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Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem Hardcover – September 20, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


'A fascinating trawl through the 15th Century record... 5 stars' - The Scotsman 'Brilliant. Enlightening. The surprise here is not that a vaunted academic like Delaney has written such a deeply researched take on the Columbus legacy, but that she does so with page-turning style, effortlessly transporting the modern reader into the minds and motivations of 15th-century Europe.' Martin Dugard, author of The Last Voyage of Columbus 'A new and provocative interpretation of Columbus. Carol Delaney uses her training as a cultural anthropologist to brilliantly explicate Columbus's strange, apocalyptic world. By being more sensitive to the differentness of the past than most historians, she has written a remarkable work of history, and one that is utterly accessible.' Gordon S. Wood, author of The Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United States 'A welcome reappraisal of Columbus and his legacy.' Kirkus Reviews --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Carol Delaney received an MTS from Harvard Divinity School and a PhD in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Chicago and is a graduate of Boston University. She was the assistant director of the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard, and a visiting professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Brown University. She is now a professor emerita at Stanford University and a research scholar at Brown University.  Delaney is the author of several books, including The Seed and the Soil: Gender and Cosmology in Turkish Village Society, Abraham on Trial: The Social Legacy of Biblical MythNaturalizing Power: Essays in Feminist Cultural Criticism, and Investigating Culture: An Experiential Introduction to Anthropology.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Edition edition (September 20, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781439102329
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439102329
  • ASIN: 1439102325
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,114,583 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Janet L Pelinka on October 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Anyone interested in history, Columbus or merely looking for a good read should pick up this book. Carol Delaney uses the first chapter to chronicle the tumultuous religious wars that preceded the birth of Columbus. She then describes the religious and political atmosphere in which Columbus matured and which convinced him that the apocalypse was near. Delaney's portrayal of Columbus differs from the popular version of a self-absorbed adventurer in quest of gold and glory. Instead, she paints a picture of a very religious man, really a fanatic, with a relentless dive to fund a crusade to reclaim Jerusalem from the Muslims. Her book is extensively researched and filled with fascinating details of the perilous journeys across the Atlantic, and the hardships, betrayals and disappointments that confronted Columbus. The reader learns of his tender devotion to his son, thoughtfulness as master of his ships and of his insistence on fairness in treatment of the natives of the Indies. Delaney gives the reader all of this in a book that reads like a novel, and that makes it difficult to set aside.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Tony Allen on November 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
You'd be wrong if you thought the main goal of Columbus was to find a new route to the East.

Sure, he wanted to find a route to "the Indies." But to understand why Columbus is one of the premier explorers in history, one has to understand his religious faith, and how it was formed by the catastrophes and hopes of the 15th Century.

Columbus believed - he was hardly alone in this - that if he could find a new route to the East, he'd also find the gold that Marco Polo claimed to see in Asia two centuries earlier. The gold, then, would give Columbus the money to finance yet another crusade -50,000 soldiers might do the job - to seize Jerusalem from Muslims. A Jerusalem in Christian hands, so his thinking went, would set the stage for the Second Coming of the Messiah, the Last Days prophesied in the Bible.

Marco Polo had also reported that the Grand Khan of the Asians was much interested in Christianity. For Columbus, this meant the possible conversion of the Grand Khan and all his people to Christianity. Then, the quest to take Jerusalem could include a two-pronged attack: European soldiers on one flank, the Grand Khan's army on the other.

Author Carol Delaney, a professional anthropologist who has taught at both Stanford and Brown, has taken the religious motivations of Columbus and come up with a unique and well-written narrative with appeal to both academic and general readers.

She starts with the most well-known part of the Columbus story: That he found a financial sponsor in Queen Isabella who saw in him a chance to expand the Spanish Empire.

Columbus wasn't trying to prove the world was round. Educated people in Europe knew that, even if his illiterate deckhands did not.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By EarlB on February 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the little-known story of Columbus's ultimate motivation for his life and career. In this scholarly work we read of the admiral's dream to liberate Jerusalem with an Spanish army with the power of the gold he found in the New World.

That isn't all about the most famous discoverer that we will discover in Delaney's twentieth-century masterpiece. In this book we find an academic analysis of the explorer's origins, environment, his own religious ambitions, followed by the role of his passions in the preparation, and duration, of his voyages - and the scandals that stained his name afterwards.

All in all, this is a most enjoyable book. Though not completely consistent, it is well structured, with remarkably helpful notes at the back. It is rather deep in some parts, and might be difficult for one without much knowledge of that time and scenario, or one who begins reading from the middle of the book. And for those who do appreciate this academic victory, it must be noted that some of the conclusions drawn in the book, or their hypothesis, or a lack thereof, might not always appeal - but the information it adds is a treasure for today's historian. Columbus comes to life mare than half a millennium after his death in a new perspective of this hero's life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By R. Thomas on November 14, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very well researched, goes well beyond the current cultural narrative of Columbus as First Exploiter. Neither a condemnation nor a hagiography, captures well the complexities of Columbus and the world at that time.
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Format: Hardcover
In Columbua and the Quest for Jerusalem, Carol Delaney has written a lively, very readable biography of Christopher Columbus, from birth to death, and set it in the context of his times. It is well-documented, and the attributions at the end of the book do not slow down the casual reader but are available to scholars. The bibliography is extensive, and includes Columbus's letters and diaries. Those sources show Columbus not as a conquistador but concerned that the men he had to leave behind, after the Santa Maria went aground, should treat the natives as friends and partners, and as angry and disappointed when he learned they had turned into brutal, greedy masters. It also chronicles the power struggles against him, abroad and at home, that have tarnished his reputation in the modern age. Delaney argues convincingly that, as a deeply religious believer in the immanent Second Coming, Columbus's quest was not riches for himself or his regents, but the funds for a new crusade to restore Jerusalem to Christianity, without which Armageddon would not occur.
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