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England, But New: How John Smith’s 1616 Map Helped Define America

Posted by Jean-Yves on Nov 26, 2018

In the mythology of the Americas, the English soldier John Smith is most famous for his association with Pocahontas, the Powhatan woman known for her interactions with Jamestown settlers. But he made another indelible contribution to what’s now the United States—he named the area of the country that stretches from Cape Cod up the coast of Maine. The region would later become a key part of the American narrative, the site of the first Thanksgiving. He called it “New England,” and the name stuck.

The map above, first published in 1616, marks the first time anyone called New England “New England.” Two years before, after being shut out of the leadership of Jamestown, and looking for a new foothold in the Americas, Smith joined an expedition that sailed up the coast of what was then called “North Virginia.”

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