimmen line began to appear on European sea charts was one of rapid expansion in the exploration and exploitation of the north Atlantic and arctic oceans, in particular, the steady growth of whaling in the north, from the Davis Strait in the northwest to Spitsbergen in the northeast.

This paper will explore the possible meaning of the Kimmen line against this background of north Atlantic ocean voyages. Though the Kimmen line appears, visually, most like an explorer’s track (often found on maps of the ocean), the line corresponds, in fact, to the 100-fathom line, which itself corresponds to the edge of the continental shelf. I would suggest that returning from the arctic oceans towards the Shetlands and the entrances to the North Sea involved considerable navigational peril, and hitting the bottom with the 100-fathom line would have been a very useful “warning bell” in the piloting of returning ships.

I will present a variety of charts showing the Kimmen line and briefly discuss the accompanying texts that mention the Kimmen in some 17th century sea atlases. Wallis and Robinson (Cartographical Innovations) say that the first ocean chart with a consciously plotted isobath was published in 1725. This look at the Kimmen line will argue that although Blaeu and his successors may not have consciously considered that they were publishing a chart with an isobath, this is in fact what they were doing, a full 100 years earlier. And though this isobath corresponds to a standard navigation tool of the time (the 100-fathom dipsey lead), it happens also to reflect a geological discovery of much more recent times: the edge of the European continental shelf.

Modest Expectations and Tragic Finale to The American Colonization
Society's West African Enterprise -- Colonial Liberia to a Failed State
William R. Stanley

Back to Africa enterprises have periodically surfaced in American society in response to real and perceived difficulties in absorbing that portion of the population with African roots. Prior to the Civil War, the slave majorities in much of the South were of concern to slave holders and abolitionists alike albeit for different reasons. The several colonies planted on the shores of West Africa initially prospered with material support from state branches of the American Colonization Society and critical timely political and military support from the American Government. Nevertheless, the Emancipation Proclamation and post-Civil War amendments to the U.S. Constitution effectively stopped the flow of black Americans to West Africa. Renewed American interest in this piece of African geography during World War II because of strategic considerations and a post war development boom fueled by rubber, iron ore and hard woods caused perception to change. Prior to the war, Liberia generally was perceived as something akin to Haiti; black republics but political and economic disasters. Liberian leadership derived from American roots was destroyed in a 1980 military uprising by tribal (ethnic) soldiers trained and armed by the U.S. Army. The next 25 years have been steady steps into the abyss. Liberia today is the model of the failed state rather than the measure of enlightened philanthropy. The paper traces the critical decision-making in this transformation.

The Remarkable Dr. Thomas Walker:
An Explorer, Surveyor, and Mapmaker of Virginia’s Backcountry
Richard W. Stephenson

In the eighteenth century, Virginia was especially blessed with many outstanding leaders. Included in this pantheon of prominent citizens is the Albemarle County planter Dr. Thomas Walker, a successful physician and surgeon as well as explorer, surveyor, and mapmaker of Virginia’s western frontier. In this paper we will examine Walker’s understanding of the geography of the backcountry gained through his partnership in the Loyal Land Company; his 1750 expedition through the Cumberland Gap into what is now Kentucky; his map of the Ohio Country submitted to the Virginia House of Burgesses on December 13, 1769; and his 1779-1780 survey that extended the Virginia-North Carolina boundary to the Tennessee River (the basis for today’s Kentucky-Tennessee boundary).

Piri Reis (1465?-1554) and Geographical Discoveries, in Context
Norman J. W. Thrower

In September 2004, the 450th anniversary of the death of Piri Reis, Ottoman admiral, corsair, and chart maker was commemorated in Istanbul. It was largely through Piri’s map, completed in 1513 that the Islamic people first learned of the New World discovered by Columbus, and his immediate followers.

Aboard his uncle Kemal Reis’s ship, the young Piri had assisted in the evacuation of Muslims from Iberia during the Spanish Reconquista of the Peninsula; and, as pirates, they raided widely in the Mediterranean and learned much about the coasts of this Sea. Piri then established himself as a chart maker in the port of Gallipoli. Later, under the Sultan Suleyman, The Magnificent, Piri was Flag Officer in the Indian Ocean. In this area he wisely withdrew to Bazra in the face of a strong Portuguese flotilla stationed in the Indian Ocean (following Vasco da Gama’s voyage, 1497-8).

For this, on what turned out to be a false report, Piri Reis, after many faithful years of service, was ordered to be executed in what appears to be his ninetieth year by the Sultan. Peri Reis is now a great hero in Turkey, where an International Conference was held recently in his honor. The original of the surviving portion of Piri’s world map, with delineation of the coast of Central and South America, was displayed at the Topkapi Palace Museum. A facsimile of this map will be shown and discussed in the presentation along with slides and other visual materials, to put Piri Reis’s work in the context of cartography, navigation, and geographical discovery.

The Art and Science of Navigation and the “raxon de marteloio”
Vladimiro Valerio

During the Middle Ages maritime voyages became more frequent in the Mediterranean Area; commercial exchanges, crusades and pilgrimages to the Holy Land needed reliable tools for making safer navigation and for checking routes and duration of sailing trips. Hinged helm, compass, astrolabes were all inventions developed and used in Europe from the XII century, while charts which are the great novelty of the time, a sort of revolution in the concept of mapping, date back to the second half of the XIII century. 

In the above mentioned context of technological innovations, mathematics and computational methods entered the world of sailing but in an empirical and applied form. La “Raxon de Marteloio”, that is first mentioned from the end of the XIV century - but it is related to questions already posed during the XIII century by Ramòn Lull and other scientists let the mariners solve problems of tacking and how to find the route offshore. A great deal of navigation was along the coasts but sometimes contrary winds, commercial advantages, political interests might force them to lose the sight of the coast making it necessary to estimate the true course in order not to lose the position of the ship in addition to the coast.

In my paper I will introduce the “Raxon de Marteloio” and the meaning and the use of the appended “Taoleta” (a table of ordered figures), in addition to a modern transcription of the text, as they appear in the first chart of a Nautical Atlas by Andrea Bianco, made in Venice in 1436 and preserved in the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice. I will also try to show with a graphical example how to tack and find the way using the figures of the “taoleta”.

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