Was Christopher Columbus a Hero or a Villain

“In fourteen hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue….”

Christopher Columbus is a widely known name here in America. Students were taught that he was a great explorer who discovered America and helped “tame” it into the civilized nation it is today. We celebrate his great discovery and we even have a day for him. However, who exactly was he? Was he really the first to discover the Americas? Why does it seem like he was more celebrated in his day than he is now?

Columbus was born during the year of 1451, in present day Italy. He moved around to Lisbon, Portugal, and eventually settled into Spain– where he remained for the better part of his life (Editors). Columbus began sailing at a fairly young age and made many different voyages, but his most memorable was his voyage to the Americas. Columbus was convinced that the earth was an oval shape and that there was a quicker and safer way to get to Asia for the boombing trade relations. As a result, he and his crew made a route to sail west to Asia. Only 36 days into the voyage across the Atlantic, Columbus and his men landed on one of the islands located in the Bahamas, claiming it for Spain (Flint). The major accomplishment of this trip was that Spain, through Columbus, was able to establish trade relations with the natives on these islands. They continued their Journey to cuba and Hispaniola.

Columbus wanted to settle these territories so he left some men behind on the islands to take care of it while he was gone. After they got settled in, the rest of the crew headed home to Spain. Once they arrived, Columbus gave extremely embellished reports to the royal courts, saying that there were gold and riches galore. A while later, Columbus returned to Hispaniola, after exploring more of the caribbean oceans– convincing him he had landed in Asia. Once he arrived back, he found that his settlement had been destroyed and his sailors had been killed. Because of this, he used the natives as slave labor to rebuild the settlement and to look for Gold. Very little gold was found and the natives’ hate for him piled up (Editors).

It was his third voyage to the “new world” when he finally arrived to the mainland. During this time, Hispaniola had come to a point of near rebellion. Columbus had mislead the people and they were fed up with how they were being treated, so was the Spanish queen. The Spanish queen, who was very against slavery, learned about how the natives had been treated and she was furious, she had him arrested and returned to Spain. He went before the court’s judgement and he had his authority, his riches, as well as his title of governor, stripped away from him. He is credited for opening up the Americas to European colonization, but also blamed for the destruction of the natives. All in all, he failed to find a faster and safer trade route to Asia (Editors).

The matter of Columbus day is fairly controversial. Many people focus on him destroying the native’s way of life and brutally forcing them into slavery, against the beliefs of his royalty. Others, celebrate him for his discovery of America. However, he is sometimes known as “the last person to discover America”. Christopher Columbus is sometimes known as the last person to discover America because America had been discovered previously by the Natives, Vikings, and African travelers. The ‘old world’ however, did not accept this because those people groups were deemed “less-than” and Columbus was a European Christian man which made him more ‘important’ (Edgington). This really puts Columbus’ discoveries into perspective. Maybe he wasn’t the great explorer that we all learned about in grade school.

Ducksters is a website that is designed to further lesson plans for young children, so they will be able to fully understand the material in a deeper way. On their website, under the topic of Christopher Columbus, it has a lot of his information. It talks about how he was born and raised, his early voyages and obviously, his voyage to America. Ducksters Emphasises that Columbus was the first to discover America, which is known to be false. It also never even hints how columbus treated the native people on the islands, all that is said about them is that they were there and he called them Indians. In fact, this information is so corrupt that it even says, “Upon returning home, Columbus was treated like a hero. He presented some of the things he had found including turkeys, pineapples, and some natives he had captured. The King of Spain was pleased enough to fund future expeditions” (Ducksters). Columbus captured natives, he captured people. How is it okay to ignore that? America has a very dark history with slavery. Schools should be teaching that slavery is bad and not brush it off by dehumanising the natives in this way. This is why Columbus day is so controversial. People believe that if we see him as a hero who took and mistreated slaves, are we supporting slavery?

Understanding Prejudice talks about the real Christopher Columbus. The very first sentence in the article reads, “Many people are surprised to learn that Christopher Columbus and his men enslaved native inhabitants of the West Indies, forced them to convert to Christianity, and subdued them with violence in an effort to seek riches… he was no more the discoverer of America than Pocahontas was the discoverer of Great Britain” (Understanding Prejudice).

Before the Spanish queen learned how columbus had been treating the native people, columbus was seen as a hero. He had “discovered” a new trade route to Asia which led him to find riches galore; new fruits, new animals, gold, and slaves.

During Columbus’ time he was seen as a hero in Spain. People celebrated him and he brought his country great pride in who they were. They were a growing nation. They were gaining many riches from the territories that they took over and claimed for themselves. When Columbus returned from his first three voyages to the Americas, he brought proof of the riches that were there and he exaggerated his reports in order to get more funding from the king. These exaggerated reports made the Spaniards excited to be who they were and they felt like a great nation. When Columbus was brought back home in chains, it was like a slap in the face. However, a lot of their pride remained. That pride transferred to the other European countries who became established here and that is where we get the idea that Columbus was a hero. With the civil rights movement and the acceptance of more people, America is learning that what Columbus did was extremely wrong and very few people celebrate him anymore.

References

  1. Edgington, Calleen. “Question 10.” Midterm Exam, 11 Oct. 2018. Editors, Biography.com. “Christopher Columbus.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 1 Aug. 2017, www.biography.com/people/christopher-columbus-9254209.
  2. Flint, Valerie I.J. “Christopher Columbus.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 9 Oct. 2018, www.britannica.com/biography/Christopher-Columbus.
  3. Nelson, Ken. ‘ Explorers for Kids: Christopher Columbus .’ Ducksters. Technological Solutions, Inc. (TSI), Dec. 2018. Web. 30 Dec. 2018. < https://www.ducksters.com/biography/explorers/christopher_columbus.php >.
  4. Plous, S. “Christopher Columbus: The Untold Story.” Understanding Prejudice, PSN, 2018, www.understandingprejudice.org/nativeiq/columbus.htm. 
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Was Christopher Columbus a Hero or a Villain. (2021, Jun 06). Retrieved June 23, 2021 , from
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