Here's a Google Earth placemark to consider when beginning James Fenimore Cooper's 1821 historical romance, The Spy: A Tale of Neutral Ground.
James Grainger, a London physician, accepted a four-year tour of duty overseeing plantations on St. Kitts between 1759 and 1763. He spent much time while there composing his long georgic poem, The Sugar-Cane.
In a small park by a southern Ontario lake, a museum has recreated a Huron village and the long house constructed to hold the handful of Jesuits who came here in 1636 to spread Christianity (and, sadly, smallpox).
Here are Google Earth placemarks indicating the location of four early American military installations that were important to the Swedish, Dutch, and English settlements in the second quarter of the seventeenth-century.
The following places figure as settings for Mary Rowlandson's Narrative of Captivity.
On September 4, 2006, Lisa Rein reported for the Washington Post (in "Mystery of Va.'s First Slaves Unlocked 400 Years Later," page A1) that "new scholarship and transatlantic detective work" has determined that the first group of slaves brought to Virginia came from Angola.
Emmanuel Altham numbered among the Company of Adventurers for New Plymouth, a group of merchants who partially financed the Plymouth plantation with hopes to later profit by this investment through trade. His "Letter to Sir Edward Altham" (1623) describes Manomet, the Indian settlement closest to Plymouth.
In letters home to his parents, Richard Frethorne described a miserable life as an indentured servant in the Virginia colony.
Thomas Morton first came to New England in 1622, the date mentioned at the start of the often-anthologized passage from The Second Book of his 1637 work, New English Canaan. When he returned in 1625, he took over a failed farming settlement, Mount Wollaston, renamed it "Mar-Re Mount," and sought prosperity managing the settlement as a trading outpost. The famous Chapter XIV of The Third Book of New English Canaan, "Of the Revels of New Canaan," describes some of his methods for attracting visitors (and potential trading partners) from the local Native American community.
Plymouth Rock, which is much smaller than most people expect, lies under the granite house-like structure by the road. The first Pilgrim settlement--the first permanent European settlement in the New World--was established not more than a block from here. William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation chronicles the history of this settlement.
Samuel de Champlain, the French explorer, wrote many works describing his travels to New France. The editors of the Norton Anthology of American Literature identify the area to the north of Plymouth Harbor as the setting at the start of their excerpts from Henry P. Biggar's 1922 edition of The Works of Samuel de Champlain. Their selection, they report in the footnotes on page 88, describes events from Champlain's "leisurely" exploration of most of the Massachusetts coast. This area, of course, would soon be settled by English pilgrims and other colonists. See Samuel de Champlain, "from The Voyages of Sieur de Champlain," The Norton Anthology of American Literature, ed. Nina Baym (New York: Norton) 86-103.
This Google Earth placemark file takes you to the center of the original triangular fort of Jamestown, the setting for the early American writings by Edward Maria Wingfield, the first President of the colony, and, more famously, John Smith, the later leader so often associated with Pocahontas.
Gaspar Pérez de Villagrà describes the massacre of the Acoma in his 1610 epic poem, "The History of New Mexico."
Here is a Google Earth placemark for the reconstructed fort at the Fort Raleigh National Historical Site. You can read a lot more about the history of this place and this national park at their website.
Arthur Barlowe’s account describes the landing. As they approach the island, they like what they smell. And they like what they see of the land two days later.
The second of July, we found shole water, wher we smelt so sweet, and so strong a smel, as if we had bene in the midst of some delicate garden abounding with all kinde of odoriferous flowers, by which we were assured, that the land could not be farre distant: and keeping good watch, and bearing but slacke saile, the fourth of the same moneth we arrived upon the coast, which we supposed to be a continent and firme lande, and we sayled along the same a hundred and twentie English miles before we could finde any entrance, or river issuing into the Sea. (166)
Here are two more Google Earth placemarks for locations important to the study of early American literature.
