Christopher Columbus

After reading The Four Voyages I’ve really tried to understand his thoughts, and why he continuously avoided the truth that he had discovered a new land for the Spaniards. While of course his main goal was to arrive to the Indies, deliver letters to the Grand Khan, and acquire spices and other goods, the discovery of a new land should not be an event to shy away from like Columbus did. It makes almost no sense to me, and it also leads me to the conclusion that Columbus was not an explorer.

Columbus’s goal was not to see foreign lands, and explore for the sake of discovery, his goal was to increase the wealth for those who hired him. In this way, he was a mercenary. If he had been an explorer, he would’ve acknowledged his obvious discovery of new territory, and he would’ve reported it rather than try to cover it up. Ultimately Columbus only puts himself in increasingly uncomfortable positions, in which he has to make deals with his crew, and furthermore lie and hide the truth to his employers and himself. It makes almost no sense to me why he would put himself through this ridiculous search for the indies rather than realize the fact that he had not landed on the indies, he had landed on a completely foreign and undiscovered land for Europeans.

Perhaps I think all of this because as a child, when learning about Columbus he was always made out to be the best of explorers. I saw Christopher Columbus as a man who ventured into new lands with gusto. Instead as I grew up, little by little my perception of Columbus changed. With The Four Voyages my perception of Columbus has completely been flipped. He wasn’t brave enough to see his discovery, he cowered behind his lies and excuses. He didn’t accept the natives, he saw them as a means to find gold. And perhaps worst of all for me, I see him no longer an explorer, I see him as a mercenary.

I say this because any man could’ve been hired to embark on a similar journey, and the Spanish Royalty would’ve gotten the same results, with perhaps being lied to a little less. After reading The Four Voyages I just can’t see Christopher Columbus the same anymore. While of course his discovery shouldn’t be undermined, as he did broaden the scope of exploration for Europeans, his motivations and actions make him a mercenary like any other man the Spaniard’s could’ve found.

Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus is a name I have heard all throughout my school life. He is often shown in schools as being hero and an awesome individual. However I didn’t really know anything about him personally before readings the book. He is an intriguing character and I was surprised by how intrigued I was by the book. Columbus is basically a businessman. His letters and stuff are there in order to entice the king to back him up on his endeavors and thus allow him more money to randomly travel around the world looking for land. His letters are like business proposals – he is basically trying to add weight to a discovery which does not have the things the king was actually looking for (gold!) however at the same time he does not fully reveal the fact that he has not found actual tangible evidence (apart from a few pieces of gold) that there is a large amount of gold in the region. Columbus is interestingly enough lying by omitting many of the important facts in relation to his discovery making him even more like our images of stereotypical businessmen who keep the truth from people in order to further their own interests (just as a stereotype of some people).

Another interesting thing about Columbus is his actions with the native people. He does a lot of things in order to give them a good image of himself and thus of further explorers. I was super interested in his actions because while he was being nice and fair to the people he was at the same time cheating them out of items (he was giving them practically worthless, in his opinion, things in exchange for their goods) and yet he wanted to make sure they had a good idea of him and the other people. After the man runs away from the ship the people are obviously suspicious of them and he is smart enough to realize that this will not do if he wants to make sure the people will accept and welcome the explorers the next time they sail to that part of the world.


The Four Voyages

             Christopher Columbus was always a named I recognized with traveling the world. Maybe I would have known more about him if I grew up in North America. In this book I learnt that I myself in particular needed to pick up a map and check out where places are in the world. The format of the book was very interesting. When I first saw the book on the reading list and Jon had mentioned the genre of letters I had assumed this book would be a Dear Dairy format to his family, nobles and the like. Needless to say this was not. I really like history; in high school I took as many history classes as possible. However exploration and the era of “discovery” was never one I was interested in. But more because I never really thought about the era more than anything else.

            Christopher Columbus was a more interesting person than I would have initially given credit to. He works hard to make his trip happen by going to many countries and looking for wealthy sponsors. I personally would have liked to have heard more about how he got Ferdinand and Isabela to sponsor his trip because I wonder how he got from Henry VII laughing at him, to Ferdinand and Isabela taking him seriously to the point of helping him out. Did the advisors in Spain know something the advisors in England did not? Anyways, I guess this was not the main focus of The Four Voyages. Christopher Columbus sets sail into the unknown. When I first read how he “reckoned” less distance than what he had measured I don’t know why but my head kept spinning the question, “what will he tell his crew on the way back?” There is something about gift exchange that seems to be a theme. Building friendships through the exchanging of items is what I found interesting. Also the idea that he strove in the first voyage to make good connections so when others from Europe would return they could be as well received as Columbus was. What was also interesting was how he initially assesses how intelligent a people were through the amount of clothing they wear and their ability to barter. He saw the people as those who could be educated into Christianity and made into servants. The way he saw other people outside of Europe reminded me of how globalized the world is today. And how lucky we are to be able to communicate with everyone. I guess traveling for him is a job, and unlike myself, who wishes to immerse in another culture unlike one I am used to, he sees the people as being able to change into a culture he recognizes.

