Sunday 13 December 2009

A Note from Our Resident American Historian

I was troubled by the contents of a publicity flyer received this week from the Edinburgh International Festival. The document in question announces that the 2010 Festival is to celebrate the arrival of European explorers in the New World 300 years ago.

Where's Runnicles is curious to know which European explorers the EIF are referring to. The EIF office perhaps needs to be reminded that Columbus arrived in the New World in 1492 (over 500 years ago); Icelandic explorers are believed to have established settlements, possibly in Newfoundland, over 1000 years ago; and the first British colony was established in the 1580s (over 400 years ago).

Since the theme of the Festival is New Worlds and it appears likely to feature Opera Australia, I wondered if the flyer might be referring to European arrival there. This is not my area of specialism, but a quick examination of an Australian Government website suggests that the first Europeans arrived there over 400 years ago.

We will be happy to publish clarification, and should a similar problem arise in the future I would be delighted to direct the International Festival to some of my extremely knowledgeable former colleagues at the University of Edinburgh.

Editor's note: Dr A F Pollard is a lecturer in American History at the University of Lincoln, prior to that at Newcastle and Glasgow Universities. He gained his Ph.D in American History at the University of Edinburgh in 2006. The book based on his thesis, The Literary Quest for an American National Character is available from Amazon.

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