The literature of the exploration and discovery of North America is massive, and with the recent upsurge of interest in exploration and the subsequent reeditions of explorers' journals and the publication of other works stimulated by the Columbian Quincentennial, it promises to become even more so. Why, then, is there a need for such an effort as that presented in the three volumes of North American Exploration, for another research project and publication dealing with the exploration of North America?
The best among many good answers to this question is quite simple: there has not been, since late in the nineteenth century, an undertaking of similar scope. Extremely valuable collections of original documentary materials have been compiled, explorers' journals have been reedited and reissued, and major interpretative works by single or small groups of scholars have been produced. But a collaborative, comprehensive study and overview devoted exclusively to the topic of North American exploration has not been undertaken. In this sense, the project that culminates in these three volumes is long overdue. The contributing authors whose works are presented in these volumes have, of necessity, written chapters that are partly synthetic--that is, they build upon existing erudition. But each of these chapters is also a work of original scholarship, bringing new perspectives and approaches to the story of the exploration of the North American continent. The authors have considered new approaches, explored new ideas and new facts, developed new questions, and newly examined previous works. They have written chapters that are both interpretative and synthesizing, accurate in detail of facts both spatial and temporal, and well-documented from both primary and secondary source materials. They have produced a body of scholarship that, in addition to its historical and geographical content, is replete with historiographical references to the literature of exploration, with commentary on the political and economic and social aspects of exploration and with analyses of the consequences of exploration for other human endeavors.
The editor has chosen to preserve British, Canadian, and American usages in spelling and form. We hope that this internationally flavored (or flavoured) North American Exploration will play a pivotal role in the scholarly