Dear Lauel and our Sinclair academic community;
RE: Your list reference of "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt" Jan 6th/00 in response to Niven Sinclairs Voyage of Prince Henry of same date (both reproduced below in full)
My list reference" Prince Henry Neither first nor last but significant"
When two such superior historians as you and Niven on our list writes, one always takes pleasure in reading their words and replying. I am very interested in your comments on the Zeno narrative and it seems that Niven and company have moved the marbles on the zeno/henry voyage forward a couple of notchs from the factual and historical perspective which is greatly to their credit as contributing historians. My hats off to Niven for a number of significant perspectives, one is underling that one should always note the perspective of the historical writer. The other is looking at historical facts in context. I support both observations wholeheartedly.
Allow me to share and or add my 2 cents worth again specifically from the Canadian - Historical perspective. My thesis is not from the archelogical perspective nor from the ability to authenticate any records. My thesis and approach is from what we know and understand about a known historical context that would surround the voyage of Prince Henry to North America in 1398.
I am cautious as to any debate that goes on the pendulum swing between "beyond any shadow of a doubt or a yea or nay" I leave this more focused effort to the documentary historians and the field archelogists. There are many aspects of history that await authenticating documentation such as some if not most biblical histories. Yet much of the biblical verbal and oral traditional source is and remain good history and we rely upon it until a better truth is established. So it is with the Prince Henry Voyage. I applaud the new historical research and approaches that are not entirely part of the "western historical tradition."
As I shared with Peter Cummings an age ago, it was my conjecture that what is already known and scientifically accepted history makes the voyage of Prince Henry both logical and perhaps not even really outstanding or even surprising that it occured. I did correspond with Pete on this topic but was not able to attend the Prince Henry Symposium in 1998.
However again, the perspective of history from Canada is a bit different from that taught and read by our neighbours to the south and may speak to your comments and illuminate the discussion a bit.
I would think that you agree with your perspective of history, that some things that are provable and acceptable as given factual knowledge. One is that the vikings did come and settle in Canada before 1300. This is supported by both archelogical evidence and to a lesser extent documentary evidence. They also occupied Greenland and were familiar with the Labrador coast before 1000. They created communities in Newfoundland, one of which is now well excavated and a tourist site. This information we now appreciate is scientific but even a scant 30 years ago was not nearly as supported by archeology as we appreciate exists today.
We also know navagation of the time 1000-1400 was not as primative as one would suspect, ie. measurement of latitude was possible. The ocean currents and wind patterns were and still are condusive for traffic between Norway and North America through the viking routes. The return routes from the West back to the east were and still are favourable to round trips from what is now Canadian geography. Then lets mix a bit of Mediteranian history in. We learn in Canadian teaching that the Basques have been fishing off the Grand Banks from before 1200. Hardly surprising again given the shipping patterns of the period and where the fish were to be found.
The vikings of course were excellent travellers and history taught in Norway and Sweden includes stories of travels and voyages to Africa to Russia and yes North America. The ship building technology was fully capable of designing long ocean voyages. But they were not alone, the Picts and Celts were also capable of such technology and may also have been interfacing with the natives in North America. This is a new speculation which is being currently debated in Canada with the conjecture that the Vikings may have actually followed another society. In any event we are looking at a period of history well prior to 1400.
Now knowlede and information is not the proprietary stuff of formal schools. In navigation the "how to's" and "where to go" are well communicated today among the maritime community and I would suggest that the same patterns existed in the year 1000. We have this myth in teaching history that individuals living in year 1000 were uneducated and largely ignorant of maritime experiences. Not so. Navigation was a science even then and I would suggest that the world not being flat was known and the debate as to the world being round had more to do with theological assertions and beliefs at the time. It may be of interest to appreciate that the North American Indians also had transportation capable of ocean travel on a coastal basis. Certainly the Micmaks did. My conclusion from what is known and provable is that settlements and transportation routes to the "new world" existed before 1400.
