Virgin Islands of the Atlantic

The first ‘New World’ reached by Europeans was not in the Americas, but in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, where previously uninhabited islands were transformed forever.

Caravel from 'Atlas of Lázaro Luis (detail), 1563. Bridgeman Images.

Oceanic history is as much concerned with the shores of the oceans that interacted with one another as with the watery spaces in between, but there is a third type of space that also needs attention: islands in mid-ocean. Early maps of the Atlantic often exaggerated the size of Atlantic islands, such as Madeira and the Azores, in the awareness that these were the hubs of lively commercial networks, meeting points for shipping coming from all directions: the two American continents, the Caribbean, West Africa, even the Indian Ocean. Their significance was out of all proportion to their size.

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