Hist 46 Paper 2

Hist 46 Paper 2 - Alexis Lanzet History 46: Paper 2 1 Title...

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Alexis Lanzet History 46: Paper 2 Title Columbus did not discover the Americas based on mystical practices or perceived religious prophecies. He piloted a western route on the Atlantic Ocean based on contemporary navigational methods, speculations about the distance from Europe to Asia, and natural conditions conducive to sailing the Atlantic. His approach to exploration and religion were both commonplace in fifteenth century Europe. Columbus’s notable achievement was garnering the support of the Spanish monarchs to fund his mission. Columbus’s approach towards religion was normal in some aspects and extraordinary in others. He was a typically devout Catholic. Fernando Columbus describes his father’s religious practices as being “so strict that for fasting and saying all the canonical offices he might have been taken for a member of a religious order.” (Morison, 44) Considering the society in which Columbus lived, it would have been strange if he hadn’t been spiritual. However, Columbus did not take his Christianity to an extreme in his vocation as an explorer; in fact, it is commendable that he was not overly mystical considering the trends of the age. “Underlying many of these questions [about navigation] was the darkness of the Middle Ages, the fear of nature and of things unknown, always ready to spring to the surface like a latent disease. Rational assumptions and science’s support were of no avail in such instances.” (Granzotto, 50) Even Alexander von Humboldt, who wrote a “five volume study of European discovery and exploration of the Americas during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries” (Watts, 79) and studied the religious aspects of Columbus’s personality more than other historians “felt most comfortable with the conclusion that Columbus’s voyages were actually based on a ‘scientific’ geography gleaned from a variety of ancient and medieval sources.” (Watts, 80) Considering how religious Columbus was, everything had a religious overtone. In Columbus’s own journals, the accounts of his travels do not have religious or mystical overtones. On his third voyage, Columbus’s writings increasingly reflect a sense of religious divination, which enabled him to make his discoveries: “God made me the messenger of the new heaven and the new earth, of which He spoke in the Apocalypse by St. John, after having spoken of it by the mouth of Isaiah; and he showed me the spot where to find it.” (Columbus, 148) This comment is made in hindsight; Columbus was not previously led by prophecies. Had these strongly religious moments after he had made these discoveries, so it’s not like he was mystically led to them before. Wasn’t until the third voyage until Columbus showed strong religious overtones in his writings. Consider the relative ease of his voyages and returns; it was peculiar and spectacular.
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This note was uploaded on 04/25/2008 for the course HIST 046 taught by Professor Rotating during the Winter '07 term at Dartmouth.

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Hist 46 Paper 2 - Alexis Lanzet History 46: Paper 2 1 Title...

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