The Truth about Christopher Columbus and His “Discoveries”

Alternative Title: Columbus was Really Bad at Math

Almost all the “facts” you learned in school about Christopher Columbus are wrong! Amongst other things, Columbus never proved that the earth is round and he never set foot in what is now North America. A YouTube video below and also available at https://youtu.be/3MJoKhO9G1g sets the record straight.

Also, you might want to read about the REAL discoverer of North America at The Real History of Columbus Day at: http://bit.ly/2yMBOXG.

14 Comments

I find it sad that so many people seem to revel in deconstruction. Is their interest in revealing truth? I don’t think so. I think it is more about their enjoyment of tearing up the status quo. No, Columbus didn’t discover America. Does he have significance in the development of the Americas? Of course. Instead of acknowledging this fact, some people prefer to belittle Columbus as being bad at math.

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Dear Richard, Please don’t use a crude, simplistic cartoon, replete with caricatures of Italians to “prove” that Columbus (as labeled by this cartoon as “doofus” and “moron”)
was a total incompetent and somehow got to the Americas by pure luck and a good wind.
Like most of the European explorers of that time, he ruthlessly slaughtered the indigenous peoples of the Americas, and those actions cannot be defended.
He was, however, a master mariner, and wanted to use his skills to find the short passage to Asia, and to find gold wherever he went, so he would become fabulously rich.
He failed in his goals, but he wasn’t a doofus or a moron.
That whole cartoon is on the level of a tweet.
If you wish to introduce an intelligent discussion of the appropriateness of Columbus Day, please do it without this level of offensive comments on my Italian heritage.

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Awesome. Now how about an article that shows how the concept of “indigenous people” is a lie. As genealogist we all know that while the Europeans sailed here, the people once called “Indians” walked here when climate change lowered the ocean level enough to allow that. There are no people that originated in the Americas. Another great idea… how about we stop letting pompous idiots rewrite history. How about we enjoy our heritage and revel in the fact that it has matured instead of ignorantly trying to judge it by today’s standards..

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What I learned in (elementary) school: Columbus discovered what we call “The Americas” (which was named after another Italian, Amerigo Vespucci); John Cabot reached North America; Aristotle previously proved the earth was round, and most people knew it; and Leif Erikson got here first. Like most of his other presentations, comedian Adam Conover only presents facts that fit his presentation style.

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Beside the point – I thought that it was proven a few years back that Columbus was Spanish… Anyway, his folklore was invented by well-meaning Italians and was accepted for years. Too bad most of it wasn’t true – and he was not a very nice person. Very “rich and famous” oriented… Mary Ann needs to learn the correct history – she’s getting mad about a man that’s not even part of her “heritage”. Stay calm people.

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    David Paul Davenport October 10, 2017 at 8:39 pm

    A better theory is that as a citizen of Genoa he actually born on Corsica when that island was ruled by Genoa and not France.

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    Diane the historian October 10, 2017 at 9:44 pm

    Columbus WAS Italian, but he shopped around for someone to finance his voyage when he could not do it himself or for Italy. The Spanish court liked the idea of finding the “passage” or at least expanding their empire and financed his venture for Spain.

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There was a documentary on Columbus presented awhile back on the origins and story of Columbus, which I found very interesting. (I think I saw it on National Geographic Channel?) The author posited that Columbus was probably a man of noble birth from possibly Catalonia, and not the son of an Italian shoemaker. As I recall from memory, his conclusion was based, among other things on:

1) There was a Cristofer Colon, son of a shoemaker in Italy
2) However, there is no concrete evidence that person ended up being THE Christopher Columbus.
3) Columbus married a Portuguese woman of noble birth, who almost certainly would never have married the son of a shoemaker.
4) Columbus, and his sons, wrote extensively in Spanish; but no writings found in Italian.
5) Since neither he nor his sons referred to their ancestry, it is possible that they wanted to hide their ancestry. Since Philip and Isabella had just conquered Spain, they still had some enemies with various parts of Spain – especially Catalonia. (Even evidenced down to today.) This, and other factors, led the author to speculate that his home may have been Catalonia.

If anyone notices that documentary popping up on tv or a streaming channel, you might post it here. Even if you don’t agree, it is interesting.

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I, for one, have been totally disgusted with the Columbus bashing that has been accelerating since the 1992 quincentenary. Did he have faults? Did he make mistakes? Don’t we all? How many know about the 39 left behind from the first voyage. Were they slaughtered? Perhaps for good reason? How many know he returned to Spain in chains after the third voyage? That many of the specific accusations made against him were made by his most ardent enemies? Columbus is hardly responsible for culture clash or smallpox. But he did certainly initiate, for better or worse, the permanent interaction of Old and New Worlds. The history of that period is filled with lacunae. Lets give him credit for having the guts to carry out against great human and natural opposition a task very few could have accomplished. At least read some of the enormous stock of readily available, responsible history and not waste time on trash like this that simply sets up straw men. Reality is almost always much more complicated than a cartoon.

