Internet Exercises

Maps help explain change over time as well as tell us about the world of the people who construct them. Historical maps are documents that provide clues to the historical landscape as the people of the time experienced it. Chapter 1 Web activities focus on maps and the relationship of cartography to understanding history. Christine Leigh Heyrman stresses that contact between the three worlds -- Europe, Africa, the Americas -- arose out of a series of gradual global changes encouraged by the development of new trade networks. The technological advances in cartography, navigation, shipbuilding, and firearms contributed to Europe globalization. The research links introduce materials relating to other chapter 1 topics such as: Columbus voyages and Spain's Empire in the New World, the early Modern World context and the European background of colonization, and England's entry into America. 

Charta cosmographia, Apian  ~ 1544
From The Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the University of Georgia
Web Activities
1. Click on the above map to bring up a larger version. View each of the detailed sections, then, answer the following questions in order to understand the map's purpose.
  • The map was engraved in Central Europe 1544, with whom does Emperor Charles V share domain of the world? 
  • What is his position and size on the map intended to indicate? [1] 
  • How is North America imagined? Note its size. [2] 
  • What perils are found in the sea? What does this suggest about 16th century maritime knowledge? [3] 
  • Who inhabits the eastern part of South America? [4] 
2. Next, go to the Library of Congress exhibit on the Diego Gutiérrez map drawn two decades later. The site explains details of motifs similar to the ones viewed in the Charta cosmographia, and will help you answer the questions above.
  • Note the iconography of the coats of arms. What future European power in North America is omitted?
  • What additional clues are given to explain Spain's claims against other Europeans?
3. Visit the exhibition Novus Orbis: Images of the New World, 1507-1669 at the Alderman Library, University of Virginia. How did geographic thinking about North America evolve and set the agenda for future exploration? Did misunderstanding concerning the size of the continent lead to the search for a Northwest passage? What do original maps tell you about European perceptions of the New World in the 16th century? Do they suggest European fear of native peoples or cultural superiority? How do these maps differ from the contemporary interactive maps for this chapter?

4. Go to the site The European Voyages of Exploration: Geography & Cartography, a tutorial created by the Department of History, The University of Calgary, in order to think about other aspects of the importance of maps for interpreting the encounter between the old world and the new. Why is it said that the main purpose of early cartographers is "not to discover what actually existed but, rather, to rationalize the world around preconceived notions of religion and philosophy"? Defend your answer.

5. Next, visit the following Web sites to comprehend the fundamental shifts in the way European mariners understood the world in the 15th and 16th centuries. As you read the sites look for examples of the tools and methods the West Country cod fishermen (described in the chapter 1 opening narrative) would have used to reach Newfoundland in the 1550s.

6. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Europe's emerging Atlantic powers, Portugal, Spain, England and France, pioneered the discovery of sea routes which became the basis of the process of globalization. To comprehend their motivations, their actions, and the inevitable consequences of their colonization, return to European Voyages of Exploration . Begin with the introduction, which will guide you through the tutorial.

7. Finally, keep in mind the map analysis process as you go on through the textbook. Continue to think about the way maps shape the historical landscape and what they tell us concerning the ways Americans understand and represent their place in the world.

Additional Research Links
Pursue more information about the issues discussed in Counterpoint: Changing Views of Columbus (32), and Spain in the Western Hemisphere:

  • Library of Congress 1492 Exhibit ~ Addresses questions related to the linking of very different parts of the world, the Western Hemisphere and the Mediterranean. The exhibition examines the first sustained contacts between American people and European explorers, conquerors and settlers from 1492 to 1600. Visit the Christopher Columbus – Man and Myth exhibit section. 
  • Columbus and the Age of Discovery  ~ The Computerized Information Retrieval System (CIRS) website was created by Millersville University of Pennsylvania for the 500th anniversary of the encounter of two worlds. The site has a database of secondary materials relating to encounter themes. Provides insight on the “conquest” and Western hegemony debate.
  • The Columbus Letter  ~ Christopher Columbus's letter announcing the success of his voyage to the "islands of the India sea" is a key document in the social and intellectual histories of both Europe and the Americas ~ The Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education, University of Southern Maine.
  • An Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico  from Modern History Sourcebook ~ Accounts by the Aztecs, some of which were written shortly after the conquest, collected by Mexican anthropologist, Miguel Leon­Portilla.
  • Another page on the European Voyages of Exploration site with a good map and images is The Conquest of The Aztec Empire: Hernando Cortez.
  • The Relaciones Geográficas collection of 16th century Spanish American maps  at the Benson Latin American Collection comprise the original responses to a questionnaire initiated by the Spanish Crown in 1577, and serve as primary sources of information about the Spanish conquest of Middle America. 
  • To examine the impact of disease on the indigenous population of the Americas see, Alfred W. Crosby's essay, The Columbian Exchange: Plants, Animals, and Disease between the Old and New Worlds

  • The Euro-biomedical Impact on the American Indian, and a good chart for The Columbian Biological Exchange, includes diseases, animals and plants. For more details on plant exchanges visit the Smithsonian's History section of the Seeds of Change Garden
The Early Modern World Context and the European Background of Colonization England's Entry into America