Imagine if you had been a Roman posted to the far edge of Africa. Staring out at the Atlantic. Or a medieval standing on the edge of your world- at Ushant, maybe. Either way, the ocean would have stretched out before you-incomparably vast, cold, dangerous and uncrossable. Nothing came from across it, and nothing went there, until Colombus in 1492 finally proved that there was land on the other side.
That’s the conventional story. We at LSS have always been aware of hints and clues that it is not the whole story. Some of them seem like pseudohistory and wishful thinking. Others are more intriguing. For one thing, the Vikings really did sail out of Europe and reach North America, albeit in small numbers. But somehow they got lost in the parentheses. And if you live in the Arctic, where the continents of Europe, Asia and America bunch together, you could be forgiven for hardly noticing the difference.
Now there is exciting evidence that this was exactly the case. Dan Avery of the Daily Mail writes today of an amazing trade route which caused beads made in Venice to end up in far-away Alaska. And all this sometime between 1440 and 1480, a dozen years before the plucky navigator borrowed all that money and ships from the Queen of Spain.
We at LSS have always preferred Economic History as our favourite history. We are always amazed at how vast the world must have seemed before powered engines and radios. A bit like we think of space now. Yet brave and ambitious souls were crossing it, doubtless in search of profit-which tells you something. Above all, nothing in History is ever settled, a bit like other fields of real learning.
#transoceaniccontact #traderoutes #christophercolumbus #alaska #venice