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Columbus’s Ultimate Goal: Jerusalem (2006) [pdf] (amherst.edu)
25 points by danielam 35 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 17 comments



Ms. Delaney has also written a full-length book, "Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem", which I haven't read all the way through but which appears to be a more thorough treatment of the material covered in this article.

(Disclaimer: personally acquainted with the author.)


For some reason, in the English wikipedia article for Christopher Columbus [1] you can read: "Christopher Columbus... was an Italian master navigator who...".

On the other hand, the article about the theories of Christopher Columbus' origin [2] says: "The exact ethnic or national origin of Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) has been a source of speculation since the 19th century".

Considering this, and the fact that Italy became the nation we know around the 19th century, I wonder why the (semi-protected) article reads like that. I think it should be updated.

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Columbus [2] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origin_theories_of_Christopher...


Italians identified as Italians way before Italy was a state, Italia as a region was defined in the roman empire, and the populace recognize unity even under the different domination and independent kingdoms that rose and fall until unification.

There's also no doubt about Columbus origin, there's a bunch of rumors and propaganda amplified by people repeating them as if these are well researched theories - notice instead how a Norwegian is claiming it's Norwegian, a Portuguese it's claiming it's Portuguese, a Polish is claiming it's Polish.. and quite many of these writing were wrote during the rise of ultranationalisms across Europe. Not hard to figure out the pattern there.

Shame having to defend his Italianità after the tragedy of his actions, but still.


It's funny to observe how in these nationalistic debates about great figures in history, it's always Germans arguing that the person in German, Poles arguing that the person is Polish, Slovenians arguing that the person in Slovenian, etc. If these were honest debates, there might be a Pole arguing that the person is German, a German arguing that they're Slovenian, and a Slovenian arguing that they're Polish.

The most bitter debate I've ever seen of this nature is about the nationality of Copernicus. He lived in Royal Prussia, an autonomous dependency of the Kingdom of Poland. His native language was German, but he wrote in Latin, and he's known by the Latinized form of his name. He studied in Bologna. So was he Prussian, Polish, German or could Italy perhaps claim him? Or does none of this matter, because he was born long before the age of nationalism?



ah! I've fallen for Copernicus as well.

it's funny it's not like I ever had a debate or read about his nationality, until the topic came up with some Pole while talking about Chopin he also went and you know who else? Marie Curie and Copernicus and then it struck me we always call him "Nicola Copernico" in the school curricula (at least we used to in the nineties) and I just assumed it was Italian by name association alone, without even inquiring about his origins until much later in life, as the topic dropped.

I think a lot of these kind of factoid form into people mind for "absence of correction" more than active research on the topic.


I don't know if it was intentional, but Copernicus and Marie Curie-Skłodowska in an "who else" sentence like that sounds like partial setup for a well-known polish joke/meme from the movie "Sexmission", where few men wake up from cold sleep far in the future after war, to find a society composed of only women. Treated like curios, there happens a dialogue that essentially goes:

(man, defending the idea that men could have produced exceptional works):

  M1: "For example Copernicus"
  W: "Liar, Copernicus was a woman!"
  M1: "And Einstein?"
  W: "was a woman too!"
  M1: "And maybe Marie Curie-Skłodowska too!?"
  M2: "uh, that was not the best example"
  M1: "they confused me..."
I'd say a pretty obvious test for "nationality" of Copernicus would be the fact that he fought on polish side in the wars in Prussia, as the royal prussian protectorate didn't exist at the time. But if you look using a later map, you might get confused on that.

As for naming, at least in some circles it used to be the norm to use local language forms of names - this for example led to such "polonized" names like

  "William Szekspir" = William Shakespeare
  "George Waszyngton" = George Washington, etc.
Chopin ends up a curious case since he is written and spoken the french way, without any mangling.


I heard of that film but I can't seem to find good subtitles for that particular movie. I've seen precious few actually, among which of course "How I started world war II"


I don't know about Columbus in particular, but most famous people like him have people from different countries continuously edit warring over which country gets to "claim" him. I'll check the talk page ... yep, half the talk is arguing about this.

(As an American, I find this phenomenon extremely silly and very foreign feeling. I don't really care whether "my" ancestors get credit for something or not, especially given that national boundaries and people move around all the time. I find it vaguely nationalistic in the ugly sense. Maybe it's because there were plenty of great Americans who were clearly not born here in the first place?)


> (As an American, I find this phenomenon extremely silly and very foreign feeling. I don't really care whether "my" ancestors get credit for something or not, especially given that national boundaries and people move around all the time. I find it vaguely nationalistic in the ugly sense. Maybe it's because there were plenty of great Americans who were clearly not born here in the first place?)

Most of the countries in the America are largely populated by immigrants and their descendants, and have a relatively shallow history of culture [1], which gives them few opportunities to engage in these arguments, and little reason to care about the result.

[1] I should note here that the fact that the modern countries do not derive authority from any pre-existing indigenous polities gives them little influence in the development of culture.


> As an American, I find this phenomenon extremely silly and very foreign feeling.

As the great British statesman George Washington once said: “Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.”


There is a subsection of the amusing "lamest edit wars" page dedicated to this phenomenon https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Lamest_edit_wars/E...


Very tangential: wondering what Montaigne had to say about the New World led me to his OF CANNIBALS (somewhat in the genre of Tacitus' Germania), in which I learned that Seneca had foreshadowed Monty Python's Black Knight.

"sed etiam si cecidit de genu pugnat": And when he falls he fights on his knees. (On Providence II.VI)

compare https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRwCPUEND1U


It's interesting that the author seems to think that focusing on the religiousness of Columbus somehow mitigates the horror of what he did, as if any religious person of the time would have behaved the same way, but there were other religious people with him who objected strenuously to his treatment of native americans and slavery.


Columbus’ poor treatment of the natives is a popular myth. He actually rigorously promoted their well-being (to the disappointment of his men), to the point where his soldiers chained him and sent him back to Spain on a boat to be rid of him.

This author (a practicing anthropologist) has a book going into more detail about his treatment of the natives.


> As governor and viceroy of the Indies, Columbus imposed iron discipline on what is now the Caribbean country of Dominican Republic, according to documents discovered by Spanish historians in 2005. In response to native unrest and revolt, Columbus ordered a brutal crackdown in which many natives were killed; in an attempt to deter further rebellion, Columbus ordered their dismembered bodies to be paraded through the streets.

https://www.history.com/news/columbus-day-controversy


Well, it's not surprising giving the time period and the Chivalric ideas that went with it. (Late Medieval period) The Reconquista had just finished up in Spain, and the Ottomans were now bursting on the scene in the Eastern Mediterranean. Columbus was a bit of a Zealot and believed that god spoke to him personally.




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