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New World

The World Map by Diogo Ribeiro (1529) labels the Americas as MUNDUS NOVUS. It traces most of South America and the east coast of North America.

The New World is one of the names used for the Western Hemisphere, specifically the Americas and sometimes Oceania (Australasia). The term originated in the early 16th century, shortly after America was discovered by European explorers, expanding the geographical horizon of the people of the European middle Ages, who had thought of the world as consisting of Europe, Asia, and Africa only: collectively now referred to as the Old World. The Americas were also referred to as the "fourth part of the world". Americus and Columbus are given a powerful recorded history having connected the New World of the Americas Continent with European explorers.

Contents


Name origin

Allegory of the New World: Amerigo Vespucci awakens the sleeping America
Allegory of the New World: Amerigo Vespucci awakens the sleeping America
The term was first coined by the Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci, in a letter written to his patron Lorenzo di Pier Francesco de' Medici in the Spring of 1503, and published (in Latin) in 1503-04 under the title Mundus Novus. Vespucci's letter contains arguably the first explicit articulation in print of the hypothesis that the lands discovered by European navigators to the west were not the edges of Asia, but rather an entirely different continent, a "New World".[1]

Vespucci probably came to this realization in June of 1502, during a famous chance meeting between two different expeditions at the watering stop of "Bezeguiche" (the Bay of Dakar, Senegal) - his own outgoing expedition, on its way to chart the coast of newly-discovered Brazil, and the vanguard ships of the Second Portuguese India armada of Pedro Alvares Cabral, returning home from India. Having already visited the Americas in prior years, Vespucci probably found it difficult to reconcile what he had already seen in the West Indies, with what the returning sailors told him of the East Indies. Vespucci wrote a preliminary letter to Lorenzo, while anchored at Bezeguiche, which he sent back with the Portuguese fleet - at this point only expressing a certain puzzlement about his conversations.[2] Vespucci was finally persuaded when he proceeded on his mapping expedition through 1501-02, covering the huge stretch of coast of eastern Brazil. After returning from Brazil, in the Spring of 1503, Amerigo Vespucci composed the Mundus Novus letter in Lisbon to Lorenzo in Florence, with its famous opening paragraph:[3]

Vespucci's letter was a European publishing sensation, immediately (and repeatedly) reprinted in several other countries.[4]

The Spanish scholar Peter Martyr d'Anghiera used the term "New World"[5] with some twenty editions over the next four years.

In 1524, the term was also used by Giovanni da Verrazzano in a record of his voyage that year along the Atlantic coast of land that is now part of the United States and Canada.[6]

Usage and definition

The terms "Old World" vs. "New World" are primarily meaningful in historical context and for the purpose of distinguishing the world's major ecozones. One can speak of the "New World" in a historical context, e.g., when discussing the voyages of Christopher Columbus, the Spanish conquest of Yucat n and other events of the colonial period; additionally, the term "New World" is sometimes used in a biological context, when one speaks of Old World (Palearctic, Afrotropic) and New World species (Nearctic, Neotropic).

Criticism of term

The term has been criticized as being Eurocentric, patronizing and also for taking an apologetic tone with regard to colonialism.[7]

See also

References

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