The name Christopher Columbus’ has been heard and taught in schools worldwide while the Americans continuously rejoice in the achievements of this man. Since the 1970s, civilians celebrate a three-day holiday called Columbus Day yearly. They rest while appreciating this renowned and good man for discovering their country. He has been traditionally elevated and described as a risk-taker and courageous hero who discovered foreign lands through the water. However, other researchers have resented the above argument by describing him as a barbaric slave trader and a monster who orchestrated misery on innocent people in many parts of the ‘New World’. The atrocities he unleashed on the innocent persons in native lands overweighs his good deeds, making him a bad person. This paper analyzes Christopher Columbus’ origin, the expeditions, discoveries of foreign native lands, the atrocities he committed, and above all, his badness.
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Cristoforo Colombo was born in Genoa City in Italy to a middle working-class family of a wool weaver of seven people. He was born in a family of three brothers- Bartholomew, Giovanni, Giacomo. Columbus had only one sister who he loved deeply, called Bianchinetta. Columbus spent his time entirely studying sailing and map making at a tender age. He joined the Genoese fleet and sailed on the Mediterranean using the skills he had learned early. He decided to be with his brother, Bartholomew, who was a bookseller and mapmaker in Portugal. Columbus became an apprentice in sailing and went sailing at sea by the tender age of ten. While in Portugal he met Doña Felipa e Moniz whom he married, and later blessed with two sons together; Franco and Diego. He had other two illegitimate sons, namely, Ferdinand and Hernando. This self-taught and mysterious man cunningly rose in sea trade in the 15th century to become the most adventurous sea trader.
He wanted to outwit the Mohammedan Turks in new land discoveries and trade. During this time, Portugal was looking for the best and shortest route to Asia. However, the only way available during the time was through the Middle East which had high taxes for European travelers. Therefore, Columbus thought that if he sailed west of the Ocean Sea, he could reach the East Indies, and this was the beginning of the discovery of foreign lands. After surviving decades of failures, in 1492, he was successful to convince the King of Spain to support his expeditions thereby starting on the uncertain journey that led to the discovery of the New World. Armed with three ships and eighty-seven crew members he started his voyage where he didn’t see land till the 12th of October.
Notably, it is not surprising that many people are beginning to learn the true actions of Columbus. Notably, Christopher and his henchmen enslaved and maimed people of the West Indies. They tortured, subdued, and converted them into Christianity with the major aim of enriching themselves. Many historians have argued that this was the Age of Discovery characterized by conquests, exploitations, and expansions of empires in the New World. The period was pioneered by Columbus who left human suffering through seizure and forced labor among Native Americans. On the contrary, many have praised Columbus as an entrepreneur, claiming that commercial opportunities were bound to befall him because of his industrious and hardworking nature. Perhaps the pressure from the sponsors of his voyages, the King and Queen of Spain to find gold behind the disguise of protecting, correcting, and converting heathens has made many believe that he did well. The opposite is true; this man used the support to enslave many as slaves were in demand.
In 1492, after landing on the shores of the Island of Bahamas, Christopher Columbus met the inhabitants known as the Taino. Later, he narrated jokingly that with his fifty men the Islanders were enslaved. Nevertheless, Columbus brought many diseases to the new lands, especially to the Taino population, which was subsequently wiped out. Studies have shown that close to 90 percent of the Native American population was killed by influenza, smallpox, and measles. In 1492, there were 250,000 people, but in 1517 there were only 14,000 people in Hispaniola due to the diseases brought by Columbus and his men. Consequently, after the second voyage, the African slave trade to Spain began, and it was not long before these slaves were being taken to Spain. After decades of slavery by Columbus, most urban families in Spain had black slave servants.
Furthermore, the description of the humility of the natives paints a picture of peaceful people who were not accustomed to intrusion and cruelty. In one of his journals and numerous letters about his voyages, Columbus says that he was enchanted by the affection and sincerity of the Taino natives5. He describes that he found tall, handsome, and hardworking male farmers, while the females were comely and friendly. He further noted that in exchange for silly red caps, glass beads, and brass bells, seamen received parrots cotton threads, and food in addition to fruits and fish that were in plenty. Moreover, ornaments worn by the natives showed the presence of gold and their sources. Following this, Columbus returned to Spain carrying six native Taino slaves who were made a spectacle in Barcelona by being paraded as curiosities before the king and queen. This contradicts the early description of the people who he maimed later.
Besides, the following year, Columbus led a group of fifteen hundred settlers on the Caribbean beaches. These people started conflicts with the locals as they were settling. There were two types of slavery, whereby the first is where the settlers demanded men to work in gold mines in their native land while being supervised by the settlers. Secondly, the Taino people were transformed into goldsmiths and panners for their slave masters overseas. Nevertheless, those who became resistant were burned and disemboweled by swords7. Dogs were unleashed on the individuals that were burned, and horses trampled on them. For instance, after sailing home during his second voyage, he had more than one thousand slaves who were bound for auctioning but many died on the way and were tossed into the sea. According to Columbus, he envisaged a world full of gold, cotton, spices, and many slaves from whom His Majesty was to choose7.
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However, Columbus is a reputable man, considering the different daring missions that he coordinated. According to Gilder, Columbus is a complete character because he risked his life to make discoveries. He moved from Europe to America, with the aim of discovering the other part of the world that people do not understand. Arguably, if it were not for Columbus, the present sense of integration could have not been there because slavery led to the mutual corporation and strengthening of the relationship between the whites and other minority groups, like African Americans. Connectedly, Christopher Columbus is a good discoverer since he brought a critical geographical comprehension of the world.
Conclusively, it is paramount to note that from the preceding discussion, Christopher Columbus was a cruel man who killed and enslaved fellow humans at the expense of his greed. However, he was a brave man who sailed to the West, finding the shortest route and discovering far-East lands. Further, he believed that the world was round, a thing which he proved later after the success of his voyages.
Dalrymple, Alexander. “An historical collection of the several voyages and discoveries in the South Pacific Ocean.” Cambridge University Press, 2015.
Gilder, Richard. “Columbus Reports on His First Voyage, 1493 | Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.” Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History,2017. Web.
History.com Editors. “Columbus Day 2020.” History. Web.
Jorge, B. Estevez. “Meet the Survivors of a ‘paper Genocide’.” National Geographic, 2019. Web.
Nabokov, Peter. “Indians, Slaves, and Mass Murder: The Hidden History”. The New York Review of Books. 2020. Web.
Wright, A. Mark. Christopher Columbus and the New World. National Review. 2015. Web.