The Fruits of Civilization (23-1-2) Christopher Columbus

 Christopher Columbus

For the execution of the voyage to the Indies, I did not make use of intelligence, mathematics or maps. ~ Christopher Columbus

In 1484 a Genoese who had sailed for the Portuguese and had a Portuguese wife asked Portuguese King John II to finance a voyage to the East by heading west, across the Atlantic Ocean.

As the world was generally thought a globe by that time, the proposal had possibility, if not feasibility. John’s advisors, with a better sense of the planet’s girth than the optimistic Christopher Columbus, were skeptical.

The Portuguese King stuck to rounding Africa, so Columbus shopped his proposal to the rulers of Spain, England, and France without success.

Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, who were preoccupied and financially drained by their Spanish Inquisition and war against the Moors, at first turned Columbus away. But in 1492 Isabella relented.

As something of a victory celebration, she agreed to finish underwriting the expedition, even as she did not really believe Columbus would ever return. Columbus had already secured half of the financial backing from Italian merchants.

Columbus set sail on 3 August 1492. A little over 2 months later he spied land.

In landing in the West Indies, Columbus believed he had made his way to the Indian subcontinent. Though dismayed by the poverty of the natives, he dubbed the inhabitants Indians.

Columbus spent a few weeks reconnoitering the islands, then sailed back. He returned the following year with 17 ships, 1,500 men, and enough livestock and cargo to establish a permanent settlement.

Altogether, Columbus made 4 voyages to the West Indies. His deluded belief that he had discovered a direct route to Asia remained unshaken.

Columbus’ voyages brought a plague to the natives.

European contact transmitted diseases to previously isolated communities, causing devastation far exceeding that of even the Black Death in 14th-century Europe. ~ Canadian economist Nathan Nunn & Chinese American economist Nancy Qian