The Jean Ribault expedition landed, in 1562, on present-day Parris Island, South Carolina. They built a fort. Expedition sailors remained there, briefly, before building a small ship, abandoning the fort, and sailing back to France. René Goulaine de Laudonnière, a royal advisor and leader of the French Protestant Huguenots, served Jean Ribault as his second-in-command. Laudonnière describes this landing in his 1587 work, A Notable Historie Containing Foure Voyages Made by Certain French Captains Unto Florida, which marvels over the material resources of the location:
Having cast Anker the Captayne with his Souldiers went on shore, and hee himselfe went first on land: where we found the place as pleasant as possible, for it was all covered over with mightie high Okes and infinite store of Cedars, and with Lentisques [gum trees] growing beneath them, smelling so sweetly that the very fragrant odour only made the place to seeme exceeding pleasant. (88)
Jean de Léry, a Protestant from Catholic France, lived among the Tupi people for nearly a year in 1557. His first full report of this experience, written (he claims) in 1563, became what Mulford's headnote describes as "a model for the modern social science of ethnography" (74). Indeed, much of the early part of their excerpt concerns his scholarly rivalries. He places the Tupi people and their world, not surprisingly, in a biblical context, and he expends some energy ranting against secular European athiests (80). He describes and interprets Tupi rituals with religious terms. He sees devils, for example, entering the bodies of Tupi women during one all-woman ceremony (81). The "drinking bouts" of Tupi men appear as rituals of false prophets and false religion (81-82). Jean de Léry struggles to fit these Americans into his view of God's world, writing "this is a people accursed and abandoned by God, if there be any such under the heavens" (85). And perhaps most curiously, he documents Tupi claims to have received knowledge of Europeans from their grandfathers (84), suggesting earlier, undocumented contact between Europe and this part of South America. See Jean de Léry, "from History of a Voyage to the Land of Brazil, Otherwise Called America," trans. Janet Whatley, Early American Writings, ed. Carla Mulford, Angela Vietto, and Amy E. Winans (New York: Oxford UP, 2002) 75-86. Here is a Google Earth placemark indicating the rough location where Léry stayed. Download 1557JeandeLeryTupi.kmz (1.3K).
In the 1560s, Pedro de Castañeda (1510?-70?) wrote a narrative of Coronado's 1540-42 expedition to Cíbola, which he experienced as a private soldier. Led here by erroneous reports of great wealth, the disappointed Coronado seized Zuni Pueblo, a small settlement, and used it as a military base. Excerpts from Castañeda's narrative can be found in Mulford's anthology. They include a piece of the rambling, deferential preface, so customary for these works; the story of the murder of "the negro Stephen," whose black skin made the Zuni Pueblo think him a liar for claiming to be from a world of white men; a description of the disappointment at finding such cities, where the Spanish expected to find so much more; and details of the customs and habits of the people at Chichilticalli (now somewhere in northern Arizona), among whom Castañeda witnessed "no drunkenness . . . nor sodomy nor sacrifices." See Pedro de Castañeda, "from Castañeda's Narrative," trans. George Parker Winship. Early American Writings, ed. Carla Mulford, Angela Vietto, and Amy E. Winans (New York: Oxford UP, 2002) 93-109. Here is a Google Earth placemark for a low-resolution image of Zuni Pueblo. A visit to the official website of the Pueblo of Zuni will help you understand what you are seeing from the sky. Download 1540ZuniPuebloCoronadosCibola.kmz (1.3K).
Garcilaso de la Vega, el Inca (1539-1616) embodied the meeting of worlds. His father was a high-status Spaniard, and his mother was a high-status Incan. His writings combine a pride and care in the representation of his ancestral heritage with an approval of the Spanish conquest. They include his graphic narration of the torture of Juan Ortiz. See Garcilaso de la Vega, el Inca, "from The Florida of the Inca and Royal Commentaries of the Incas and General History of Peru, Part I," Early American Writings, ed. Carla Mulford, Angela Vietto, and Amy E. Winans (New York: Oxford UP, 2002) 93-109. This Google Earth placemark locates Cuzco, the capital of the Incan empire when the birthplace of Garcilaso de la Vega, el Inca. Download 1540ZuniPueblo.kmz (1.2K).
In 1534, Jacques Cartier came to Newfoundland and the mouth of the St. Lawrence. He met the Micmacs, who figure in Mulford's anthology of Early American Writings for their story of "The Floating Island." It begins
When there were no people in this country but Indians, and before any others were known, a young woman had a singular dream. She dreamed that a small island came floating in towards the land, with tall trees on it, and living beings,--among whom was a man dressed in rabbit-skins garments. (153)
Here is a Google Earth placemark marking the Aztec temple to Tonantzin, now the Chapel of Tepeyac, where (the story says) the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared in 1531 before Juan Diego, a converted Texcocan prince.
Scholars think Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca first landed in the Saint Petersburg area. He then travelled, counterclockwise, around the gulf coast to present-day Galveston Island, Texas.
Mulford's Early American Writings includes an early text translated from the Yucatec Maya language.
Google Earth will help anyone to better understand early American literature. Here is a set of placemarks showing, so far as I could determine with a little web research, the locations explored by Columbus and Vespucci in their writings.