Christopher Columbus - Hero or Villain?Research Paper

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Christopher Columbus

Although may concede he was not the first man to reach the Americas, there is no doubt that the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the Caribbean and North America in 1492 was a seminal moment in world history that completely changed the historical arc and path of both the Americas as well as that of Europe. While the net result over the ensuing centuries has largely been positive, the slave trading and imperialism that occurred from 1492 until the 1900's had some very negative and long-reaching effects. While many hold that 1492 was the genesis of what has since grown to be the modern area, it was also the starting point for a lot of suffering and/or displacement for Africans as well as the native Indians that were already present in the Americas and the Caribbean upon the arrival of Columbus.

Analysis

As explained by a BBC biographical summary of the man, Columbus was born in the year 1451. His father was a weaver by trade who also acted as a small merchant in his hometown. By the time he was a teenager, Columbus was already sailing the seas and he established the country of Portugal as his home base. His focus on sailing to the far reaches of the world started in earnest quite early as he tried to gain royal patronage for a voyage westward to the Orient, also commonly known as the "enterprise of the Indies." He was unable to get anywhere with that and he also failed with similar appeals to the French and the English. This is what led to Columbus going to Spain. Upon his initial case being made to Spain, he still found himself being told "no" but this changed when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella agreed to sponsor his expedition. Columbus set off with this famous three ships, those being the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria in August of 1492. He set sail directly to the West across the Atlantic Ocean (BBC).

After a rather long trip of ten weeks, Columbus saw land on roughly the twelfth of October. Columbus first came to and set foot on an island that is now part of the Bahamas. However, Columbus was under the false impression that he had reached the Indies. However, this false impression is what led to the people he found in the area to be called Indians, those being the indigenous people that were already present on the land he came to. After first setting foot on the Bahamas, he also danced around several of the other islands in the modern-day Caribbean including the Cuba and Hispaniola. The latter of those two is the island that is made up in the current day by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. He then returned triumphantly to Spain and was named both the "admiral of the Seven Seas" as well as the viceroy of the Indies. He returned to the Caribbean on a second voyage but the Asian Indies islands cited before were not actually reached by Columbus. Indeed, many people in the homeland were debating as to whether or not Columbus had indeed reached the Indies or if there was some other "new world" out there. Of course, the answer turned out to be the latter rather than the former. After two more voyages (for a total of four), Columbus had become a wealthy man but was widely accused of mismanagement. He died a scant fourteen years after his initial discovery of the Caribbean. He was wealthy yet disappointed with his life's accomplishments (BBC).

While the discover of the new world led to the eventual colonization of the Americas by Spain, France and England, it also led to the displacement and severe mistreatment of the indigenous peoples as well as a ramping of the slave trade for both the indigenous Indians as well as a huge amount of black people from Africa. Indeed, the Spanish conquest that was started with the voyages of Christopher Columbus had it as its goal to colonize and harvest the land for its resources and the Spanish crown (as well as the British later on) did so on the backs of slave labor. It has been customary in the past to hail Columbus as a hero. However, anyone who knows the full context of what he and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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