Columbus and After: The New World and the Americas
Christopher Columbus - 12 October 1492
... in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue...
Why though? and How?
- the people of europe looked east, the looked east out of Mediterranean, past venice,
past muslim byzantine, india, all the way to china.
- the sought the goods of asia and india - pepper, cloves, cinnamon, anise, nutmeg,
silks - Europeans had no idea how to make, dyes, perfumes, gold, silver, sugar.
- not surprisingly, each european looked for a short cut, a way past the arab middle
men, a short cut to those goods, that was cheaper
- one of the reasons he sailed the ocean blue, was the economic agenda of europe,
particularly of spain. This reason is contrary to the belief of many N.A’s, that columbus
was a hero - that he was a great navigator that added a new continent
- biography furnishes no parallel to the life of columbus
- And: Columbus Day (US) national holiday
- columbus never set foot in anything close to what is now america - they created the
holiday in the spirit of 19th century nationalism and destiny.
- mythologizing columbus as a hero - has come under increasing criticism from an
increasingly diverse group of citizens and scholars
- Scandinavians opposed the idea of Columbus Day - they wanted a day to celebrate
the ﬁrst europeans to set foot in the americas - the norse/vikings/danes
- The norse ended up L’Anse aux Meadows - the northern tip of newfoundland, a whole
492 years before columbus.
- The ﬁrst European colony in the Americas was Norse, Columbus ‘re’ discovered the
- Other visitors to the Americas?
- e.g.. an Indian 12th century carving depicts an indian ﬁgure holding corn on the
cob(only grew in america)
- Then, there are Chinese monks: 2
- describe indigenous peoples of south-west US in 499
- None of these events had comparable impact to Columbus landing in the Americas.
- if we stop looking a him as a hero, we look at him as a man with a certain set of
- born in Genoa 1451
- “Genoa lived by trade.”
- “Oriented toward the sea.”
- you can see customs houses, wharfs, sea fairing trade, safe fortiﬁed harbour, almost
overwhelming presence of the Roman Catholic church.
- Columbus grew up the son of small business people
- his father traded wool, his father operated a tavern that was frequented by sea fairers,
and traders from all the points of Europe
- it was in his mothers tavern that Columbus ﬁrst heard the legend of a Western
passage to indian, a way to avoid the arabs
- he was well schooled in mathematics, latin, literature
- Experienced man by 1490
- he had all the skills needed to cross the atlantic - he was an experienced map maker,
sailor, navigator, he worked in large portuguese trading company, he worked on the
portuguese slave operation.
- he knew that discovering a new route to the riches of india would mean unimaginable
riches for those who discovered it
- a route west means that people in 1492 knew the world was round, no one, sailors in
particular, were afraid of sailing off of the earth.
- What they were afraid of, was starving to death, there was no way to cross the atlantic
with the technology of their time
- Knew the world was too big to go the other way
- Greek world - 38,400 km: is 40,075.16 km 3
- the greeks knew what they were doing
- Ship size and technology could not support these distances
- people thought they would starve to death if the tried to go from europe west to
japan, which was at least - 16,000 miles to land.
All except for Columbus
- well versed in “geometry, geography, cosmography, astrology, & astronomy...”
- “a well-read man and learned in the science of navigation”
- “The Lord” had “endowed me with a great talent for seamanship, sufﬁcient abilities, etc
- in a letter to the king and queen of spain
- Columbus’s mistake:
- World= 18,000 miles (28,800 km) in circumference
- thus, Japan is 3,500 miles away (is closer than 12,000)
- He sought funding from the King and Queen - Isabella, and Ferdinand
- 1st voyage;
- Palos, 3 August 1492
- Pinta, Nina, Santa Maria
- one of the reasons he received this attention was because there were large
numbers of jewish families being pushed onto ships and deported, in the same
port the Columbus was leaving from.
- The king and queen gave columbus the backing and representation of the very
powerful Spanish State - gives less to his image as a Hero.
- It took him a long time to ﬁnd someone to back his voyage, he was very lucky,
has a lot to do with who he married and who his father was.
- The spanish state saw him off on his journey to discover a new route to asia
- by 1492., Mediterranean sailors advanced sailing technology exponentially to
where it was 100 years before.
- Marine Technology: the CARAVEL
- the caravel was the hybrid of it’s time - it combined the sturdines