Exploration

Land Ho! Explorers and the Age of Discovery

To the Europeans, the West was a great unknown. Many people believed that over the western sea there was nothing but darkness and danger. Yet throughout the past, travelers tried to find out what was on the other side of the water. There are very few traces of those first explorers. They lived in times when most people could not write, so stories of their discoveries were passed down as tales told around hearth fires. Sometimes they were believed, sometimes not. Russell Freedman’s Who Was First? Discovering the Americas looks at the evidence behind this puzzle.

The Pirate Queen: Queen Elizabeth I, Her Pirate Adventurers, and the Dawn of Empire

By Susan Ronald

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"Dubbed the 'pirate queen' by the Vatican and Philip II of Spain, Elizabeth I was feared and admired by her enemies. Extravagant, whimsical, and hot-tempered, she was the epitome of power. Her visionary accomplishments were made possible by her daring merchants, gifted rapscallion adventurers, astronomer philosophers, and her stalwart Privy Council. All these men contributed their genius, power, greed, and expertise to the advancement of England. Historian Ronald offers a fresh look at Elizabeth I, focusing on her uncanny instinct for financial survival and the superior intellect that propelled and sustained her rise. The foundation of Elizabeth's empire was built on a carefully choreographed strategy whereby piracy transformed England from an impoverished state on the fringes of Europe into the first building block of an empire that ultimately covered two-fifths of the world."

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The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition

By Caroline Alexander

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In August 1914, days before the outbreak of the First World War, the renowned explorer Ernest Shackleton and a crew of twenty-seven set sail for the South Atlantic in pursuit of the last unclaimed prize in the history of exploration: the first crossing on foot of the Antarctic continent. Weaving a treacherous path through the freezing Weddell Sea, they had come within eighty-five miles of their destination when their ship, Endurance, was trapped fast in the ice pack. Soon the ship was crushed like matchwood, leaving the crew stranded on the floes. Their ordeal would last for twenty months, and they would make two near-fatal attempts to escape by open boat before their final rescue. Drawing upon previously unavailable sources, Caroline Alexander gives us a riveting account of Shackleton's expedition--one of history's greatest epics of survival. And she presents the astonishing work of Frank Hurley, the Australian photographer whose visual record of the adventure has never before been published comprehensively.

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Cook: The Extraordinary Voyages of Captain James Cook by Nicholas Thomas

Cook: The Extraordinary Voyages of Captain James Cook by Nicholas Thomas

As my cotton-gloved hands examined the woven fabric, I felt the thrill of encountering a link to the age of discovery. Over a hundred years old and probably unseen and untouched for decades, this artifact of the Cook Islands was being carefully prepared by us technicians to be moved to the Smithsonian Institution’s storage facility. Some twenty years later, Professor Nicholas Thomas’ Cook: The Extraordinary Voyages of Captain James A. Cook has given me much better perspective on these pieces of the past.

Columbus Day: A Day of Discovery

Columbus Day is sometimes called Discoverers' Day. In the spirit of discovery, take some time to learn about the world as it was in the days of the European explorers. You can make a compass, learn about the stars, read about other explorers and discoverers, and find how even our way of eating has changed since the Europeans came to the Americas looking for gold, glory, and, yes, tasty cooking spices.

Pizza Without Tomato Sauce?

The explorers who came to the Americas found the food enjoyed by the native people to be very different from what they knew at home. They had never seen tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, maize (corn), pineapples, chili peppers, or even cocoa. The vegetable dishes from the Europe they knew relied on parsnips, cabbages, peas, carrots, turnips, and onions. After being at sea and living off of a diet of lentil soup, salt beef from a barrel, salted sardines, hardtack, and other delights, the fresh, new foods of the islands would have been an astonishing change.

Samurai William: The Englishman Who Opened Japan

By Giles Milton

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An eye-opening account of the first encounter between England and Japan, by the acclaimed author of Nathaniel's Nutmeg. Samurai William is the fascinating story of a clash of two cultures, and of the enormous impact one Westerner had on the opening of the East.

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Dead Reckoning: Great Adventure Writing from the Golden Age of Exploration, 1800-1900

By Helen Whybrow

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Here are 32 adventures written by passionate pilgrims who traversed wild America, the Alps, West Africa, Mecca, Malaysia, and more.
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Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton: The Secret Agent Who Made the Pilgrimage to Mecca, Discovered the Kama Sutra, and brought the Arabian Nights to the West

By Edward Rice

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Beginning his career as a spy for the East India Company, Burton (1821-1890) visited the "forbidden" cities of Medina and Mecca disguised as an Arab, made a yet more perilous trip to the secret city of Harar in Somalia, discovered Lake Tanganyika in his search for the Nile's source, and had sundry adventures in West Africa, the New World and the Levant. One of the great Arabists of his time, a master of 29 languages, he translated a mass of Oriental literature, mystical and erotic. Upon his death, his wife, in a spasm of piety-cum-prudery, burned his heavily annotated translation of The Perfumed Garden and much else. Explorer, swordsman, linguist, scholar, writer, lover of women and pursuer of hidden knowledge, Burton was par excellence the Victorian version of Renaissance man. (Publishers’ Weekly)

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A War of Witches: A Journey into the Underworld of the Contemporary Aztecs

By Timothy J. Knab

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Anthropologist Knab's highly personal and compelling narrative on the magico-religious belief system of contemporary Aztecs has the excitement of a mystery novel yet is interspersed with rich ethnographic detail on Aztec cosmology, magic, and ritual. Through his fieldwork with two Mexican curanderos (healers/witches) Knab uncovers the survival of ancient Aztec religious beliefs and practices thought to have been long wiped out by colonial conquest and Catholicism. Caught between the worlds of academia and Aztec witchcraft, Knab recounts how he found himself subject to his informants' magical devices and began the journey to recover his tonal (soul). Knab's experience challenges traditional assumptions about ethical involvement on the part of the researcher and blurs the boundaries between informant and researcher, science and magic, and healing and murder. This book will appeal not only to anthropologists and students of Aztec religion but to anyone interested in reading a captivating real-life mystery.” (Library Journal)

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