CANNIBAL – BOOK 1 –
The language and history of the Discovery of the New World: from Columbus and Cabot to Amerigo Vespucci (1440–1515)
The combined focus of this Transpontine Series is, of course, the history of America and the history of American English. This first book, Cannibal (call it a prequel), sets the scene for the European conquest of America – North and South – and reminds us of the race between Columbus and Cabot to reach the Orient first, as well as the unintended results that ultimately changed the course of history for people on the two disparate continents.
It is important to remember that the history of America does not begin with the declaration of independence in 1776. It does not begin with the Puritans and Massachusetts Bay Company in 1630, nor does it begin out of a vacuum in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. The first Europeans to set up a lasting settlement in North America were the Spanish, and Spanish was spoken in Florida more than half a century before the first permanent English-speakers settlers arrived. As will be described in Book 2 in the series, Roanoke, the Plymouth pilgrims endured months of travel to cross the ocean and reach New England, only to soon meet a local native who had crossed the Atlantic more than four times, who spoke English, had been to Spain and lived in London – all before these pilgrims themselves had even left Leyden in the Netherlands.
I should also add that, for a series delving into both history and language of America, this particular volume is light on words and etymology because of the period that it covers. The next and each subsequent book features more and more about American words, their meanings and origins. As you will discover, the number of new English words accelerates for every decade and century following the next. Therefore, in terms of representation, this particular volume is the most history laden, with lots of history and some language. The rest of the books feature history with lots more language and etymology.
This first book is powerful in setting up the scene and context for the circumstance that led the English to look west across the seas in the first place. It reveals that a lot of explosive change took place well before the English arrived in Virginia and details how a flood of new words entered the English language from America in the century before this time and how America got its name.
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