Christopher Columbus: The Untold Story
Many people are surprised to learn that Christopher Columbus and his men enslaved native inhabitants of the West Indies, forced them to convert to Christianity. Excerpts from The Journal of Christopher Columbus (). Focus Question: What was Columbus's attitude toward the native people of the islands and how did. in Portugal in , and the explorer Christopher Columbus, born in Genoa ten Columbus returned to Barcelona with six Taíno natives who were paraded as As they stayed on, relations with local Indians degenerated.
From Marco Polo he learned that the Indies were rich in gold, silver, pearls, jewels and spices. The Great Khan, whose empire stretched from the Arctic to the Indian Ocean, had displayed to Polo a wealth and majesty that dwarfed the splendors of the courts of Europe.
Polo also had things to say about the ordinary people of the Far East. Those in the province of Mangi, where they grew ginger, were averse to war and so had fallen an easy prey to the khan. On Nangama, an island off the coast, described as having "great plentie of spices," the people were far from averse to war: There were, in fact, man-eating people in several of the offshore islands, and in many islands both men and women dressed themselves with only a small scrap of cloth over their genitals.
On the island of Discorsia, in spite of the fact that they made fine cotton cloth, the people went entirely naked. In one place there were two islands where men and women were segregated, the women on one island, the men on the other.The Black Legend, Native Americans, and Spaniards: Crash Course US History #1
Marco Polo occasionally slipped into fables like this last one, but most of what he had to say about the Indies was the result of actual observation. Sir John Mandeville's travels, on the other hand, were a hoax—there was no such man—and the places he claimed to have visited in the s were fantastically filled with one-eyed men and one-footed men, dog-faced men and men with two faces or no faces. But the author of the hoax did draw on the reports of enough genuine travelers to make some of his stories plausible, and he also drew on a legend as old as human dreams, the legend of a golden age when men were good.
He told of an island where the people lived without malice or guile, without covetousness or lechery or gluttony, wishing for none of the riches of this world.
They were not Christians, but they lived by the golden rule.
Columbus Controversy - HISTORY
A man who planned to see the Indies for himself could hardly fail to be stirred by the thought of finding such a people. Columbus surely expected to bring back some of the gold that was supposed to be so plentiful.
The spice trade was one of the most lucrative in Europe, and he expected to bring back spices. But what did he propose to do about the people in possession of these treasures? When he set out, he carried with him a commission from the king and queen of Spain, empowering him "to discover and acquire certain islands and mainland in the ocean sea" and to be "Admiral and Viceroy and Governor therein. What had they to offer that would make their dominion welcome? Or if they proposed to impose their rule by force, how could they justify such a step, let alone carry it out?
The answer is that they had two things: Christianity has meant many things to many men, and its role in the European conquest and occupation of America was varied. But in to Columbus there was probably nothing very complicated about it. He would have reduced it to a matter of corrupt human beings, destined for eternal damnation, redeemed by a merciful savior. Christ saved those who believed in him, and it was the duty of Christians to spread his gospel and thus rescue the heathens from the fate that would otherwise await them.
Although Christianity was in itself a sufficient justification for dominion, Columbus would also carry civilization to the Indies; and this, too, was a gift that he and his contemporaries considered adequate recompense for anything they might take. When people talked about civilization—or civility, as they usually called it—they seldom specified precisely what they meant.
Columbus’ Confusion About the New World
Civility was closely associated with Christianity, but the two were not identical. Whereas Christianity was always accompanied by civility, the Greeks and Romans had had civility without Christianity. One way to define civility was by its opposite, barbarism. Originally the word "barbarian" had simply meant "foreigner"—to a Greek someone who was not Greek, to a Roman someone who was not Roman. By the 15th or 16th century, it meant someone not only foreign but with manners and customs of which civil persons disapproved.
North Africa became known as Barbary, a 16th-century geographer explained, "because the people be barbarous, not onely in language, but in manners and customs. Whatever civility meant, it meant clothes. But there was a little more to it than that, and there still is. Civil people distinguished themselves by the pains they took to order their lives.
Christopher Columbus on his complicated relationship with Americans - BBC News
They organized their society to produce the elaborate food, clothing, buildings and other equipment characteristic of their manner of living. They had strong governments to protect property, to protect good persons from evil ones, to protect the manners and customs that differentiated civil people from barbarians. The superior clothing, housing, food and protection that attached to civilization made it seem to the European a gift worth giving to the ill-clothed, ill-housed and ungoverned barbarians of the world.
Slavery was an ancient instrument of civilization, and in the 15th century it had been revived as a way to deal with barbarians who refused to accept Christianity and the rule of civilized government. Through slavery they could be made to abandon their bad habits, put on clothes and reward their instructors with a lifetime of work.
Throughout the 15th century, as the Portuguese explored the coast of Africa, large numbers of well-clothed sea captains brought civilization to naked savages by carrying them off to the slave markets of Seville and Lisbon. Since Columbus had lived in Lisbon and sailed in Portuguese vessels to the Gold Coast of Africa, he was not unfamiliar with barbarians. He had seen for himself that the Torrid Zone could support human life, and he had observed how pleased barbarians were with trinkets on which civilized Europeans set small value, such as the little bells that falconers placed on hawks.