            All in all I was hoping to find an Animaniac clip on Columbus. But all I could find with them was a Ballad on Magellan. But I did find this fun Horrible Histories video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kmwriy3a6sc&feature=related


The Four Voyages

The four voyages is a story of perspective, and given the great historical importance of the events that took place, we get a unique 20/20 hindsight on the passages. With detailed footnotes highlighting and clarifying the initial assumptions made by columbus and his crew, we start to look at columbus and his crew in the same light that they viewed the “indians”. To the modern reader, the admiral and the crew seem somewhat misinformed and ignorant much like their assessment of the indigenous peoples.

The letters give us the unique opportunity to view both the crew and the indigenous people as foreign. Though the letters are intended to be read by citizens of 15- 16th century Spain, we get to see the whole picture, and to us, both the indigenous people and Columbus’ crew are strangers. Though, the letters are written from a viewpoint that is a closer reflection of modern western society than that of the indigenous people, I found that their are elements of the indigenous lifestyle that are preferable or more civil than ours.

Columbus’ entire voyage is fuelled by a society so intently focused on it’s place in the global hierarchy. A sense of ethnocentrism is  very prevalent all throughout the letters. The admiral and the crew feel that they’re bringing a sense of civility to the beasts in the indies. Columbus and his crew automatically assume their  way of life is superior to that of the natives because they don’t see large cathedrals or extravagant lifestyles. Something that kept coming up in the letters was that the indigenous peoples did not use iron. this was particularly important to me because it demonstrated a completely different stand on what was important in life. Columbus and his crew represented a society that was obsessed with building and expanding, so iron was almost a centrepiece of society. To them, any society that didn’t make use of iron was a society of lesser value than theirs. That’s where perspective come into play. In most cultural exchanges, what is given is something that is of little value to that particular society and of high value to the other. The indigenous people of the indies don’t value gold in the same way the spanish do. Gold was not a measure of wealth, but rather just an ornament for decoration. Therefore gold didn’t control their lives like it controlled the life of the spanish. They valued objects that they believed came from “Ture” or the sky. So, to them, the trifling objects given away by the crew, were far more precious than the gold, which was the main object of importance for Columbus and Spain.

 

Christopher Columbus: Four Voyages

So upon reading the Four Voyages, I definitely had some mixed feelings. With all the books that we have read so far in this course, in my opinion, this book was the most fact, historically based one. With that being said, I found this book to be a bit more difficult because of how factual it is. But I did think that it was somewhat interesting in spite of this.

I did, however, find his log book of his voyages somewhat interesting. Perhaps it is how the text was set up, the formatting, but I found that this was a more intriguing part of the book. Reading what Columbus and his crew did each day and the progress, or lack thereof, they made along their voyage was really the only part that kind of got my attention.

Relative to how other people felt about this read, I learned a lot of things about Christopher Columbus that I never otherwise would have known. Growing up, I never further looked into his background, or the kind of man he was. I was simply just under the impression that, “oh cool, Columbus, the dude who sailed the oceans and contributed a lot to history and stuff.” To be completely honest, I never really knew all that much about him. But one thing that I thought I knew for sure, was that he contributed greatly to the world with his discoveries, and being the first man to sail around the world. However, upon reading this, I have learned of a whole other side of Mr. Columbus. Basically, I learned that my perception of him was pretty flawed. Christopher Columbus isn’t the man that I thought he was. I noticed that he is a man of greed, a man that would also make exceptions for his short comings. Makes me wonder that perhaps Columbus is not worth all the novelty and fame he has received from naïve people like me.

So I guess you could say that from reading the Four Voyages, I was quite disappointed and kind of shocked, having been exposed to the real Columbus; the ruthless and materialistic man that he has proven to be. Christopher Columbus is a man filled with many broken promises, which is something I never realized before. It makes me question that maybe he is somewhat of a monster to an extent. One thing that I will say I respect about this book, is the fact that it does show events from Columbus’ point of view. Despite my criticism and skepticism about his character, reading the Four Voyages allowed me to read his accounts first hand, getting a better idea of what he was experiencing through his own words.

