As is well known, instead of reaching Asia, Columbus stumbled upon the Caribbean islands of the Americas. According to the journal of his voyage, on February 14, Columbus was caught in a storm off the Azores islands. The resulting poor condition of his ship forced him to put in at Lisbon Portugal on March 4, Columbus finally arrived at Palos de la Frontera in Spain eleven days later, on March 15,
But Columbus was not one of them Christopher Columbus carried ideas that boded ill for Indies natives. They had been looking for it—they knew it existed—and, familiar as they were with oceans, they had no difficulty in recognizing it when they saw it.
On their way, however, they saw a good many things they had not been looking for and were not familiar with. When they returned to Spain to tell what they had seen, it was not a simple matter to find words for everything.
They called it a tiger, although there were no tigers in Spain and none of the men had ever seen one before.
Listening to their story was Peter Martyr, member of the King's Council of the Indies and possessor of an insatiable curiosity about the new land that Spain was uncovering in the west. How, the learned man asked them, did they know that the ferocious animal was a tiger?
They answered "that they knewe it by the spottes, fiercenesse, agilitie, and such other markes and tokens whereby auncient writers have described the Tyger. Men, confronted with things they do not recognize, turn to the writings of those who have had a wider experience.
And in it was still assumed that the ancient writers had had a wider experience than those who came after them. Columbus himself had made that assumption.
His discoveries posed for him, as for others, a problem of identification. It seemed to be a question not so much of giving names to new lands as of finding the proper old names, and the same was true of the things that the new lands contained.
Cruising through the Caribbean, enchanted by the beauty and variety of what he saw, Columbus assumed that the strange plants and trees were strange only because he was insufficiently versed in the writings of men who did know them.
Only idiots escape entirely from the world that the past bequeaths. The discovery of America opened a new world, full of new things and new possibilities for those with eyes to see them. But the New World did not erase the Old. Rather, the Old World determined what men saw in the New and what they did with it.
What America became after depended both on what men found there and on what they expected to find, both on what America actually was and on what old writers and old experience led men to think it was, or ought to be or could be made to be. During the decade beforeas Columbus nursed a growing urge to sail west to the Indies—as the lands of China, Japan and India were then known in Europe—he was studying the old writers to find out what the world and its people were like.
Columbus was not a scholarly man. Yet he studied these books, made hundreds of marginal notations in them and came out with ideas about the world that were characteristically simple and strong and sometimes wrong, the kind of ideas that the self-educated person gains from independent reading and clings to in defiance of what anyone else tries to tell him.
The strongest one was a wrong one—namely, that the distance between Europe and the eastern shore of Asia was short, indeed, that Spain was closer to China westward than eastward.
Columbus never abandoned this conviction. And before he set out to prove it by sailing west from Spain, he studied his books to find out all he could about the lands that he would be visiting.
From Marco Polo he learned that the Indies were rich in gold, silver, pearls, jewels and spices. The Great Khan, whose empire stretched from the Arctic to the Indian Ocean, had displayed to Polo a wealth and majesty that dwarfed the splendors of the courts of Europe.
Polo also had things to say about the ordinary people of the Far East. Those in the province of Mangi, where they grew ginger, were averse to war and so had fallen an easy prey to the khan. On Nangama, an island off the coast, described as having "great plentie of spices," the people were far from averse to war: There were, in fact, man-eating people in several of the offshore islands, and in many islands both men and women dressed themselves with only a small scrap of cloth over their genitals.
On the island of Discorsia, in spite of the fact that they made fine cotton cloth, the people went entirely naked. In one place there were two islands where men and women were segregated, the women on one island, the men on the other.
Marco Polo occasionally slipped into fables like this last one, but most of what he had to say about the Indies was the result of actual observation.
Sir John Mandeville's travels, on the other hand, were a hoax—there was no such man—and the places he claimed to have visited in the s were fantastically filled with one-eyed men and one-footed men, dog-faced men and men with two faces or no faces.
But the author of the hoax did draw on the reports of enough genuine travelers to make some of his stories plausible, and he also drew on a legend as old as human dreams, the legend of a golden age when men were good.
He told of an island where the people lived without malice or guile, without covetousness or lechery or gluttony, wishing for none of the riches of this world. They were not Christians, but they lived by the golden rule.
A man who planned to see the Indies for himself could hardly fail to be stirred by the thought of finding such a people. Columbus surely expected to bring back some of the gold that was supposed to be so plentiful.
The spice trade was one of the most lucrative in Europe, and he expected to bring back spices.Letter to King Ferdinand of Spain, describing the results of the first voyage Christopher Columbus () They travelled three days' journey, finding an infinity of small hamlets and people without number, but nothing of importance.
For this reason, they returned. May 18, · A letter written by the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus in that detailed his historic voyage to the New World was formally returned to Italy Wednesday. Letter to King Ferdinand of Spain, describing the results of the first voyage Christopher Columbus () They travelled three days' journey, finding an infinity of small hamlets and people without number, but nothing of importance.
For this reason, they returned. Columbus’ Confusion About the New World Christopher Columbus carried ideas that boded ill for Indies natives. Columbus returned to Spain to bring the news of his discoveries.
The Spanish. Teacher Resource: Full text of Columbus’s letter (PDF) from Select Letters of Christopher Columbus with Other Original Documents Relating to His Four Voyages to the New World, translated and edited by R.
H. Major (London: The Hakluyt Society, ), 1– In Christopher Columbus, in company with his young son, Diego, took passage on a ship from Lisbon to Palos, Spain. As their ship neared its destination, it passed by a beautiful monastery located on a bluff overlooking the sea.