“A fascinating story of political desperation and artful salesmanship amid a European struggle for wealth and power.” The Washington Post
“An intriguing and surprising new twist on the old subject . . . Other historians have paralleled the voyages of Columbus and Cabot, but Hunter interweaves their stories and places them firmly into the complex geopolitical landscape of Renaissance Europe . . . As this fascinating historical detective story unfolds, new pieces of an old puzzle are put into place, providing fresh perspective on the traditional discovery narrative. [An] important contribution to the scholarship of exploration history.” Booklist
“Hunter puts together an intriguing account from an international cooperative research effort among historians to reconstruct sources that were either destroyed or lost ... [He] turns what seems like a well-known story into something well worth exploring again.” Kirkus Reviews
“Using fresh archival evidence, Hunter expertly recounts Columbus insinuating his way into the Spanish court of Fernando and Isabel through marriage, and Cabot's escape from a bridge-building scheme turned bad in Venice into the arms of an England lusting after the riches attained by ocean exploration ... In a fresh account, Hunter recovers the life and broken career of Martin Behaim, who built one of the first globes and likely fashioned Cabot's proposed route to Asia.” Publishers Weekly
“[Hunter brings] greater clarity to the era of Christopher Columbus…A welcome addition…Highly recommend.” Choice
“Douglas Hunter has produced yet another vivid, original narrative that brings to life a whole period while shedding new light on early explorers who sailed from Europe for the New World. Exhaustively researched, authoritative: I wish I'd written this one!” Ken McGoogan, Author of Fatal Passage and Race to the Polar Sea
“It is always a treat when new information on an interesting topic emerges, or likewise a new interpretation of existing facts. It is rare indeed to find both in the same book... Hunter delivers... an intellectual and historical mystery sure to enthral those interested in the early European exploration of the Americas.” Stephen R. Bown, Author of Merchant Kings: When Companies Ruled the World, 1600-1900 and 1494: How a Family Feud in Medieval Spain Divided the World in Half.
“[An] absolutely splendid exposition on the initial European probes that opened the New World... The major and peripheral characters in this intriguing drama are brought to life with unusual clarity... A well researched and clearly written account of the Columbus and Cabot voyages of discovery... stitched into the broader diplomatic and mercantile context of the period.” Conrad E. Heidenreich, Professor Emeritus at York University, co-author of Samuel de Champlain Before 1604
Successful historiographical detective work provides Hunter (Half Moon: Henry Hudson and the Voyage that Redrew the Map of the New World, 2009, etc.) with the means to rework aspects of the careers of Christopher Columbus and John Cabot.
The author puts together an intriguing account from an international cooperative research effort among historians to reconstruct sources that were either destroyed or lost. He has also accessed documents in Spanish, Latin, French and Italian, especially from collections appearing since the 500th anniversary of Columbus' voyage, in 1992. Hunter presents a reconstruction of the political, financial and social networks and activities of which the ocean explorers were a part, and shows their nautical adventures in a new light. Slave traders from Genoese and Florentine banking houses put up money for the voyages, even while organizing sugar plantations in the Canaries. The powers and privileges of personal possession each explorer sought to exercise were so similar, Hunter argues, because both were based on an earlier Portuguese proposal presented in the 1480s with support from the same Genoese and Florentine financial interests. Cabot, a real-estate speculator and projector, did not have the same nautical skill set as Columbus. He did project the same kind of bare-faced confidence and courage that enabled Columbus to withstand ridicule and stay the course. He may even have accompanied Columbus on his second voyage as the builder of the future port for Espaniola. Cabot always had to stay one step ahead of creditors to keep out of jail, and Columbus had to work overtime to maintain the stories he told, and the deceptions he circulated, to keep his enterprise going.
Hunter turns what seems like a well-known story into something well worth exploring again.