Different opinions on Columbus Throughout all of our years that we are taught about world history, we are led to believe that Columbus was one of the greatest explorers of all time. In my mind there is no question about whether Christopher Columbus discovered America; of course he did, its Columbus! However, this is a highly debated issue and through writings by authors Jeffery Hart and James W. Loewen we will investigate the true importance of Columbus. In the essay written by Jeffrey Hart entitled, "Discovering Columbus", he argues strongly that, in fact, Columbus did discover America. He starts off by describing Columbus as "a genuine titan, a hero of history and of the human spirit." He goes on to say that, "In discovering a new part of the world, Columbus destroyed such finite certainties." By this he means that everyone thought the world was flat but by discovering this new land he "upset theologies." He describes the reasons for Columbus going on a voyage as "multiple" and "confused." Columbus wanted to cross the ocean to "prove his theories of navigation." Since Spain was always desperate for wealth and the land routes were controlled by the Turks, Columbus wanted "to find a nautical way to the riches of Asia" and in the process of finding riches he wanted "to convert the pagan nations" to Christianity. He wanted to seek out "the Earthly Paradise" otherwise known as "Eden; as foreseen in the book of Revelation." In doing all of these things he became "a hero of human consciousness."Columbus helped to inaugurate an enormous westward European expansion, surely the greatest demographic movement in history." He was the one who started the westward movement and describes the "garbage can philosophers" that put him down as "sour enemies of human aspiration."To denigrate Columbus is to denigrate what is worthy in human history and in us all." Conversely, James W.
Loewen, who did extensive research of high school history lessons to write his book Lies my Teacher Told Me, feels Columbus wasn't really as great as he is made out to be. Loewen writes, "The history books make up all kinds of details to tell a better story and to humanize Columbus so that readers will identify with him" (38). Just as Hart pushes the idea that Columbus made a great new discovery finding the Americas, Loewen argues that "Columbus's voyage was not the first, but the last discovery" (39). His importance has to do with the changes that were made in Europe and not having "discovered new land." People from other continents had gone to America long before 1492. "Daring sailors reached America in a series of voyages across the North Atlantic, establishing communities on the Faeroe Islands, Iceland, and Greenland. The Norse colony on Greenland lasted five hundred years (982-c.
1500) ." Loewen further goes on to argue against Hart on the issue of the Turks and their supposed land route control and describes the claims as a "falsehood." Loewen also points out the several times Christianity is used as an excuse for Columbus' expeditions; "His Christian faith gave him a religious incentive to thwart the piratical activities of the Turkish marauders preying upon the trading ships of the Christian world" (39). In Loewen's book Lies my Teacher Told Me, he disagrees with the idea that is Columbus was a "hero of history." He further raises the question of why on Columbus's e cond voyage to the Americas was he armed with 200 foot-soldiers and 20 Calvary"? (61). "With many cross bows and small canons, lances, swords and still more terrible weapons against the Indians, in addition to the horses, there were 20 hunting dogs that were turned loose and immediately tore the Indians apart" (61). I once looked at Christopher Columbus as courageous and brave for sailing the uncharted seas and finding new land as described in Hart's essay. Loewen didn't do a total turnaround to my way of thinking but he made me look at history in a different light. For instance, Hart may describe that Columbus gained power but Loewen describes how Columbus went about doing that; "cutting off hands" and sending Indians back to their villages as an example (63).
I feel that the history of Columbus can be looked at from both sides as valid even though Loewen's discoveries may come as a shock to the world. History with its many different interpretations can be also seen through many different lenses of perspective. Works Cited Hart, Jeffery. Discovering Columbus, National Review, 00280038, 10/15/90, Vol. 42, Issue 20.
Academic Search Premier. The Ivory Foxhole. Loewen, James W. Lies My Teacher Told Me.
New York 1996.