The difficulty for modern historical readers lies in the appreciation of history as taught in the context of the last hundred years. This westernized and american approach revolves to this day around dates, personages and how western society sees the opening of the "New World 1000 to 2000 ad. I have frequently commented on the list regarding aspect of the voyage of Columbus, but now I want to share a new perspective that comes from an appreciation of Scandinavian history and how societies in the Northern hemisphere in Iceland, Scotland, the Orkneys, and Norway Denmark etc may have viewed the world.
For this approach an appreciation of economic history is needed. Nation states existing from 1000 to 1400 were not important and did not exist as they are understood today. Resources and alligences, not territory were deemed important and trade was developed around such resources as could be tapped from the geography. Hence fish were important for food and lumber for ship building, but territory and land per se were not of value until centuries later during the colonial era. Ownership of land, was a concept yet to come in the northern societies, a grant of fiefdom was more a grant of control, and control over societies and settlements and resources was important and the concept of title was less developed until later. Now with due respect to any cousins in Greenland, Labrador and Newfoundland the resources in this local region were rare. Fish were in the ocean and were not actively and commercially harvested until 1700. Minerals were not sought but lumber and trees were starting to be sought as early as 1400. North America ( in relation to the geography just identified) was anything but exciting. Resources to create interest such as gold were not found. So while agrarian and fishing settlements were created in Newfoundland and Greenland it was hardly exciting as being a discovery and recording such discovery as being an historical landmark for any european history.
The best geographical explaination from the economic motivations for the voyage actually lies in forests. The forests of Norway and northern Europe were depleted of the trees suitable for building the strong keels of the ships of the period. A search for new trees is logical and something the King of Norway would have been interested in.
Now we turn the clock forward to the period following 1380. Richard the Second is King of that body of chiefs that chose to be loyal in that nation that was called Scotland. I think history supports the view that Richard was never highly regarded. In this context Henry was the Admiral of Scotland and I take it from good references I have read and assume are suppoorted that he had a fleet of his own. He was also Jarl to Norway and while he had a relationship with Norway, he was also related to the King of Denmark. The question I posed to myself was the type of knowledge and understanding he was privy to in 1380 in light of titles, relationships and seafaring. Given the the maritime information that any such individual that was privy to as of 1398 with strong ties to Norway, Scotland, Denmark it is probable that he would have known about pre existing western settlements. His knowing of western lands is entirely logical. He went to what he knew existed and perhaps never saw his voyage as being first in any way but following the footsteps of others. This is not to detract from any accomplishment which is quite acceptably unique.
Now we switch to the historical times of the mediteranian circa 1350 and we see Venice and Genoa; rivals at the time and for centuries following. But of practical import was the science of seafaring that was known in the Mediteranian area. Sailors from these ports had gone great distances beyond the shores of the mediteranian. They too were explorers, traders and merchants, excellent in ship building and design. Of course they became map makers, and seafarers. The re-enactment of the voyage to the North Sea is hardly surprising in that period.
So we combine what we know of history, scientific knowledge of the time and straight forward logic and we may fairly come to a consideration of a trip by Prince Henry to North America in 1398 is not a reach in terms of what we know of history and such consideration neither tests our logic or belief. (And this is said with greatest respect to any adventurer that goes across the Atlantic in what is essentially an open boat).
So from my own reading and appreciation of history and using my intelligence on what is appreciated what we have supporting Henry's voyage is i) a known transportation route to North American Geography prior to his trip ii) knowledge of sea routes from the perspective of winds and current. iii) settlements having been established at one point in NA from Norway and regions adjacent to it. iv) seafaring technology that was capable of supporting such a voyage v) best access to existing maritime knowledge and know how, vi) the capablilty and capacity to make such an expedition.
Now if I may offer some evidentiary conclusions from the above facts and this would simply be that while such evidence does not support a voyage 'beyond all reasonable doubt' the evidence when assessed on its own makes such a voyage neither surprising nor improbable but to the contrary highly probable when added to other documentary evidence such as the Zeno historical aspects or other co-oberating sources.
