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Christopher Columbus and 16th-Century Imperialism

Introduction

Imperialism refers to the process by which powerful nations control weaker nations by influencing or controlling their culture, politics, and economy (Meltzer, p.4). There are various factors that contributed to imperialism but the main cause of imperialism is economic expansion. In ancient times, powerful nations could send armies to take over Egyptian regions, Aztecs, and Incas. This was based on the fact that once a nation gained power it could try and expand its territories by conquering the neighboring nations. However, these efforts would cease once the imperialist nations encountered a more powerful nation. Christopher Columbus played a vital role in Spanish imperialism in America during the sixteenth century. This paper will discuss how Christopher Columbus contributed to imperialism in the sixteenth century.

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Reasons as to why I choose the topic on Christopher Columbus and sixteenth-century imperialism

One of the major reasons why I choose this topic is that it is interesting and applicable to real-life leadership styles. For instance, the rule of Christopher Columbus opens the eye to the modern leaders on the repercussions of dictatorial leadership style (Nunn, 37). Likewise, the role of society in fighting imperialism and colonialism is clearly depicted by this topic. In this regard, the different historical aspects covered by this topic create a sense of patriotism among the members of the public as well as among the leaders.

Implications of modern imperialism on the world economy

Modern imperialism has to a great extent affected the world economy. Due to the US economic and political power, many countries rely on it. Even though the recent economic recession affected every country in the world, the US government has continued to implement global measures which are aimed at getting the world back on track (Sale p31). It is essential to note that the imperialism ideas which were adopted by Columbus are still propagated through the American economic and political power over other countries.

Origin of Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus was born in 1451 in Italy. He started working as a business agent for Di Negro and Spinola families of Genoa. While trading for these families, Christopher made a trip to northern Europe. During the trip, he married Filipa Moniz Perestrelo, a daughter of Bartolomeu Perestrell, the Porto Santo governor and Portuguese nobleman of Genoese origin. Even though Christopher never learnt his native language, he was able to read in Latin as well as Portuguese. His interest was in Astronomy, history, bible and geography. His life as an explorer can be explained using 4 voyages. In each voyage different ideas of imperialism were exposed.

First voyage

This trip took place between 1492 and 1532. Christopher Columbus traveled from the port of Palos in southern Spain as in a command of three ships. During his trip he encountered indigenous people of the native land. His imperialism is exposed when he captured some of the native people as slaves to show him the route across Guanahani.

Christopher Columbus also encountered some slaves being transported from San Salvador. These slaves were captured by neighbouring islands that had powerful empires. Christopher argued that the slaves could easily learn foreign language because they could easily repeat whatever they were told. His idea of imperialism is clearly depicted in his journals when he explained that he could easily capture the native slaves from their masters and govern them. This is based on the fact that the masters did not have powerful arms and modern weaponry to resist him.

Second voyage

In September 1493, Christopher Columbus left Cadiz in a fleet of 17 ships and over 1000 settlers. These settlers were priest, farmers and soldiers who would control the economy of their new land. His aim was to explore the La Navida and colonize all the natives in the region. Even though he met some resistance from Indians, he was able to overcome them and establish Isabella colony. However, in 1494 he felt the need to colonize the Coast of Cuba. Christopher returned to Columbus after a while only to find the natives almost rebellious against his rule. This was as a result of his brothers’ dictatorial rule which subjected the natives to hunger, illness and fighting. Columbus brutality is evident when he punished all those who constantly resisted his rule, by hanging. Soon his brother Bartholomew came to trade in Isabella from Spain. Columbus thought it was wise to appoint him as the next governor of Isabella. With the help of his brothers, Columbus was able to capture more natives as slaves who helped them to search for gold. Columbus sent some of the slaves to Spain to act as laborers. A group of investigators were also sent to Isabella colony to check the administrative rule of the colony (Hudson p 18). After their return to Spain, the investigators criticized Columbus rule to the senior government authorities. This ended the second voyage and in 1496, when Columbus returned to Spain to answer a court case after he was charged of misconduct.

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Third voyage

In 1948, Columbus led 8 ships to the south with the aim of reaching Asia. During this exploration, he discovered the island of Trinidad which was in the mainland of South America. By this time, many Spanish settlers were unsatisfied with Columbus promises of wealth accusation in the new colonies. Some of these settlers began to rebel Columbus rule and returned to Spain with complaints to their king. His brutal punishment involved hanging the rebellious individuals. Following numerous complaints made to the Spanish court in critics of Columbus rule, Columbus was dethroned as the governor of the colony.

Columbus was replaced by Francisco de Bobadilla, who was determined to end any resistance for his rule. This made him detain both Columbus and his brothers and returned them to Spain. Nevertheless, Columbus was able to regain his lost freedom and was able to convince king of Spain to send him to the fourth voyage. However, Columbus did not regain his title as a governor (Catz, p57).

Fourth voyage

Columbus began his last exploration in May 1502 in command of four wrecked ships. However, his Ships were completely worn-out and destroyed and he had to seek help from Hispaniola. However, during his stay at Santa Gloria, he was able to predict correctly the eclipse of the moon. In 1504, he returned back to Spain and that ended his last exploration.

During his later years, Columbus devoted himself more to religion. He also tried to persuade the Spanish government to give him his 10% profit that was made in new land. This was an early agreement between the two parties. However, the government did not honour this agreement since he had lost his position as a governor. Nevertheless, he still remained wealthy because of the positive returns he made from the gold trade (Meltzer, p76).

Conclusion

Columbus died in Spain in 1506. His son, Diego traveled with his corpse Santo Domingo. Columbus actions to capture new land and obtain its resources by controlling the people can be termed as imperialism. His brutal rule as a governor in various colonies subjected the natives of the land to suffer from hunger and diseases. During his rule, slavery was rampant (Singham p 16). He also contributed to the spread of catholic religion. His actions influenced the economy, culture and political life of the captives. Though Christopher’s rule is criticized by many scholars, his ideas such as ellipse formation and existence of Harmattan winds is of great importance.

Works cited

Catz, Rebecca. Christopher Columbus and the Portuguese, West Port, Green Wood Press, 1993.

I used this book since it clearly explains how Christopher Columbus related with Portuguese and his major discoveries.

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Hudson, Michael, Super Imperialism: The Origin and Fundamentals of U.S. World Dominance, New York, Pluto Press, 2003.

Through this book I have learnt on how Christopher Coulmbus ideas influenced U.S politics and culture.

Meltzer, Milton. Columbus and the World Around Him. London, Sage, 2010.

This source clearly defines the term imperialism and explains how imperialism is reflected in Christopher Columbus voyages.

Nunn, George. The Geographical Conceptions of Columbus: A critical Consideration of four problems. American Geographical Society, 1924.

This book assisted me in discussing the major routes that Christopher Columbus used.

Singham, Mano.Columbus and the flat Earth myth: Perhaps It is Not the people of the middle ages Who should be accused of clinging to erroneous beliefs. Phi Delta Kappan,2007.

This journal article assisted me in understanding the discoveries and explorations of Christopher Columbus.

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Sale, Kirkpatrick.Christopher Columbus and the conquest of paradise, London, Tauris Parke Paperbacks, 1982.

This book has important information on how Christopher Columbus used power and money during his rule.

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