THE RACE TO THE NEW WORLD- CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS, JOHN CABOT, AND A LOST HISTORY OF DISCOVERY
When doing business at Madeira, Christopher Columbus was some six hundred miles southwest of Lisbon, surrounded by an ocean thought to be scattered with more islands like it awaiting discovery and colonization. Even the known landfalls were far over the visible horizon. Santa Maria, the nearest of the Azores group, was more than five hundred miles northwest and eight hundred miles west of Lisbon. The Canary Islands were three hundred miles to the south of Madeira, off the West Africa coast, and the Cape Verdes were more than eight hundred miles farther southwest. The existence of these volcanic archipelagos had been promised by legend and hearsay and scholars of antiquity, and had yielded up to persistent daring and curiosity. Cartographers imagined many more of them, still farther west, and mariners had every reason to expect to find them, given past successes. The Portuguese led the discovery (or rediscovery) of the Atlantic islands in the fifteenth century. The Madeiras were found and their settlement begun between 1419 and 1425; the first islands in the Azores archipelago were reached in 1427. The first Portuguese expedition to the Canaries, which had already been the subject of a French colonization effort, followed in 1440. Settlement of the Azores then began, and the Portuguese pressed southward along the West African coast, their vessels sighting the Cape Verde Islands sometime between 1456 and 1462...
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