Friday, June 26, 2009

Europeans Covering America

It was not Columbus that is credited with discovering North America, but John Cabot, or Giovanni Caboto, as his mother knew him, since he was Italian. Henry the 7th of England financed Cabot's explorations, and historians are not sure of anything regarding these voyages.  But historians talk of Cabot landing in Newfoundland and claiming Eastern Canada for the English.
This would have been Cabot's second voyage in search of a northerly passage to the Spice Islands. The date of June 24, 1497, is assigned to his landing in North America.  Cabot never returned from his third voyage, begun in 1498, and nothing is known for sure of his fate or that of the crew members. 

But it is not just Cabot's voyages which can be described with various degress of certainty, which certainly means, degrees of uncertainty.  Accounts of Cabot's sailing across the Atlantic are just an example of the kind of dreams that historians regularly compose.  Calling the seas the Atlantic, his ship, The Matthew, his fate, unknown---what can this really mean?  Can you quiz a drop of water til it says, "Atlantic?"  The historians do not recognise that the status of their knowledge is far more compromised than their admitting, "well, judging from his maps, he probably made it to what we now call Newfoundland." 

What do we really know, and even this is a surmising. But the real knowledge that could have been involved, would have been the bump of a wooden keel on a sandy shore, the kind of thing you see, you feel.  This can be called knowledge.  The use of words like English sovereignty, this is not knowledge, this is imagination.  You cannot taste English sovereignty, the way you can salt in the air.  A simple enough distinction, but one the academics don't make.

Jan Cox said "history is dreams." My talking of Cabot here is meant to illustrate what Jan meant with this phrase, "history is dreams."  When I mention history, I am mainly trying to find fresh ways to think for my own benefit.  Not to elucidate some "out there" kind of truth. History is dreams.  But if your mind is motoring along at a mechanical speed, your best bet to speed up, is fresh thought, (and always, though this has not been publicly explained, a certain effort.)  But fresh thoughts----that will at least keep you in the game.

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