Revisionist historians on too many of America’s college campuses – and most of the political left in this country for that matter – have painted a picture of Christopher Columbus the criminal, caricatured as a Spanish conquistador hell-bent on merciless destruction.
Every October, the debate begins over whether or not Columbus Day should be renamed, replaced, or outright abolished. The argument goes that honoring Christopher Columbus is condoning the rape, murder, and exploitation of the Americas and the indigenous peoples who lived here. Much is made over colonial imperialism and the imposition of “western civilization” on the native culture.
Was this the real Christopher Columbus? Was his 1492 voyage the beginning of America’s evil and imperialist history?
The answer will surprise you.
For starters, Columbus was neither Spanish, nor a conquistador. He was an Italian explorer who was determined to circumnavigate the globe to find an alternative trade route to India and China. By the fifteen century (1400s), Europe’s economy was beginning to expand considerably, and international trade was on the rise. The rise of Christianity, what most people regarded as a faith of reason, led to incredible scientific and economic advances that began lifting European standards of living. Additional income meant more consumerism, which led to increased trade across Europe and into Asia. Trade routes spanned across western Europe and through what was then called the Byzantine Empire, which was also known as the Eastern Roman Empire, and across the Bosporus River near Constantinople (modern day Istanbul) into Asia.
The rise of the Ottoman Empire, which was raised out of an earlier Islamic caliphate, effectively cut-off these trade routes to “Christianized” western European nation-states. By sacking Constantinople in 1453, the Ottoman Empire effectively ended the Byzantine Empire, and established Islamic law in what is now modern-day Turkey. At the same time, Moorish kings still controlled the Iberian peninsula, on which are the nations of Spain and Portugal. With much of North Africa, Eastern Europe, and the Iberian Peninsula under control of what was, effectively, a caliphate, European nations were largely cut-off from trade routes to Asia.
That’s what Christopher Columbus aimed to remedy with his famous voyage.
In 1492, the Moorish king of Grenada surrendered to Ferdinand V and Isabella of Castile, effectively marking the end of Islamic rule in Spain. The Iberian Peninsula was free of Islamic rule for the first time in over 700 years, and Ferdinand and Isabella were interested in establishing alternative trade routes to the East.
The interest of the newly installed Spanish monarchy in establishing new trade routes to circumvent Islamic control fit well with the designs of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus. As a result, Ferdinand and Isabella largely financed the Italian’s voyage. The notion that Columbus was part of a conspiracy with the Spanish crown to rape and pillage indigenous peoples is misleading. The primary reason for Columbus’s voyage that ended up in the Americas is the stranglehold of Islamic control over Eastern Europe and North Africa.
While Christopher Columbus was certainly not a perfect man, he was also not a marauding monster determined to destroy Native Americans. He honestly didn’t know that the so-called “New World” was even here, and he thought he had arrived in the East when he ended up in what is now the Caribbean. For all of his faults, the horrific crimes of the Conquistadors would come later, largely after Columbus’s death in 1506. Successive Spanish monarchies later sent expeditions to modern-day Central and South America for purposes of pillaging to enrich the Spanish Empire. This largely did not affect the area we now know as the United States of America, and the man who, from the perspective of Western Civilization, “discovered” the “New World” did not set-out to discover anything new except for a trade route.
That’s why the attempt by the Left to turn Columbus Day into a day of bashing America’s past is historically inaccurate and intellectually dishonest. The primary motivation for Columbus’s famous 1492 voyage was to establish new trade routes, not to exploit and oppress. In fact, it was exploitation and oppression on behalf of a nearly seven-decade long Islamic empire that motivated the voyage in the first place.
Our friends on the Left aren’t nearly as interested in talking about the Islamic State that was before, and scarily may be again, as using an embellished evil image of Christopher Columbus to assault America’s inception.