The legal test might be phrased "More likely than not" that the voyage occured. There are three key co-oberative sources of information. The Zeno maps and references, the stone archetecture carvings at Rosslyn and the Glooscap legends. Now the evidence may point yet to more knowledge forthcoming from historical research in Italy, Norway or Nova Scotia or points in between. Certainly more work is needed and should be valued by way of acquiring knowledge. I am encouraged that Italian study is being added to the base of knowledge.
But let us also appreciate the fair historical approach would examine why there is a lack of documentation. First the traditions in Norway were by balads and verbal traditions. These existed accurately before we had any artifacts to support the verbal traditions. Now we have both. Next map making was an irregular science because of the difficulties of scale. One followed routes to destinations points hence anyone going from the Faroes to Greenland to Labrador to Newfoundland are going from landfall to landfall and by in large were following both ocean currents and wind patterns. Finally unless there was a cultural, or compelling reason to document something it simply was never called upon to happen. The knowledge Henry had went on after his time as it had before his time. Others knew the routes to North America both before and after 1398.
I await with interest, Niven's follow up and further information as the passage of time unfolds. I think all the arrows remain pointed in the same direction namely in supporting the authenticating that this voyage of discovery cooured. I am satisfied that the voyage was probable, likely and logical in light of the historical clues and evidence that that we have to date.
I trust this context of history adds to the understanding.
Neil Sinclair BA., LL.B.
The forgoing was in Response to the discussion item following and supports all academic endeavour that is supported scientifically and logically in the pursuit of knowledge.
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Date: 6 January, 2000 1:03 PM
Subject: Zeno trip
I'm afraid I am at a disadvantage in that I don't have "Beyond Any Shadow of Doubt". I was viewing the subject through the prisim of the Orkney Symposium as summarized by Pete.
In Pete's summary he said: "Is It Possible that Prince Henry did not do it?" Brian Smith, Shetland
Archivist, offered a flamboyant array of reasons he feels cast a shadow upon the claim that Prince Henry Sinclair crossed the ocean to North America.Among them are a 500-year delay in making claims; the lack of contemporaneous claims by Sinclairs or Templars; numerous errors found in
the Zeno Narratives; "Zichmni" referred to in the Zeno Narratives is thought to be really the Duke of Surrand; Nicolo Zeno was a political prisoner in Venice from 1360-1400; and the Zeno Narratives never mentioned Orkney.
Since, I think this Symposium occured after you wrote "Beyond Any Shadow of Doubt" and since I got the impression that there was no rebuttal to the questions raised by Brian Smith because he was bringing up some new evidence that questioned the Zeno participation, I thought these areas had not been settled yet. It seems strange to me that he would bring them up, if he
knew you could refute them so completely.
Were you able at the Symposium to show the emptiness of Brian Smith and other challenges? Within this last year, I did incounter, somewhere, a smirking statement that the Symposium showed that there was real doubt about PHS's voyage. So I carried that feeling with me when I asked about Brian Smith's statement.
I really thank you for your comments which I will add to the website to show the rebuttal to people like myself that really aren't informed enough on this subject. Daily these people are added to our group of interested persons. If they come into this discussion by way of the Orkney Symposium
or see the statements of other doubting Thomas' they can now be referred to "Beyond Any Shadow of Doubt" and to this summary of yours. And this really gives me good evidence to put in the Scottish Journal article. Thanks, Thanks again. Laurel
The following is from Niven Sinclair to which Laurel was responding:
Jan 6, 2000 The Voyage of Prince Henry et al
In "Beyond Any Shadow of Doubt" I give the names of 25 experts from various disciplines
and from 10 different nations, who add the weight of their authority to the authenticity of
the Zeno narrative and the acccuracy of the Zeno map which, as Andrew Sinclair points
out in his book and as I re-iterate and re-inforce in "Beyond Any Shadow of Doubt".
Against this galaxy of savants, we have Fred Lucas, Cuthbertson and Smith - neither
of whom have done any original research. I demolished Lucas. Jim Guthrie demolished
Cuthbertson and Brian Smith is now clinging desperately to an untenable situation.
