The American Discovery of Europe

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The American Discovery of Europe
Author Jack D. Forbes
Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2007

The American Discovery of Europe

Reviewer John L. Sorenson

Jack D. Forbes, a scholar with Native American ancestry, has a long publishing history treating neglected topics that involve Native Americans (whom he calls simply "Americans"). In The American Discovery of Europe, Forbes weaves facts from recondite sources into a surprising story of Amerindian voyagers who reached Europe before conventional history opens with Columbus's first voyage. He also documents the seizure by European slavers after 1492 of thousands of Americans who were carried to Europe and elsewhere.

Forbes makes a credible case that in about 1476 Columbus saw two people at Galway, Ireland, who had arrived by canoe from the West but whose language could not be understood. The man and woman were supposed to have come from "Cathay," that is, East Asia. Presumably, they were accidentally carried from North America aided by the Gulf Stream. This encounter confirmed for young Columbus that Cathay could be reached by sailing west across the North Atlantic. Forbes uses considerable information about little-known late medieval mapmaking in Europe to bolster his case. (Other scholars, such as Gavin Menzies, are also currently discovering other data showing that the Atlantic and lands beyond it were within the purview of cartographers of that era.)