Where, how, do I start studying seriously to learn real American history?

Around 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, September 9, 2017, my son Charlie’s (CEALIV) best friend since childhood, Dylan Lohrstorfer, asked “Where, how, do I, should I start studying seriously to learn real American History?”  Dylan and Charlie are both 25 years old, although Dylan is about 6 months older, both born in 1992—Dylan in Texas, my son in Florida (during Hurricane Andrew, as it happened).  It happened, of course, that 1992 was the 500th anniversary of (1) the final expulsion of the Jews and Muslims from Spain at the end of “La Reconquista” [at the beginning of the year] and (2) Columbus’ first voyage across the Atlantic, which happened, ironically (amazingly) enough, right during Hurricane Season (August-October, 1992).  It’s remarkable to think that had this in some senses idiotic navigator been caught in a storm….which was highly probable that time of year… his name would be utterly lost to history.

Dylan is a devoted Catholic (he works at St. Thomas Moore on FM 620 towards Mansfield Dam in Williamson County).  He has more than an average sensitivity to all things religious and spiritual, and although my son has far exceeded him in formal education, I think Dylan’s artistic tendencies, and spiritual devotions… make him more sensitive.  My son is obsessed with his Harvard Bachelor’s Degree, his J.D., and his University of Amsterdam LLM. in International Tax Law…. so he tends decidedly in a more… material direction.

ANYHOW—to anyone who wants to learn American history “for real” and “seriously” is to start with a catalog of names, memorize them, and then distribute them in time and space, and only then to begin to learn the processual interconnections and socio-economic, cultural, and political systems which produced the names and created the distributions and interconnections. THAT is the essence of the “old fashioned”way I would suggest studying American history (meaning the history of ALL the Americas, of the so-called “New World”).  The place to begin is with the status and history of Spain (Castile, Aragon, Granada, Portugal, and Cordoba) in 1492 and Christopher Columbus first four voyages. You can move back into Native American history in Mexico and Peru or Archaeology everywhere else, but 1492 was like the moment when that Meteor hit at the Cretaceous-Triassic boundary. You have to know that moment and everything associated with the 300 years before and after to understand American History in a meaningful way. Look at all the places Columbus visited and all the things he saw. Learn that geography.


Image of Columbus’s voyages. Image Source: Wikipedia.

Compare with:


“”Columbus map”, drawn c. 1490 in the Lisbon workshop of Bartolomeo and Christopher Columbus” Image source: Wikipedia.

1192-1792 is your 600 year time frame in which the foundations for all modern realities, social, cultural and political. But you need to focus on 1492 and Columbus’ explorations, the antecedents snd the consequences. Who were Queen Isabella of Castille and King Ferdinand of Aragon? Where are Granada, Cordoba, and Seville in Spain? What was “La Reconquista?” Who was Henry VII? Who was John Cabot? What is Newfoundland? Who were the Caribs? Of what importance was Cod to the English? Who was Montezuma? Who was Cuautemoc? Who was Hernan Cortez? Who was Francisco Pizzaro? Who was Bartolome de las Casa?

Bartolome de las Casas?


Featuring Bartolome de las Casas Image Source: Wikipedia.

Who was Francisco de Montejo? Who was Bishop Diego de Landa?

Who was Guamanpoma de Ayala?

Who was Sir Walter Raleigh? Virginia Dare?What was the Treaty of Tordesillas?

Who was Emperor Charles V? Why did they name the oldest brand of chocolate in Europe after him?

Who was Sir Francis Drake?


Where is Old Albion? What is Perfidious Albion?

Who were the Quiche? What was the legend of El Dorado? Who was Francisco de Coronado? Who was Cabeza de Vaca? Who was Juan Pomce de Leon? Which name is older: Brazil, California, Cuba, Florida, Jamaica, or Santo Domingo? What is Borinquen? Where were the Seven Cities of Cibola? Who was Hernando de Soto? Who were the Moundbuilders? What is “the Southern Cult”? Who were the Anasazi? What does “Pueblo” mean in Spanish? Who or what was Quetzalcoatl? Tezcatlipoca? Huitzilopochtli? Tenochtitlan? Teotihuacan? Tula? Mayapan?

Answer all those questions and you will be on your way…

Organize the questions and your answers and put them in time sequence and geographical-spatial order on a map. One will find the Treaty of Tordesillas, Bartolome de las Casas, Bernaldino de Sahagun, and Diego de Landa perhaps particularly interesting.

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