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Re: Prince Henry - The unknown?

Dear John;
I will leave the rash of information on the 600th Anniversary to others and the web site and those wonderful individuals that are now telling the story. I will concentrate on those items that you raised that are of general interest to the mailing list subscribers. The Zeno diaries are authentic, yet not complete and have a long controversial history associated with them as to whether they were authentic, (they go back to 1500 but not 1398, and (not unlike the Bible controversies), do the diaries which transcribe prior lost documents authenticate the trip of Antonio Zeno with Prince Henry. On this side of the pond, nothing was in the general domain until the last 50 years, and the work of Frederick Pohl in trying to recreate the story. His books did document the story, but they were neither widely read nor published in volumes. In the United States the "discovery story focuses incorrectly on Christopher Columbus. In Canada the early history does focus in the Viking settlements. Two further pieces of information are helpful. One was that the diaries at the turn of the century had, I understand, some 200 scholarly articles pro and con as to the diaries. Scholarly academics in the 1900's ruled out such a voyage because it relied on remote evidence and many have stated that it was not true if the diary was suspect. Some of the debate was Venice vs Geneoa as well. Early encyclopedias suggest that the voyage never took place, while others credit Henry with discovering Greenland for Scotland (also false). On this side of the pond, what little history we have is poorly taught and what there is even less understood. But this is changing. The most recent history of Nova Scotia does describe the Prince Henry contributions to the Provinces history and this year I expect a lot more to get published about the voyage.

I would, from the perspective of an amateur historian, correct one common misconception. This is the misunderstanding that Henry Sinclair discovered North America before Columbus. This comparison does a disservice to both noteworthy individuals. Henry Sinclair was a vassal to the King of Norway as well as owning allegiance to Richard the Second of Scotland. He was a Prince because under the fudal system, he was semi autonomous. Much of Scotland was still Norwegian at the time. The concept of Nation states as we now understand them, were a 14th century development and land in the 1300's was looked to for more for its resources and not for conquest or settlement. Also some credit must go to those Basques, and Celtic and Nordic explorers and fishermen, that never documented the many fishing trips to the Grand Banks but likely came as early as 800 AD if not earlier. Prince Henry would have been aware of the prior existence of the Greenland Settlements, and Newfoundland and regional explorations before him. He had the technology and know-how to make such a voyage and I find it totally logical that he did so. At the time the thirst for new resourses was for trees for ship building. In contrast Columbus did discover the Caribbean, and may never have set foot (I understand) on what is now the continental United States. He did discover a very critical and important item for world travel; the trade winds. Immediately following his return, the trade winds were continually used as a major commuting path at all times to the America's and continued to be used daily until the age of steam. Henry used prevailing winds and currents off Greenland and Labrador, much colder and longer and followed the Nordic routes.

I hope this perspective from this side of the pond helps explain why the voyage was unknown and why it has taken so long in rising to the surface. And my accolades and compliments to Peter Cummings for his fine contribution to the history of mankind this anniversary year.
Neil Sinclair - Toronto
PS please send a list of topical books on your side of the pond and lets get the family to add to it. Please include author, title, publisher and date of publication.

John Duguid wrote:

I have read a great many books and articles on the subject of Prince Henry
Sinclair and his voyage to Nova Scotia and beyond, and there seems to be a
great deal of evidence that the journey did in fact take place, the Micmac
legends the Gunn effigy and the carvings at Rosslyn depicting North American
plants etc. etc. I live in Scotland quite near Rosslyn and yet outside a few
interested circles there is no widespread knowledge of Prince Henry and his
exploits, it does not seem to be accepted in the mainstream historical texts
nor is it taught in the Scottish schools. Prince Henry is virtually unknown to
the general public, whereas other contemporary Scottish figure's like Wallace
and Bruce are national hero's .  What is the situation the other side of the
pond in the US and Canada?. I do realize there in to be an attempt this year to
emulate the voyage, does anyone have any current info on how this is going?

There also seems to be a lot of controversy about the Zeno Narratives. Are they
authentic or not. Has any dating been done on the narratives to prove the there

Dunbar, Lothian Scotland