Columbus

This book brought back memories in the United States for getting to skip a school for Columbus Day. At the time I had no idea what the significance of Columbus Day was. Eventually, as I became slightly older, I learned that he was a man who traveled to the Americas. I thought “Oh what a fantastic man! He must have been such an explorer and strong-willed person. He has a day recognized all to himself after all.” I soon learned that although he may be attributed to some of the actions he partook in (sailing for Spain in search of trade routes) he did not really “discover” anything. He brought his ship to a land which was already inhabited by Natives. These natives were the ones who are truly responsible for discovering South America. It is interesting to see how certain words such as “discovery” and “history” can be wrongfully utilized. For Columbus did not actually find anything original, as “discovery” would lend one to believe.

Another change in heart regarding Columbus day I found, especially after reading this book, is the character I associated with Columbus. I always believed he was a man seeking glory and fame. I did not realize the brutal and greedy nature he had. You see Columbus landing and greeted by kind natives. They seek nothing more than to please Columbus and his crew. They come to Columbus bearing kindness and a willingness to trade. Columbus did not show the same characteristics to his counterparts. He brought a white-man superiority complex and gave himself the right to plunder and pillage the many lands to traversed. This was a complete shift in my view regarding Columbus. I no longer take Columbus for a man of the sea and an adventurer. I now see him as nothing more than an asshole with an obsession for gold.

Another interesting idea I found was the idea of history. As most people would assume, Columbus made history when he landed in the new world. But I don’t believe he did, well, not in the same way people think. I believe that the only history he created was the reaction to his arrival, not the arrival itself. Whether it was by his pillaging or his spreading of diseases, Columbus and his crew were not paving way to history by finding new people. They made history by causing death and a growing amount of imperialism in the world.


Thoughts on Columbus

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of the previous readings that we have been assigned in this class, but I did not enjoy reading The Four Voyages. I do tend to appreciate factual information more than entertaining stories in regards to books, but that is only when I enjoy the subject that I’m reading about. History is not one of my main interests, and this collection of anecdotes did not interest me very much. But I do of course understand how important the events are that are discussed in the book. Without Columbus’ conquering having occurred, the world we’re accustomed to would be completely different. I always find the “butterfly effect” very interesting when it comes to historical events. If certain events in our history happened even slightly differently, our entire world could be completely different than it is. If Columbus did not end up sailing towards the Americas, and made it to East India like he originally intended to, I wonder who would have been the man that took Columbus’ place as the person who would have brought European traditions to the natives in America. It was bound to happen eventually, not that it is correct in any way though.

King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella told Columbus to win over the inhabitants, but to ensure that he does not cause them any harm or injury. These words clearly went in one ear and out the other, because Columbus was far from treating the natives with the respect that they deserved. Instead of attempting to assimilate with the native peoples, Columbus and his men went the violent route and treated them inhumanely in order to gain riches and to spread Christianity as best as they could.

After hearing about Columbus as a hero my whole life, it was interesting reading a more detailed and factual account of his voyages. Columbus has his own holiday dedicated to him even though in retrospect, his actions likely do not warrant a day of celebration in his honor. It may be that I am not that interested in history, or that I’m just not particularly interested in the story of Christopher Columbus, but this was not one of my favorite readings so far. Looking forward to discussing in class with everyone!

 

Captain’s Log. Stardate 1492 Location: Atlantic Ocean

Well… one thing I can say for certain about Columbus…. his log entries are boring… I think the captain’s log entries in Star Trek were far more interesting.  I have to admit though, my expectations were set too high for this particular reading.  I expected something rather fun, dynamic, full of history and information.  What I got was a well… a log, and a few letters of a controversial figure, all of which was historical, but required much interpretation and not a lot of dynamic.  There were some parts of it that were fun to read though, (surprisingly).

The first part of the 4 Voyages that I had to read through was the digest of the captain’s log.  This account by an unknown member of Columbus’s crew was written from a surprisingly aloof 3rd party perspective.  Admittedly, he tended to side with Columbus, but the way he explained things from a more neutral point of view allowed me to accept the information without much hassle and bother of questioning every word he was writing.  As I began reading the digest, there was quite a bit of information, that gave the appearance of mundane, but wasn’t so mundane after all.  Soon I found myself noticing every symbol of land, every threat of mutiny, while I knew they would get there, I couldn’t help but wonder what was life like on that fateful voyage across the seas, clinging on mere hopes.  It’s no wonder Columbus, when he finally sighted land, was overjoyed.  I was also taken aback by the scale of what Columbus was describing.  Latin America for the first time and yet, he seemed or tried to keep an open view, not calling the natives barbarians (which was what I expected him to do) and although he later descended into slavery, his first foray into the caribbean was almost like a child wandering through a lush forest.

