The Old World in the New
: Theories of pre-Columbian contact in science and society, 1860–1920

  • William Ward

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


On the 12th of October 1892 when the quadricentennial of Columbus’s discovery of America was commemorated across the globe, not everyone rejoiced and not everyone cared. It was undoubtedly a great occasion, and the cult of Columbus is difficult to overrate, but there were many for whom the famous Genoese was not America’s discoverer. America had been discovered long before 1492. The Norsemen, the Welsh, the Irish, the Chinese, and the Phoenicians were all held to have beaten Columbus to the punch. Still others believed that America didn’t need to be discovered: intercourse between the two worlds had never from the day the Americas were peopled halted or ceased. The following, therefore, seeks to contextualise and explain various late nineteenth-century conceptions of pre-Columbian contact between the Old World and the New. Such ideas were not particularly aberrant. They grew out of and more often than not reflected the sociointellectual and geographical circumstances in which those who proposed them worked and lived. This project attempts to trace the development and reception of several theories of pre-Columbian contact, and thus aspires to make a useful contribution to the history and historical geography of anthropological, archaeological, and historical ideas.
Date of AwardJul 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsUK AHRC Northern Bridge Doctoral Training Partnership
SupervisorDiarmid Finnegan (Supervisor) & David N Livingstone (Supervisor)

Cite this