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European Narratives of Discovery: The Caribbean


  • What did Columbus see when he arrived in the new world? In what ways was he influenced by the traditions of travel writers such as Mandeville and Polo?
  • Explain the role of ‘wonder’ in Columbus’s writings. How does Greenblatt interpret Columbus's experiences in the Caribbean?

Primary Sources

  • Columbus, Christopher, Journal of the First Voyage, 1492-3

This text is available in many different formats. See for example:

Required Secondary Reading

  • Greenblatt, Stephen, Marvellous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World, Clarendon Press (Oxford, 1991), Chapter 3: ‘Marvellous Possessions’ (THERE ARE ONLY EIGHT COPIES IN THE LIBRARY SO YOU WILL NEED TO PLAN AHEAD A LITTLE TO MAKE SURE THAT THE WHOLE CLASS MANAGE TO READ THIS).

Additional Secondary Readings

  • Campbell, Mary B., The Witness and the Other World: Exotic European Travel writing, 400-1600, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, 1989), chapter 5.
  • Flint, Valerie, The Imaginative Landscape of Christopher Columbus, University of Princeton Press (Princeton, 1992).
  • Hulme, Peter, ‘Tales of Distinction: European Ethnography and the Caribbean’, in Stuart Schwartz, ed., Implicit Understandings: Observing, Reporting and Reflecting on the Encounters between Europeans and Other Peoples in the Early Modern Era, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, 1994).
  • Hulme, Peter, and Neil Whitehead, eds., Wild Majesty: Encounters with Caribs from Columbus to the Present Day, Clarendon Press (Oxford, 1992).
  • Pagden, Anthony, European Encounters with the New World, Yale University Press (New Haven, 1993).
  • Pastor Bodmer, Beatriz, The Armature of Conquest: Spanish Accounts of the Discovery of America, 1492-1589, Stanford University Press (Stanford, 1992), chapter 1.
  • Watts, Pauline Moffitt, ‘Prophecy and Discovery: On the Spiritual Origins of Christopher Columbus’ ‘Enterprise of the Indies’’, American Historical Review, vol. 90:1 (1985).
  • Zamora, Margarita, Reading Columbus, University of California Press (Berkeley, 1993).