Terra Cognita

Newsletter of the Society for the History of Discoveries

Page 15

May 2004

What’s Going on Here?
Have you noticed the number of new books about exploration that have been published during the past two or three years? By my count, eleven different volumes relating to exploration and discovery were published in 2002, 2003, and 2004 (I am sure there have been more). Several of the authors are not individuals I normally expect to be interested in such matters. For example, Lawrence Bergreen, best known for his biographies of Irving Berlin and Al Capone, published Over the Edge of the World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe (New York: Morrow, 2003), and Max Jones (if my information is correct, has written copiously on jazz topics), released The Last Great Quest: Captain Scott’s Antarctic Sacrifice (Oxford: OUP, 2003). Tony Horwitz, a foreign correspondent by profession, published Blue Latitudes: Boldly going where Captain Cook has gone before (New York: Henry Holt, 2002). I attended a lecture given by Horwitz to a packed room at the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta, and was impressed with the number of people who had read his book, and by the excellent questions presented to him by a savvy audience.

If you are not aware of the other volumes, check out Nicholas Thomas, Cook: The Extraordinary Voyages of Captain James Cook (New York: Walker and Company, 2003), Peter Nichols, Evolution’s Captain [Robert FitzRoy] (New York: HarperCollins, 2003), Nathaniel Philbrick, Sea of Glory: America’s Voyage of Discovery- The U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842 (New York: Viking, 2003), Caroline Alexander, The Bounty: the True Story of the Mutiny of the Bounty (New York: Viking, 2003), Barbara Hodgson, No Place for a Lady: Tales of Adventurous Women Travelers (Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press, 2002), Ken McGoogan, Ancient Mariner: The Arctic Adventures of Samuel Hearne, the Sailor who Inspired Coleridge’s Masterpiece (New York: Carroll & Graf, 2004),

Samuel Bawlf, The Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake, 1577-1580 (New York: Walker Books, 2004 [originally published in 2001], and Nicholas Crane, Mercator: The Man Who Mapped the Planet (New York: Henry Holt, 2003).An interesting note is that in the articles published in the special issue of U.S. News & World Report (February 23-March1, 2004 issue) dedicated to history’s greatest explorers, the authors they cited were mostly from the above list. 

Two other most interesting books were published in 2000 and 2001 - Milbry Polk and Mary Tiegreen, Women of Discovery: A Celebration of Intrepid Women Who Explored the World (New York: Clarkson Potter, 2001), and Fergus Fleming, Barrow’s Boys: A Stirring Story of Daring, Fortitude, and Outright Lunacy (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2000).

Clearly there is a market for adventure stories, but it seems that only a few professional scholars are taking advantage of the popular market. Glyn Williams and Ann Savours certainly have done so with their books, The Prize of All the Oceans (New York: Viking, 2000), and The Search for the North West Passage (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999).

Perhaps now is the time for SHD members to popularize the adventures of the great explorers and travelers. There certainly seems to be a demand for this kind of literature.

Sanford Bederman

Fig 16. Fellows Virginia and Jenkins Garrett with Sanford Bederman at honors luncheon, Arnaud’s Restaurant

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