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Europeans Contact with Others: Expansion and Exploration

Seminar Questions

  • What were the main objectives of overseas explorers in this period?
  • Why was overseas exploration in the fifteenth century so successful?
  • What part did fantasy play in encouraging Europeans to explore the wider world?


Introductory Reading

Barber, The Two Cities, 458-461

Bartlett, The Making of Europe, 236-242, 269-314

Waley and Denley, Later Medieval Europe, 280-291


Further Reading


Arnold, David, The Age of Discovery, 1400-1600, 2nd ed. (London, 2002)

Parry, J.H. (ed.), European Reconnaissance: Selected Documents (London, 1968)

Phillips, J.R.S., The Medieval Expansion of Europe, 2nd ed. (Oxford, 1998)


Abulafia, David, 'Asia, Africa and the Trade of Medieval Europe', in M.M. Postan et al. (eds.), The Cambridge Economic History of Europe, vol. 2: Trade and Industry in the Middle Ages, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, 1987), pp. 402-473.

Russell, Peter, Prince Henry 'the Navigator': A Life (New Haven, 2000)

Subrahmanyam, Sanjay, The Career and Legend of Vasco da Gama (Cambridge, 1998)

The Americas

Columbus, Christopher, The Four Voyages of Christopher Columbus, ed. and trans. J. M. Cohen (Harmondsworth, 1969)

Cunliffe, Barry, Facing the Ocean: The Atlantic and its Peoples (Oxford, 2001)

Fernandez-Armesto, Felipe, Before Columbus: Exploration and Colonisation from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, 1229-1492 (London, 1987)

Fernandez-Armesto, Felipe, Columbus (Oxford, 1991)

Flint, V.I.J., The Imaginative Landscape of Christopher Columbus (Princeton, NJ, 1992)

Forte, Angelo, et al., Viking Empires (Cambridge, 2005)

Sawyer, Peter (ed.), The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings (Oxford, 1997)

The Vinland Sagas: the Norse Discovery of America, trans. and ed. Magnus Magnusson and Hermann Pálsson (Harmondsworth, 1965)

European Views of the Wider World

Allen, John L., 'Lands of Myth, Waters of Wonder: The Place of the Imagination in the History of Geographical Exploration', in Geographies of the Mind: Essays in Historical Geosophy, ed. David Lowenthal and Martyn J. Bowden (New Yorks, 1976), pp. 41-61.

Boas, George, 'The Noble Savage', in George Boas, Essays on Primitivism and Related Ideas in the Middle Ages (Baltimore, 1997), pp. 129-153

Campbell, Mary B., The Witness and the Other World: Exotic European Travel Writing, 400-1600 (Ithaca, NY, 1988)

Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome, 'On Saracen Enjoyment: Some Fantasies of Race in Late Medieval France and England', Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 31 no. 1 ( 2001), 113-46.

Flint, V.I.J., The Imaginative Landscape of Christopher Columbus (Princeton, NJ, 1992)

Friedman, John Block. The Monstrous Races in Medieval Art and Thought (Cambridge, Mass., 1981) [pp. 178-196 online]

Larner, John, Marco Polo and the Discovery of the World (New Haven, 1999)

Lomperis, Linda, 'Medieval Travel Writing and the Question of Race', Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 31 no. 1 ( 2001), 147-164.

Mandeville, Sir John, The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, trans. C.W.R.D. Moseley (Harmondsworth, 1983)

Mandeville, John, The Book of John Mandeville, ed. Tamarah Kohanski and C. David Benson (Kalamazoo, MI, 2007)

Polo, Marco, The Travels, trans. Robert Latham (Harmondsworth, 1965)

Strickland, Debra Higgs, 'Monsters and Christian Enemies', History Today 50 (2000), 45-51.

Wittkower, Rudolf, 'Marvels of the East: A Study in the History of Monsters', Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 5 (1942): 159-197.

Wood, Frances, Did Marco Polo Go to China? (London, 1995) [See also Igor de Rachewiltz, 'F. Wood's Did Marco Polo Go To China? A Critical Appraisal']