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Unformatted text preview: Columbus Columbus • Columbus
• Cristoforo Colombo was born in 1446 into a family of wool merchants in Genoa, Italy. He was familiar with the problems of trading with the Orient because he worked in the family business from 1470-1473. In his autobiography he claims to have ﬁrst sailed at the age of 14. • • As a young man he wanted more out of life than to follow in his parents’ profession, so he studied sailing in the Portuguese royal school. • Columbus
• The Portuguese were the leading navigators of the time. They had the most experience in exploration. — African coastal waters around the Cape of Good Hope. — Atlantic waters past the Azores and the Canary Islands. • The Portuguese had extensive ships’ logs on the Atlantic. — The logs covered prevailing winds and currents. — Ships’ logs were state secrets. • Columbus
• Marco Polo’s account of his 13th century adventures were ﬁrst published in 1477. Most Europeans believed that Polo’s story was fabricated. Columbus believed Polo’s accounts and studied them carefully. • • • • Columbus’ proposal to seek a route to the Orient by sailing westward depended heavily on Marco Polo’s accounts. First, he used it to calculate the width of Asia. Second, he believed there were islands east of Asia. • Marco Polo reported the existence of a island to the east of China. This land was called Cipango, although Polo never saw this place himself. No one in Europe believed Cipango existed. • • • We now know that this is Japan. — Cipan (Italian pronunciation of c) + go — go is a form related to the modern Mandarin guó ‘country, land’ cf. the borrowings, Japanese goku, Vietnamese quô‰c. • Columbus took his proposal to sail westward to the Portuguese court. They weren’t interested, but Columbus was a pest. So the matter was referred to a group of expert advisors, who rejected it. • • • • Many ordinary people in the early Renaissance believed that the earth was ﬂat. But the experts not only knew that the the earth was round, they knew it was 24,000 miles in circumference. • The Portuguese experts, not knowing there was something between Europe and China, knew that one one could successfully sail 12,000 miles. But Columbus estimated that Asia was much wider and that Cipango made the distance sailable. The irony is that the Portuguese experts were right, and Columbus was wrong. • • • • • But, as is often true in life, it’s better to be lucky than good. Nobody knew that there was a continent in between. Actually, the Vikings once knew, but the word never got out. • Rejected by the Portuguese and possibly subject to arrest, Columbus determined to go ﬁrst to Spain, then France and, if necessary, on to England. Coming into Spain, he left his son, Diego, in the monastery of La Rábida near Palos Spain. • • • He then entered into years of negotiation with the Spanish court. The Spanish experts disliked the plan, but it took from 1486 to 1491 to get an ultimate rejection. So Columbus went to Palos to collect his son. Once again, it’s better to be lucky than good. The head of the monastery, Fray Juan Pérez, was the former confessor to Queen Isabella, and hearing Columbus tale of woe, decided to intercede for him. • • The Catholic religion requires that people confess their sins to a priest before they can receive the Eucharist. Ordinary folks confess to the parish priest. • • • • But important people and those who could afford it, hired their own priests to hear their confessions. This is a confessor. The relationship between an important person and his/her confessor was quite intimate. As one who believed in Columbus ideas, Pérez could give Columbus support with Isabella in asking for Spanish sponsorship. • The argument that won Fray Pérez over was not a scientiﬁc argument, but a spiritual one. Columbus argued that God created man as the crown of creation. Man can live on land but not on water. • • Therefore, the earth cannot have more water on its surface than land. • • The Portuguese experts must be wrong. The distance to Asia must be a sailable distance. • On the last round, Ferdinand had lost interest. Only Isabella had to be convinced. By this time Columbus was so poor that Isabella had to send him money so he could buy decent clothes to come to court in. His basic argument was that even if the experts were right, the risk to Spain was small, and the chance was worth taking. • • • He lost that round, but again, by luck this was early 1492 and the Spanish had just beaten the Moors at Grenada and were now in control of all of Spain, and another friend interceded. • So Columbus was called back to Grenada. Isabella ordered Andalusia to outﬁt Columbus. Columbus went back to Palos, in Andalusia, where he was not welcome until two brothers who were local seamen and heirs in a wealthy family signed on. They were the Pinzón brothers,
Martín Alonso and Vicente Yáñez. • • • • They were willing to put their money where their mouth was. They bought a share in the enterprise and were on Niña and the Pinta. Columbus captained the Santa María. • • Columbus ﬁrst an audience with Isabella and Ferdinand was in Córdoba in the spring of 1486. Columbus won approval in 1492 just after the Battle of Grenada. In the face of their problems, and their successes the Spanish thought Columbus was a risk worth taking. • • Columbus arrived in Palos in May of 1492. In a period of 11 weeks, all the preparations were made. Much of the organizing had actually been done by the Pinzón brothers before Columbus arrived. • • • The expedition set sail from Palos, August 3, headed for the Canary Islands. They sailed from there due west and sighted land on October 11, 1492. • The Journal
Excerpt from Thursday, October 11, 1492 “… Then the Pinta, being faster and in the lead, sighted land and made the signal as I had ordered. The ﬁrst man to sight land was called Rodrigo de Triana. The land appeared two hours after midnight, about two leagues away. We furled all sail except the treo, the mainsail with no bonnets, and jogged off and on until Friday morning, when we came to an island. We saw naked people, and I went ashore in a boat with armed men, taking Martín Alonso Pinzón and his brother Vicente Yáñez, captain of the Niña. I took the royal standard, and the captains each took a banner with the Green Cross which each of my ships carries as a device [ﬂag], with the letters F and Y, surmounted by a crown, at each end of the cross.” The Journal
