Explorers of the American East

Mapping the World through Primary Documents

by Kelly K. Chaves and Oliver C. Walton, with Jay H. Buckley and Jeffery D. Nokes


The achievements of the early explorers who searched for the Northwest Passage and mapped the eastern seaboard were key to the historical foundations of modern-day America.

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Cover image for Explorers of the American East

December 2018


Pages 329
Volumes 1
Size 8 1/2x11
Topics Geography and World Cultures/General
  American History/Science and Technology

Focusing on ten key figures whose careers illuminate the history of the European exploration of North America, this book presents compelling first-person narratives that bring to life the challenges of historical scholarship in the academic classroom.

Explorers of the American East: Mapping the World through Primary Documents covers 280 years of North American exploration and colonization efforts, ranging geographically from Florida to the Arctic. Arranged thematically and mononationally, the work focuses on a selection of 10 explorers who represent the changing course of North American exploration during the early modern period. The use of biography to narrate this history draws in readers and makes the work accessible to both a specialized and general audience. The dozens of primary source documents in this guided source reader span travel accounts, autobiographies, letters, official reports, memoirs, patents, and articles of agreement. This wide variety of primary sources serves to bring to life the failures and triumphs of exploring a newly discovered continent in the early modern period.

This work focuses on ten explorers, including those who are well known, including John Cabot, John Smith, Jacques Cartier, and Samuel de Champlain, as well as discoverers who have slipped from our modern historical consciousness, such as George Waymouth, John Lawson, and J.F.W. Des Barres. The documents that narrate the voyages of these adventurers are arranged chronologically, vividly telling the story of historical events and presenting different voices to the reader. This variety of viewpoints serves to heighten readers' critical engagement with historical source material. The vast variety of primary source materials present students with the opportunity to read and engage critically with different types of historical documents, thereby growing their analytical skillsets.


  • Helps to develop readers' critical thinking abilities by presenting them with a range of historical voices and historical problems relating to key episodes in the European exploration of America
  • Provides insights into the explorers' encounters with North America and its native inhabitants, placing them into the contexts of the political cultures and structures of the European nations and indigenous North American societies
  • Contains some 100 primary source documents that include ledgers, travel accounts, autobiographies, official reports, memoirs, logbooks, patents, letters, articles of agreement, and corporate minutes
  • Brings a rich analytical approach to a wide range of primary sources that illustrate the careers of 10 explorers through the combined expertise of an American colonialist historian and a British maritime historian
Author Info

Kelly K. Chaves is professor of history at the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics. Her research work focuses on Native Americans in the American colonial world from pre-contact to 1783.

Oliver C. Walton, PhD, is George III Project Manager and Curator, Historical Papers Projects at the Royal Archives in the United Kingdom. His research focuses upon British maritime and royal history. He has held visiting professorships in Germany and the Czech Republic.

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