By the Arctic to Cathay

  • John H. Parry
Part of the Documentary History of Western Civilization book series (DHWC)


The first European discoverers of America, so far as is known, were Norse adventurers. These wanderers from a harsh northern home—by turns farmers, traders, and pirates, endlessly daring, incurably land- hungry—were the best seamen of the Europe of their day, and possessed the best oceangoing ships. They occupied Iceland—where Irish wanderers had probably preceded them—in the ninth and tenth centuries. Latecomers to Iceland went further, and established farming communities in southwest Greenland. To the west and southwest of Greenland they found other lands: Helluland or Baffin Land, good for nothing save perhaps hunting; Markland or Labrador, where they could get timber, precious in treeless Greenland; and Vinland, which offered good pasture as well as timber and the wild grapes which (probably) gave the place its name. Attempts were made to settle in Vinland. The location of these attempted settlements has long been a subject of controversy; northern Newfoundland is the likeliest place, though voyages of reconnaissance may have gone further south, perhaps to New England or even further. Wherever Vinland was, the settlements were soon abandoned; the settlers were too few, the natives too many and too hostile. The Greenlanders, however, continued to visit Markland and Vinland, so long as they had adequate ships, and the Vinland story was recorded, with considerable wealth of detail, in Icelandic sagas.


North Shore South Shore Great River Wild Grape European Discoverer 
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List of Works Cited

  1. J. A. Williamson, ed.: The Cabot Voyages and Bristol Discovery under Henry VII, Cambridge, 1962.Google Scholar
  2. R. A. Skelton: Thomas E. Marston and George D. Painter: The Vinland Map, New Haven, 1965.Google Scholar
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  7. Sir Humphrey Gilbert: “A Discourse of a Discovery for a New Passage to Cataia,” in D. B. Quinn, ed.: The Voyages and Colonising Enterprises of Sir Humphrey Gilbert, 2 vols., London, 1940. Richard Hakluyt: The Principal Navigationsof the English Nation, 12 vols., Glasgow, 1903.Google Scholar
  8. Richard Collinson, ed.: The Three Voyages of Martin Frobisher, London, 1867.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1968

Authors and Affiliations

  • John H. Parry

There are no affiliations available

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