One of the most dramatic periods in world history is the age of Europe's discovery of the world from Columbus and da Gama in the late 15th century to the voyages of James Cook in the 18th century. The extent of the changes can be seen by comparing the pre-Columbian maps, which showed no knowledge of either the Americas or the Pacific, with those of 1800, which in terms of projection, scale, and content approximate today's maps.
In these lectures, the most important discovery voyages, the individual characteristics of their commanders, and the endurance of their crews will be described. Interspersed with accounts of individual voyages will be lectures that explain the more general and technical aspects of the voyages: improvements in ship design and navigation, constraints of wind and current, living conditions on board ship, and problems of health and discipline. Special attention will be paid to the controversies that developed from some of these voyages.