The confusion seems to arise over Nicolo Zeno having been in prison. Firstly, I have
seen no evidence of this and, in any event, the names Nicolo, Carlo and Antonio cascade
down through the generations. Secondly, the evidence which I have seen from the Zeno
family tree in the Zeno Palace clearly shows Nicolo as being one of the brothers who
explored the lands beneath the "Polo Arctico". This is conformed by Torfaeus, the Royal
Danish Historian in his "Lives of the Zeno Brothers". Evidence of their voyages is also
shown on two enormous globes in the Museo Correr in Venice. The Zeno Narrative was also signed by the Venetian State Secretary, Ramusio, which effectively gave it the seal of approval of the Doge and the Council of Ten who governed Venetian affairs. They would not have willingly, knowingly or deliberately have debased the accurate historical records of the Venetian State by endorsing a
forgery. Venetian records are renowned for their accuracy. Venice was a maritime power
which, over the centuries, withstood the power of Rome, the threat of the Austria-Hungarian Empire and
the ambitions of Napoleon. Indeed, it is difficult for us to begin to appreciate the influence which Venice exerted in the Mediterranean. Cyprus, Corfu and Dalmatia were Venetian possessions - not merely enclaves. She dominated trade with the Levant. The Zeno family alone could have provided Henry Sinclair with his entire fleet. In the 14th Century (even after the scourge of the Black Death) Venice was still producing one ship a day.
Over 400 ships left the Arsenale carrying troops in support of King Peter of Cyprus's
Crusade against Alexandria in 1365. These were Venetian ships. (The Venetian coat-of-
arms bears the croix pattee of the Knights Templar. And, as our film shows, the well in
the Courtyard of the Zeno Palace carries the Zeno coat-of-arms on one side and the croix
pattee of the Knights Templar on the other side. As you are aware, I have spent many years studying the Prince Henry Sinclair saga. I have travelled where he travelled and with, each passing year, the
authenticity of his voyage is less and less in doubt. My recent visit to Venice simply reinforces earlier
I am not a person who chases will o' the wisps or who is given to support lost causes.
I am, however, a person who is determined to ensure that history is corrected and that
Henry Sinclair and the illustrious Zeno Brothers are given their proper place in history.
It is to be hoped that Laura Zola's voyage to re-trace the steps of the Zeno brothers will do a great deal to publicise a little known but significant episode in the 'discovery of the New World'. Significant because of the involvement of the Venetians and the Knights Templar. It wasn't significant in any other sense as such voyages had been made for centuries
We read a lot about John Cabot (an Italian) sailing from Bristol in 1497 to claim the New World on behalf of the Hanovarians although beaver pelts rolled and wrapped in the manner of the Iroquois had been landed in Bristol since the beginning of the 15th Century. There is no evidence that he ever landed in the New World. His voyage was exaggerated for English national and political reasons just, as earlier, the voyage of Columbus had been used by the Church of Rome to extend its tentacles into
the New World.
In our study of history we should always be looking for "The Hidden hand of History"
What was really taking place behind the scenes?. Who was pulling the strings? Who was writing history and for what purpose?
By the Treaty of Tordesillas, for example, Rome carved the World up between Spanish and Portuguese spheres of influence. In this carve up there was no place for the Norse/Norman. There was no place for the Anglo-Saxon. There was no place for the indigenous people of the World and, of course, there was no place for Henry Sinclair who was a Knight Templar and Knights Templar were anathema to Rome. Her clerics wrote their own version of history which took on the sanctity of the gospel.
It is only now that people are beginning to look beyond this sanitized version of history.
The Norse sagas, for example, are now being seen as some of the most accurate accounts of history whereas, previously, they had been seen in the same light as Homer's Iliad or Odyssey i.e. to be taken with a pinch of salt. Wonderful reading but wildly exaggerated. Well, there is nothing exaggerated about Henry's voyage. Such voyages had been made for centuries and, when we keep that in mind, the incessant querying and questioning might cease. Even the size of his fleet (12) was small given the size of Leif Erikson's fleet of 50 ships and King Peter of Cyprus's armada of 400 ships. I hope this will help to get things into proper perspective.
Note in responding to the foregoing please note the text is lengthy and might be deleted in any respose, so that the sheer volume/size of an email to the list may be reduced)