2.1. Start with providing the title/name of the document at the top
2.2 Analyze the text of the primary source document, incorporating what you’ve learned in the lesson. Use the questions at the bottom of the primary source document as a guideline. Make sure you integrate the historical questions – Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How in your essay format reply.
2.3. Cite your sources (in-text and work cited at the end).
2.4. About 250 words of your analysis should suffice.
Amerigo Vespucci Describes the New World
In 1499, the naval astronomer Amerigo Vespucci wrote a letter to Lorenzo de’ Medici of Florence describing his travels. The letter serves as a valuable early source for European impressions of the new lands. It was particularly influential because of Vespucci’s engaging style and sharp observations.
It appears to me, most excellent Lorenzo, that by this voyage most of those philosophers are controverted who say that the torrid zone cannot be inhabited on account of the great heat. I have found the case to be quite the contrary. I have found that the air is fresher and more temperate in that region than beyond it and that the inhabitants are also more numerous here than they are in the other zones, for reasons which will be given below. Thus it is certain that practice is of more value than theory.
Thus far I have related the navigation I accomplished in the south and west. It now remains for me to inform you of the appearance of the country we discovered, the nature of the inhabitants, and their customs, the animals we saw, and of many other things worthy of remembrance which fell under my observation. After we turned our course to the north, the first land we found to be inhabited was an island at ten degrees distant from the equinoctial line. When we arrived at it we saw on the sea-shore a great many people, who stood to look at us with astonishment. We anchored within about a mile of the land, fitted out the boats, and twenty-two men, well-armed, made for land. The people, when they saw us landing, and perceived that we were different from themselves—because they have no beard and wear no clothing of any description, being also of a different color, they being brown and we white—began to be afraid of us, and all ran into the woods. With great exertion, by means of signs, we reassured them and negotiated with them. We found that they were of a race called cannibals, the greater part or all of whom live on human flesh.
Your excellency may rest assured of this fact. They do not eat one another, but, navigating with certain barks which they call “canoes,” they bring their prey from the neighboring islands or countries inhabited by those who are enemies or of a different tribe from their own. They never eat any women, unless they consider them outcasts. These things we verified in many places where we found similar people. We often saw the bones and heads of those who had been eaten, and they who had made the repast admitted the fact, and said that their enemies always stood in much greater fear on that account.
Still, they are people of gentle disposition and beautiful stature. They go entirely naked, and the arms which they carry are bows and arrows and shields. They are people of great activity and much courage. They are very excellent marksmen. …
FROM: Amerigo Vespucci, “Letter to Lorenzo de’ Medici, ” in The Great Events by Famous Historians, vol. VIII, ed. Rossiter Johnson (The National Alumni, 1905), pp. 351–356.
Analyze the Source (and also include answers to Who, What, When, Where, How)
- How did Vespucci’s observations foster a scientific attitude?
- How might Vespucci’s descriptions of the native peoples influence future interactions between them and the Europeans?