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This is an excellent example of someone taking one definition of a word, “discover”, and insisting that is is the only definition. We speak of a child discovering her world, that millions of others already knew about. We say that the police discovered evidence, which someone clearly knew about already. So, clearly you do not have to be the first person to learn about something to have “discovered” it.

Yes, Columbus was not the first European to discover America, but he was the first to find and publicize it. The Vikings kept it as their secret, besides they did not know much of the value and their colony died out quickly. Yes, Columbus did not land on either of the American continents, but his discovery of a chain of islands clearly indicated that something was out there.

All competent mariners of that era knew the earth was round, even if most people did not accept it. They also knew the approximate circumference of the earth (apparently they underestimated it, but not terribly so). So, to get funding from the Spanish crown (the only ones who might fund such a trip) and convince a crew of superstitious sailors to go, it looks like he fudged the figures. He knew he did not have the supplies to reach the known East Indies, but apparently was hoping to find the western-most part of them at a far closer distance.

I agree with Richard that this article was not intended to teach, but to deconstruct someone of the 16th century who did not show 21st century political and moral “progressive” values.

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“Another great idea… how about we stop letting pompous idiots rewrite history.”
Very true and it’s about time to stop giving time to these fanatical deconstructions.

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Last comment above was the best on Columbus and almost completely accurate. Ancient families in the Island of Mallorca, part of Catalonia, Spain, claim the Columbus family originated there, and some of them emigrated to Genoa. Remember at the time of Columbus, Palma de Mallorca was a worldly, sophisticated renaissance merchant state full of bankers, shipping brokers and shipping companies with great trading ships on all the known ports and seas. He was educated, perhaps by tutors or reading. There are indications he sailed on at least one boyage to Iceland and perhaps Greenland. He would have known from sailers in those waters of Leif Ericson’s voyages to America, have known that there was land out there, though not the Indies. He also had read of the four or five great men of the ancient world who knew the earth was round and each computed its circumference, the smallest computation was by Ptolemy of Greek Egypt. All sailers knew simply by watching ships sailing west recede from the hull to the mast demonstrating it was sailing over the edge of the curve of a round earth. The problem had always been that of carrying enough water and food for a large crew that sailing galleons required. Then serendipitously, The Portuguese invented the Caravel, a ship that not only was faster, sailed closer to the wind, but needed but a smaller crew with smaller supply constraints. He tried to get support for his explorations to the West from several Kings, but those Kings’ advisors always shot him down when he used the evidence of the more accurate geographers which postulated a longer distance around and so to the Indies. To the rulers of Spain, he was a better salesman using Ptolomy’s model of the earth and so the assumed shorter voyage to the Indies. He knew better, but the King and Queen did not. As if one sails to Corsica, one is in Europe, always true. So When Columbus landed on islands edging North America, he had found the Americas. Columbus had crewed his ships with the only people who would take such dangers on ships, very rough, often violent men to sail with him, greedy men with no wealth of their own after the wars of Spain reconquering their country from the muslim conquerors. The crew was cowardly, but Columbus kept them sailing even when supplies were running out and he lost not a man to scurvy or accidents on that ocean voyage. Once ashore his crews were avaricious, demanding and mistreated the indiginous peoples. When he tried to hold his men under control, they slandered him and he was on third voyage returned to Spain in chains under slanderous accusations that stripped him of his honors and wealth–later proven unfounded. For centuries after his epic voyages, ships crossing the Atlantic routinely lost crew and passengers to disease, storms, accidents. Not the Great Mariner Columbus. He was educated on the sea, on geography, the great geographers of Europe, in handling men at sea. He deserves his honors and statues. He alone in all the centuries had the courage and intelligence to sail into the West and start all the voyages of discovery to the West that ensued. Don Tidmore

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That cartoon history relied on broad caricature and cheap shots for entertainment, but it also presented facts. Several governments refused to fund Columbus’ first voyage, saying his math was wrong, which it was. Yes, he was a skilled mariner who believed the earth was round – until he decided it was pear shaped. And of course, he never really understood where the islands he “discovered” actually were. There are many other criticisms of Columbus that can’t simply be dismissed as modern deconstruction.

Columbus was described as a tyrant in his own time. His contemporaries had him jailed and brought up on charges of misgovernance and brutality. Eye witness accounts and Columbus’ own diaries reveal that he and his crewmen routinely tortured, maimed, raped and killed the islanders he conquered. Including children. Although the King of Spain eventually freed Columbus, he lost his governorship.

Yes, it’s important to acknowledge the achievements of Columbus. He was a daring explorer who opened the Americas to European trade and exploration. And also to the colonization that devastated native populations. (Whose ancestors discovered the Americas long before Columbus or Leif Erikson.) Historians also credit Columbus with starting the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. And he never set foot in the United States. These are some of the reasons many Americans no longer want to celebrate Columbus with a U.S. holiday.

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