Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The Race to the New World

The Race to the New World

Christopher Columbus, John Cabot, and a Lost History of Discovery

Douglas Hunter

St. Martin's Press



The final decade of the fifteenth century was a turning point in world history. The Genoese mariner Christopher Columbus sailed westward on the Atlantic Ocean in 1492, famously determined to discover for Spain a shorter and more direct route to the riches of the Indies. Meanwhile, a fellow Italian explorer for hire, John Cabot, set off on his own journey, under England's flag. Here, Douglas Hunter tells the fascinating tale of how, during this expedition, Columbus gained a rival. In the space of a few critical years, these two men engaged in a high-stakes race that threatened the precarious diplomatic balance of Europe-to exploit what they believed was a shortcut to staggering wealth. Instead, they found a New World that neither was looking for. Hunter provides a revelatory look at how the lives of Columbus and Cabot were interconnected, and how neither explorer can be understood properly without understanding both. Together, Cabot and Columbus provide a novel and important perspective on the first years of European experience of the New World.


Praise for The Race to the New World

“An intriguing and surprising new twist on the old subject . . . Other historians have paralleled the voyages of Columbus and Cabot, but Hunter interweaves their stories and places them firmly into the complex geopolitical landscape of Renaissance Europe . . . As this fascinating historical detective story unfolds, new pieces of an old puzzle are put into place, providing fresh perspective on the traditional discovery narrative. [An] important contribution to the scholarship of exploration history.” —Booklist

“Hunter puts together an intriguing account from an international cooperative research effort among historians to reconstruct sources that were either destroyed or lost ... [He] turns what seems like a well-known story into something well worth exploring again.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Using fresh archival evidence, Hunter expertly recounts Columbus insinuating his way into the Spanish court of Fernando and Isabel through marriage, and Cabot's escape from a bridge-building scheme turned bad in Venice into the arms of an England lusting after the riches attained by ocean exploration ... In a fresh account, Hunter recovers the life and broken career of Martin Behaim, who built one of the first globes and likely fashioned Cabot's proposed route to Asia.” —Publishers Weekly

“Douglas Hunter has produced yet another vivid, original narrative that brings to life a whole period while shedding new light on early explorers who sailed from Europe for the New World. Exhaustively researched, authoritative: I wish I'd written this one!” —Ken McGoogan, Author of Fatal Passage and Race to the Polar Sea

“It is always a treat when new information on an interesting topic emerges, or likewise a new interpretation of existing facts. It is rare indeed to find both in the same book... Hunter delivers... an intellectual and historical mystery sure to enthral those interested in the early European exploration of the Americas.” —Stephen R. Bown, Author of Merchant Kings: When Companies Ruled the World, 1600-1900 and 1494: How a Family Feud in Medieval Spain Divided the World in Half.

“[An] absolutely splendid exposition on the initial European probes that opened the New World... The major and peripheral characters in this intriguing drama are brought to life with unusual clarity... A well researched and clearly written account of the Columbus and Cabot voyages of discovery... stitched into the broader diplomatic and mercantile context of the period.” —Conrad E. Heidenreich, Professor Emeritus at York University, co-author of Samuel de Champlain Before 1604

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Douglas Hunter

Douglas Hunter won Canada's National Business Book Award in 2003 for The Bubble and the Bear. His book God's Mercies was named a finalist for both the Writers' Trust Non-Fiction Prize and the Governor-General's Literary Award for Non-Fiction. His work has appeared in newspapers such as National Post, The Globe and Mail, and the Toronto Star. He has also written and filmed commentaries for CBC Radio. He currently writes an occasional column for the Midland Free Press and contributes essays to National Post and the Globe & Mail's Globe Books online.

Douglas Hunter

From the Publisher

St. Martin's Press

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