Then came the denial… when he began to realize and wonder if he had made it to Asia.  This I found rather hilarious thanks to my hindsight information, but then again, I had to pity Columbus.  He sailed all the way across the Atlantic, hoping to find a route to Asia and make it big with Castille, only to find he had stumbled across something entirely new.  If only he had a satellite and GPS!

The letters for me, were the hardest.  Everything that Columbus wrote about how he conducted himself and about he situation, I was forced to think and doubt.  After all, the letters were defending his position.  He sounded quite convincing and it wasn’t easy.  In the end, I managed to take everything at face value, yet still manage to understand Columbus’s defense.

In the end, I didn’t enjoy reading the 4 voyages as a whole.  My ideal explorer is something more like the characters in Star Trek.  But there were some fun tidbits and juicy information that I learnt about this interesting early explorer and the challenges he faced on his voyage.

Signing out

Vincent

 

The Four Voyages

I’ve had little experience with reading this type of literature, the journal/letter style, though I find it very interesting. Mostly because I do enjoy history, and so find first hand accounts of things intriguing. Still, the closest thing I have to compare this to would be a collection of letters from Toussaint L’Ouverture that I read this past year for an assignment on the Haitian Revolution. And that’s still a few centuries after Columbus, meaning this was a fairly unique read to me. Not to mention that reading something as a “primary source” versus as literature has a slightly different feel.

I’ll admit, I felt fairly judgmental as I read this. At every turn I was looking down on Columbus as he wrote back to Spain of his exploits. The way he talked as if he was so incredibly respective of the people he encountered, then casually mentioning that he ‘seized some natives” for information. I suppose that’s not an ideal mindset to read The Four Voyages with though, not that I know entirely what that would be. But I guess I should try to think of things more from his perspective? Imagine the mindset of the time and all. I’m never sure what place modern perspectives have when reading old texts. Should I try to read objectively, or just let go and allow my views to alter my reading of the text? Anyway, on the topic of wondering at Columbus’ mindset, I couldn’t help but laugh a little to myself at all his exaggerations. He was very desperate to seem successful of course, and so resorted to spinning propaganda, essentially. If I were to highlight every line involving gold or converting natives to christianity, I would have a fairly colourful copy of The Four Voyages. His sponsors had clear reasons for funding his voyages of course, so he would cater to their interests. He makes himself out to be quite the conqueror.

I wonder what a discussion of monsters will be like in the context of this text. How will we define a monster this time? On a side note, I find our various definitions of monsters very interesting, and really like that each text merits a new definition and understanding of the term. I’m always tempted, with each of our texts, to just throw my hands up and call everybody and everything monstrous.


Christopher Columbus

So, I’m not the world’s biggest history buff. When reading a text, my mind is automatically drawn to the symbolic, figurative aspects of the work, and I rarely regard the reality of it. However, with The Four Voyages, I found that I needed to break free of this quest for metaphor, and adopt a more practical way of looking at the work. I can’t argue the alliteration or allegory, as Columbus did not intend for these letters and logs to be read in such a manner. This aspect challenged me.

However, I actually enjoyed reading this work. I was immediately drawn to Columbus’ irony. He keeps talking about how every one of these places he visits is more beautiful than the last, due to their native, unaltered state. However, that’s exactly what he wants to change. He wants to alter not only the landscape, but the lives of the peoples. Yes, he does believe that bringing Christianity to the natives will save them from damnation, but in reality, his whole quest is to abuse and reap the benefits of their homeland. No wonder he ended up becoming so hated.

Secondly, he was so damn whiny. In one particular letter, all he said was just how terrible his lot in life was. Well, unfortunately for him, it’s a direct correlation between fate and his treatment of other individuals. However, it is necessary to view things from his perspective. Maybe he really wasn’t trying to play the victim, and firmly thought that his ordeal was unjust.

Finally, the obsession with gold. It’s rather astonishing to see just how enthralled society is with this shiny substance. This love of the metallic extends even into our modern society, but is rather seen as capitalist profit. Humans love to put such immense value on ridiculously pointless things. Does gold actually help society in anyway? No, it cannot save lives or provide any necessity, just as money itself is completely pointless. This correlation between Columbus’ society and our modern one was very fascinating, as it demonstrates a certain characteristic of humanity. We place so much value on the intangible, but for what? In my opinion, its merely a matter of pride. Nowadays, it is a necessity, but I believe that it originates from a want to possess beauty (in the beauty of gold) that later developed into a means of survival via currency.

All in all, Columbus’ writings were a definite change from the classic idea of literature that we’ve been engrossed with, and proved an interesting and eye-opening reading.