Chapter 1: Early Explorers: Brave, Bold and Rich in Minerals

No one seriously claims that Columbus discovered America anymore - plenty of people (including plenty of white people, not to mention the "Indians.") got there before he did. Before 1776, most people credited the discovery to John Cabot, who bumped into Canada while working for the British. But after 1776, people wanted some national heroes that WEREN'T associated with the Brits, so they started naming everything in sight after Columbus. The Spanish tried (and failed, over and over) at setting up colonies throughout the 1500s. The Pilgrims arrived in 1620 and, unlike many who came before them, managed not to get eaten. But between their arrival in 1620 and the 1770s, the only event most people can name is the period in 1690 when people in Salem, Mass started executing suspected witches.

No one knows what Columbus looked like; thisfamous portrait is said to be of him, but is probably
just some random jerk from Bologna:

It's easy to take shots at Columbus on the grounds that he was a massive jerk who couldn't navigate his way through an outhouse with a map and a compass, but still: he bumped into continent that none of his contemporaries knew was there, which is more than YOU did.

John Cabot (which is what the English called Giovanni Caboto)
points to the ground as if to say "Okay, guys, who did this?"

From the Salem Witch Trials... you'd probably act like this, too, if you
were raised by Puritans:

Incidentally, a lot of what you hear about the witch trials isn't true. None of
them were burned at the stake - most of the "witches" were hanged. And they didn't really dunk suspected witches under water to get them to confess (at least not in Salem - that was more of a European trick). One way they had to root out witches was to make a "witch cake" out of rye and the pee of a suspected witch. They'd feed it to a dog and see
how the dog (or the suspected witch) reacted. Just another reason to be glad you're not a puritan. Or a puritan's


Transcripts, maps, and other neat stuff from the
Salem Witch Trials

Here's a cool New York Times article about

Amerigo Vespucci,
the guy who MAY have had two continents named after him. Some people say it was named after someone else. There are lost of historical mysteries still to be solved - and plenty to argue about!

For instance, some people say the continents were named after Richard Amerike, who funded fishing voyages that went to Canada in 1479 (and John Cabot's voyage in 1497). Records indicate that fishermen were using the coast of North America to get cod years before Columbus came - but, having found a good fishing spot, they kept it a secret.

Did the lost Roanoke colonists get adopted into Native American tribes? These guys are trying to prove it using DNA.

NOTE: the first copies off the line say that the Roanoke Colony was near present day Virginia. It was actually closer to North Carolina, and the football teams in the area are the Braves and the Nighthawks, not the Patriots, the Colonels or the Quitters. See why we keep saying to double check before you quote something out of a history book - including ours? Info-literacy, folks! We're all about info-literacy!

And now, a commercial:

If the early colonists were here today...
...they'd be zombies.


A new novel
Jan, 2010

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