I had to laugh. Of course, sailors told fantastical tales when they came ashore. How else were they going to persuade an inn keeper to provide them with free drink, or wheedle their way into young ladies' beds? And, as for sailing off the edge of the world? No one believed in a flat earth since Hellenic times. Although, we have recently seen an example of a Harvard graduate, our President, who still believes that myth.
The truth is that the Spain's court scholars didn't argue that the earth was flat when Columbus applied for a grant to go exploring. They disagreed with Columbus's estimates of the size of the world. Indeed, their estimates were less than one percent short of the actual size. Columbus had mistakenly estimated the earth to be far smaller than it actually is. Had he not run into another continent between Spain and China, he would never have survived. In fact, the “New World” was already known before Columbus's voyage, but that's another story.
The truth is that history has been the purview of academics too long. Flesh and blood personalities from history have been turned into mythological characters in schools and universities for political purposes and anyone seeking a passing grade dares not question the stories they are told.
Indeed, academicians have become the new priests, punishing anyone who seeks to confirm or disprove the facts as they are presented in the cathedrals of learning, much as the prelates of the church abused the early scientists, such as Galileo and Copernicus, who proposed outlandish theories.
So, my grades suffered and I resented the scholars who tried to blow smoke up my posterior orifice.
Just about fifteen years ago, I found an academician who was challenging the establishment. He wrote of history with an open mind. Using common sense and scientific methods of inquiry, he wrote a new guide to history. He wrote about The Discovers, The Seekers, The Americans, and The Creators among others. His name was Daniel Boorstin (1914 - 2004). An attorney, a professor, a historian, and a writer, he was appointed the twelfth Librarian of the United States Congress (1975 to 1987).
For example, one of the more fascinating stories he set me in search of was the voyages of the Chinese Treasure Fleets. Imagine Asian explorers circling the globe and charting the world so accurately that some have hypothesized that they were drawn by aliens hovering in spacecraft over the earth. Even more incredible is the fact that the Chinese didn't make contact with other peoples to take treasure from them, but rather to give it to them as a demonstration of the superiority of the Chinese culture. I had to laugh as I read stories of the Portuguese explorer, Vasco de Gama, trying to impress natives on Madagascar with tin mirrors and beads after the Chinese had already arrived and given them gold, silk, and porcelain.
Read Boorstin only if you dare.