Saturday, 29 January 2011

Columbus has a lot to answer for.

Did Columbus bring syphillis from the New World? Have a look at this piece from the New York Times.

Monday, 24 January 2011

The New World: Spain and Portugal

Apologies for the small type and narrow line spacing. Blogger's fault not mine! If you go to the view menu in your browser bar you can enlarge it and read it more easily. 
'The greatest event since the creation of the world, apart from the incarnation and death of him who created it’. Lopez de Gómara to Charles V (1522). 
However in his autobiography written in the same year, Charles never mentions the Americas. The Nuremberg Chronicle, published in 1493, does not mention the New World.

The history of the European voyages of exploration may be conveniently divided into two areas.

1. The drive to the east, which was pioneered by the Portuguese
It is generally accepted that Brazil was discovered on April 22, 1500, by Pedro Álvares Cabral, though the expansion westwards across the Atlantic was eventually dominated by the Spanish.  Henry the Navigator right), the third son of King João I of Portugal and the English princess, Philippa of Lancaster, gathered round him mapmakers and navigators. He is seen  as the father of Portuguese exploration.  By 1462 the Portuguese had explored the coast of Africa as far south as Sierra Leone.
In 1486 King João II of Portugal appointed Bartolomeu Dias as the head of an expedition that was to endeavour to sail round the southern end of Africa in the hope of finding a trade route to India.In May 1488 he discovered the Cape of Good Hope, which he originally named the Cape of Storms. The discovery of the passage round Africa proved that the Atlantic and Indian Oceans were not landlocked as had been thought. It enabled Europeans to trade directly with India and other parts of Asia, bypassing the overland route of the Middle East.

Monday, 17 January 2011

The Ottoman Empire

See here, here, and here for some very useful websites.
‘The religious and political problems of sixteenth-century Europe – so vast, so intricate in themselves, so enmeshed in social change and cultural reorientation – were consistently rendered more complicated and more intractable by the holy war which Islam had vowed against unbelievers.’ Richard MacKenney, Sixteenth-Century Europe (1993), 243.
The empire therefore cannot be seen in purely secular terms. Religious considerations often dictated policy. The attacks on Rhodes (1522), Malta (1565) and Cyprus (1570) were designed to secure Muslim pilgrims’ access to the holy places. The infidels were also the Shi‘ites of Persia.

Monday, 10 January 2011


[Above is Henry Fuseli's representation of Macbeth's witches.]

See here for a good introduction.

Between 1400 and 1800 between forty and fifty thousand people, mainly women, died in Europe and colonial north America on charges of witchcraft. Why? As Lyndal Roper states,
‘No-one … can offer a total explanation for phenomena lying in the realms of psycho-history.’
Europeans had long believed in witches yet only in the period after 1500 did they turn this cultural assumption into a one of the major killers of western Europe.