In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle heads off to medieval America and the world of the sagas
Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492, when he landed on mainland North America, thus sparking the colonisation of the continent by the Europeans.
This is the mainstream conception, and it’s entirely wrong. Columbus never landed on the mainland of the continent we now call North America. Even if he had, he wouldn’t have been the first European to do so. European settlement in North America had first occurred almost half a millennium before Columbus was even born. In around the year 1000, a group of Icelandic explorers made a series of journeys along the northern rim of the Atlantic, and attempted to found a colony somewhere along the Atlantic seaboard of the continent of North America, probably somewhere around what is now Newfoundland and the Gulf of St Lawrence.