Tuesday, October 11, 2005

"Celebrating wrong Italian?"

In his syndicated column, James C. Bennett explains that there were actually three initial pathways, or "streams," to the New World:
one was the Spanish movement to the Caribbean, Mexico, Peru, and ultimately other areas, stemming from Columbus's voyage; another was the Portuguese movement to Brazil, which was intimately linked to their explorations of Africa predating Columbus; and the third was the stream of peoples from the British Isles and ultimately elsewhere to North America to found the nations of the North American Anglosphere. These three distinct streams founded the three principal cultural-linguistic communities of the Americas.

Although Cabot's voyage to Newfoundland was undoubtedly spurred by news of Columbus's voyages, the expanding English maritime enterprise would sooner or later have recapitulated the Viking achievements in the North Atlantic. There are interesting conjectures about prior voyages from the British Isles to North America before Columbus, from Bristol fishermen working the Grand Banks (not unlikely) to other, more speculative theories, such as Farley Mowat's ideas about voyagers from the Orkneys preceding the Vikings in the Dark Ages.

Whatever the realities of these theories, it is the expansion of the cultures and traditions that form the template on which today's societies in the U.S. and English Canada that we should commemorate. Columbus, whatever his merits and demerits may be, is in this regard beside the point.
He provides some historiography on how Columbus gained preeminence in America, too.

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