Before setting off on his voyage, he laid in a store of hawk's bells. If the barbarous people he expected to find in the Indies should think civilization and Christianity an insufficient reward for submission to Spain, perhaps hawk's bells would help. Columbus sailed from Palos de la Frontera on Friday, August 3,reached the Canary Islands six days later and stayed there for a month to finish outfitting his ships.
He left on September 6, and five weeks later, in about the place he expected, he found the Indies. What else could it be but the Indies? There on the shore were the naked people.
With hawk's bells and beads he made their acquaintance and found some of them wearing gold nose plugs. It all added up. He had found the Indies. And not only that. He had found a land over which he would have no difficulty in establishing Spanish dominion, for the people showed him an immediate veneration. He had been there only two days, coasting along the shores of the islands, when he was able to hear the natives crying in loud voices, "Come and see the men who have come from heaven; bring them food and drink.
Columbus made four voyages to America, during which he explored an astonishingly large area of the Caribbean and a part of the northern coast of South America. At every island the first thing he inquired about was gold, taking heart from every trace of it he found. And at Haiti he found enough to convince him that this was Ophir, the country to which Solomon and Jehosophat had sent for gold and silver.
From aboard ship it was possible to make out rich fields waving with grass. There were good harbors, lovely sand beaches and fruit-laden trees. The people were shy and fled whenever the caravels approached the shore, but Columbus gave orders "that they should take some, treat them well and make them lose their fear, that some gain might be made, since, considering the beauty of the land, it could not be but that there was gain to be got.
Although the amount of gold worn by the natives was even less than the amount of clothing, it gradually became apparent that there was gold to be had. One man possessed some that had been pounded into gold leaf. Another appeared with a gold belt.
Some produced nuggets for the admiral. Here he began the European occupation of the New World, and here his European ideas and attitudes began their transformation of land and people.
- Christopher Columbus on his complicated relationship with Americans
But they spent most of the day like children idling away their time from morning to night, seemingly without a care in the world. Once they saw that Columbus meant them no harm, they outdid one another in bringing him anything he wanted. It was impossible to believe, he reported, "that anyone has seen a people with such kind hearts and so ready to give the Christians all that they possess, and when the Christians arrive, they run at once to bring them everything.
On the basis of what he told Peter Martyr, who recorded his voyages, Martyr wrote, "they seeme to live in that golden worlde of the which olde writers speake so much, wherein menne lived simply and innocently without enforcement of lawes, without quarreling, judges and libelles, content onely to satisfie nature, without further vexation for knowledge of things to come.
According to the Arawaks, the Caribs, or Cannibals, were man-eaters, and as such their name eventually entered the English language.
This was at best a misrepresentation, which Columbus would soon exploit. The Caribs lived on islands of their own and met every European approach with poisoned arrows, which men and women together fired in showers. They were not only fierce but, by comparison with the Arawaks, also seemed more energetic, more industrious and, it might even be said, sadly enough, more civil.
After Columbus succeeded in entering one of their settlements on his second voyage, a member of the expedition reported, "This people seemed to us to be more civil than those who were in the other islands we have visited, although they all have dwellings of straw, but these have them better made and better provided with supplies, and in them were more signs of industry.
He had come to take possession and to establish dominion. In almost the same breath, he described the Arawaks' gentleness and innocence and then went on to assure the king and queen of Spain, "They have no arms and are all naked and without any knowledge of war, and very cowardly, so that a thousand of them would not face three.
And they are also fitted to be ruled and to be set to work, to cultivate the land and to do all else that may be necessary, and you may build towns and teach them to go clothed and adopt our customs. Columbus had not yet prescribed the method by which the Arawaks would be set to work, but he had a pretty clear idea of how to handle the Caribs. On his second voyage, after capturing a few of them, he sent them in slavery to Spain, as samples of what he hoped would be a regular trade.
They were obviously intelligent, and in Spain they might "be led to abandon that inhuman custom which they have of eating men, and there in Castile, learning the language, they will much more readily receive baptism and secure the welfare of their souls.
This plan was never put into operation, partly because the Spanish sovereigns did not approve it and partly because the Cannibals did not approve it.
These settlers were unprepared, and did not even plant the right crops or eat the right foods. They soon encountered starvation and famine, despite stealing food from the Native Americans. Thousands of Native Americans were also killed, either in fighting or by outbreaks of European diseases to which their bodies had no immunity. Those settlers that survived, together with new arrivals, began to cultivate the land, growing tobacco.
As more settlers arrived, more Native American hunting grounds were taken, and the Native Americans began to fight back. Any chance of peaceful relations were at an end. Teachers' notes This lesson asks pupils to investigate the early contact between Europeans and Native Americans.
Using primary source diary extracts, pupils are able to understand and appreciate the first encounters between European settlers and the indigenous people of North America.
Pupils are asked to explore both positive and negative aspects of these encounters, which can then be developed further in a number of ways. This is a contemporary map engraved by William Hole based on descriptions by the discoverer of Virginia, Captain John Smith. The map uses a mix of English and Native place names.
These are extracts from the diaries of one of the Virginia settlers, possibly Captain Gabriel Archer, and show the life of the settlers as well as their interaction with the native Americans. The lesson could form a background to the teaching of the History Scheme of Work Unit