Excerpt from Thursday, October 11, 1492 “… Soon many of the islanders gathered around us. I could see that they were people who would be more easily converted to our Holy Faith by love than by coercion, and wishing them to look on us with friendship I gave some of them red bonnets and glass beads which they hung round their necks, and many other things of small value, at which they were so delighted and so eager to please us that we could not believe it. Later they swam out to the boards to bring us parrots and balls of thread and darts, and many other things, exchanging them for objects as glass beads and hawk bells. The took anything and gave willingly whatever they had.” The Journal
Excerpt from Thursday, October 11, 1492 “… However, they appeared to be a very poor people in all respects. They go about as naked as the day they were born, even the women, though I saw only one, who was quite young. All the men I saw were quite young, none older than thirty, all well built, ﬁnely bodied and handsome in the face. Their hair is coarse, almost like a horse’s tail, and short; they wear it short, cut over the brow, except a few strands of hair hanging down uncut at the back.” The Journal
Excerpt from Thursday, October 11, 1492 “Some paint themselves with black, some with the color of the Canary islanders, neither black nor white, others with white, others with red, others with whatever they can ﬁnd. Some have only their face painted, others their whole body, others just their eyes or nose. They carry no weapons, and are ignorant of them; when I showed them some swords they took them by the blade and cut themselves. They have no iron; their darts are just sticks without an iron head, though some of them have a ﬁsh tooth or something else at the tip.” The Journal
Excerpt from Thursday, October 11, 1492 “They are all of the same size, of good stature, digniﬁed and well formed. I saw some with scars on their bodies, and made signs to ask about them, and they indicated to me that people form other islands nearby come to capture them and they defended themselves. I thought, and still think, that people from the mainland come here to take them prisoner. They must be good servants, and intelligent, for I can see that they quickly repeat everything said to them. I believe they would readily become Christians; it appeared to me that they have no religion. With God’s will, I will take six of them with me for Your Majesties when I leave this place, so that they may learn Spanish.” • Columbus believed he was the ‘Christ bearer’. This is the way he signed himself: .S. S.A.S X.M.Y Xp̃o FERENS • Don’t simply judge Columbus by twenty-ﬁrst century standards. His thinking is almost as foreign to us as that of the natives. The Journal
Excerpt from Sunday, October 14, 1492 “These people have little knowledge of ﬁghting, as Your Majesties will see from the seven I have had captured to take away with us so as to teach them our language and return them, unless Your Majesties’ orders are that they all be taken to Spain or held captive on the island itself, for with ﬁfty men one could keep the entire population in subjection and make them do whatever one wanted.” (emph. RAR) The Journal
Excerpt from Monday, October 15, 1492 “The islands are very green and lush, with sweet breezes, and there may be many things here which I do not know about, because rather than lingering I wish to explore and investigate many islands in search of gold. As these people tell me by signs that the folk wear it on their arms and legs — and it is gold they mean, for I showed them some pieces of my own — with God’s help I cannot fail to ﬁnd the source of it.” The Journal
Excerpt from Sunday, October 21, 1492 “I should like to ﬁll all our water containers while we are here, and then, if I have time, I shall set off to sail round this island until I ﬁnd and talk to the king, and see if I may obtain from him some of the gold which I am told he wears. Then I shall set off for another, very large island which I think must be Cipango, judging by the indications given me by these Indians I have on board. They call it Colba [Cuba], and say that there are many big ships there, and seafarers, and that it is very large. From there I shall go to another island called Bohío, also very large, according to them. The ones in between I shall observe in passing, and depending on what store of gold or spices I ﬁnd I shall decide what to do, …” • On Nov. 22, the Pinta parted way with the other vessels for part of the time. Martín Pinzón, captain of the Pinta, made a lot of trouble for Columbus. He went off on his own to explore the islands without Columbus approval. • • • On Nov. 22, the Pinta parted way with the other vessels for part of the time. Martín Pinzón, captain of the Pinta, made a lot of trouble for Columbus. He went off on his own to explore the islands without Columbus approval. • • • He later sued Columbus, claiming that he was going to sail west anyway, and that the whole thing was really his idea. • • • • All in all Columbus made four voyages to the West Indies. The second was in 1493 and lasted until 1496. This was intended to be a voyage of colonization. They brought cattle, horses, and sheep on 17 ships with over a thousand men. • They found the garrison of 40 men left behind from the ﬁrst voyage all dead. (Remember the Oct. 14, 1492 log entry.) — The locals said they were mostly killed after they raided an inland tribe and stole their women. • • • The third voyage was in 1498. There was trouble sailing and Columbus changed course. He ended up in Trinidad and was the ﬁrst European to see South America. • When he ﬁnally got to Hispañola, the colonists were upset about the lack of gold. There was much trouble and Columbus was arrested and sent back to Spain in chains in 1500. • • • • The forth voyage was in 1502. Columbus was in his early ﬁfties. He was no longer welcome in Hispañola and tried to bypass the West Indies. But a hurricane arose and his expedition lost 20 ships, because he was denied shelter by the governor of the colony. • • • • He ultimately made his way to Honduras and was the ﬁrst European to see Central America. He sailed southward along the coast of Central America, collected some gold, but was chased off by hostile Indians. He returned to Spain in 1504. • • Columbus died in Valladolid, Spain on May 20, 1506. The likely cause of death was a rare tropical disease (Reiter’s Syndrome). He spent his ﬁnal years defending himself from claims by Martín Pinzón and from charges of mismanagement for his handling of the colonies. • • He never realized the wealth or recognition he sought and died penniless. ...
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- Fall '09