Daily Video

August 19, 2008

Author Discusses Lost Century of American History

In this video discussion, author Tony Horwitz talks about his new book, “A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World,” and how the American continent during 1500s is largely a forgotten time. While most students know about Columbus sailing the ocean blue in 1492 and the Pilgrims landing in 1620, Horwitz tells the NewsHour’s Ray Suarez that the time period between the events, during which international powers fought for control of the Western Hemisphere, is an essential part of history. Horwitz also says he wishes this period of American history was better taught in schools, because the story of Europeans colonizing North and South America is much more exciting and dramatic than the typical narrative taught today.


“Well, it’s weird that we’ve lost a whole century. I think most Americans would be hard-pressed to think of one thing that happened on this continent in the 1500s. Perhaps the lost colony of Roanoke, that might resonate, Virginia Dare. And apart from that, I think it’s a blank.” – Tony Horwitz, author

“A lot of visitors think that Columbus sailed here, dropped off the Pilgrims, and sailed home. And that’s really all they know. At first, this amused me, but then again, when I started to scan my own brain for what I knew, I realized there was nothing there, either. And I decided to try and fill that void.” – Tony Horwitz

“There are just incredible adventures, and also the drama of first contact. This is an experience we simply can’t have today, no matter how far we travel. And in these early Spanish and French and other accounts, you get a sense of kind of the wonder of what happens when societies that have never encountered each other before collide on a beach in North Carolina or the desert of New Mexico.” – Tony Horwitz

Warm Up Questions

When did the first Europeans land in the western hemisphere (North and South America)?

Can you name some important events that happened in North and South America in the 1500s?

Where did Christopher Columbus land in 1492?

Discussion Questions

Did you have a good understanding about what happened in the 1500s in the Americas? What about your peers?

Do you agree with the author’s statement that many Americans aren’t familiar with history during that period?

What did you learn from this interview? Were you surprised that colonization long before the arrival of the Pilgrims helped kill many Native Americans?

Why is it important to understand this period of history?

Horwitz talks about the dramatic meeting of cultures that did not know the other existed. How do you imagine that story playing out if humans and aliens ever interact?

Additional Resources


Author Describes Fate of Human Civilizations

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