HIST 4800 Early America in the Atlantic World (Herndon)


Once Europeans discovered the New World, cartographers of the time began to map the Americas based on either their own experiences or accounts of others who visited the new land. These maps did not simply serve as navigational tools, but also were used as decorative objects containing elements of propaganda intended to shape opinions of the New World in the Old. In this paper, I examine Antonio Pigafetta’s journal, documenting the voyage of Magellen in 1519-22, and the world maps created after his journal was published. Six world maps by Diogo Ribeiro, Jean Rotz, Guillaume Brouscon, Sebastian Cabot, Pierre Desceliers, and Geronimo Girava were closely examined alongside this influential journal. In my paper, I argue the journal and maps aided in spreading new European ideologies, as they were used as tools of propaganda. The primary sources show the Atlantic Ocean as a gateway to the Americas and the Pacific World, the New World as a place of adventure, land, and resources, and the Americas as full of new possibilities for Europeans.

Along with the primary sources utilized, I examined a collection of secondary scholarship. These sources focus on the interpretation of maps and the elements depicted on them, rather than looking at the objective truths a map can offer. I utilize the work of other scholars, such as Seymour Schwartz and Peter Whitfield, to support my own argument, as we have reached similar conclusions about a map’s role as propaganda. Surehka Davies’ work is included to provide a counterargument to my own, in which I respond to her conclusions with my own research and findings.

My research has confirmed 16th century maps and Pigafetta’s journal were tools of propaganda, but are these ideologies still present in our society today?

Publication Date

Spring 5-5-2014