Wikiquote:Transwiki/American History Primary Sources Age of Exploration



“As soon as [Vikings and Indians] met they began trading together. Most of all, these people [the Indians] wanted to buy red cloth, in return for which they had furs to offer and gray [seal] skins.”

From the Saga of Eric the Red.


“Behind the king stood ten pages holding shields and swords decorated with gold and on his right are the sons of the vassal kings of his country wearing splendid garments and their hair plaited with gold.”

Al Bakri, description of the court of King Tenkaminen, emperor of Ghana


“This new city [Beijing, China] is a perfect square, with each side six miles long. The wall of the city has 12 gates, 3 on each side of the square. The whole city was laid out by line. The streets are so straight that if you stand above one of the gates, you can see the gate on the opposite side of the city.... Everything that is most rare and valuable finds its way here. This is especially true of India, which supplies precious gems, pearls, and spices....

“The country [now called Indonesia] abounds with rich commodities. Pepper, nutmegs,... cloves, all other valuable spices and drugs.... The quantity of gold collected there exceeds all calculation and belief....

“Inside, the walls and halls are all covered with gold and silver and decorated with pictures of dragons and horsemen and various beasts of beasts and scenes of battle.... The hall is so vast that a meal might be served there for more than 6,000 men.”

Marco Polo, whose description of the Spice Islands and the court of the Chinese emperor in his Description of the World raised European interest in the riches of East Asia.


“So abundant is the gold in his country that this lord [Mansa Musa of Mali in West Africa] is the richest and most noble king in all the land.”

Spanish book of maps, which would later encourage Portugal to explore West Africa in order to open trade.


The people of Mali “are seldom unjust and have a greater abhorrence of injustice than any other people. There is complete security in their country. Neither traveler nor inhabitant... has anything to fear from robbers or men of violence. They do not confiscate the property of any white man [Arab merchant] who dies in their country..... [O]n the contrary, they give into the charge of some trustworthy person among the whites, until the rightful heir takes possession of it.”

Arab traveler and geographer Ibn Battuta on Timbuktu, the capital of the empire of Mali.


“As the caravel Pinta was a better sailer, and went ahead of the Admiral [Columbus], she found the land, and made the signals ordered by the Admiral. The land was first seen by a sailor named Rodrigo de Triana. But the Admiral, at ten the previous night... saw a light, though it was so uncertain that he could not affirm it was land.... [T]he Admiral... admonished the men... to watch well for land; and to him who should first cry out that he saw land, he would give a silk doublet, besides other rewards promised by the sovereigns [King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain]. At two hours after midnight the land was sighted at a distance of two leagues [12 miles].

Journal of Christopher Columbus .