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The Four Voyages of Christopher Columbus (Classics) Kindle Edition
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The content is taken from log entries and letters during the voyages and chapters from Columbus' biography written by his son. Much of the text was written by people that were there experiencing the voyages and writing about them which gives this a first hand feel you won't find elsewhere. Some interesting parts are those that reveal Columbus' devotion to religion and interest in world geography. At the time Columbus was making the case for a smaller Earth because he was convinced "the mainland" (South America) was Asia.
Overall this was difficult to get through and lacks much of the drama and excitement that would have occurred on the voyages. It also assumes the reader has some idea of the background history.
I would recommend it only as a supplemental book to those that are interested in the discovery of the new world and would like to read Columbus' own words.
Cohen’s translation is outstanding. I found it very easy reading, and a real page-turner, to boot. Five Stars.
The Introduction, coming from a translator of literature rather than a historian, is rather uninspiring; however, he does provide a rather thorough rebuttal of the argument, made by many supporters of Bartolome de Las Casas and referred to without explanation by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto in COLUMBUS, that Hernando Colon's work is a forgery. Indeed, since it appeared long before Las Casas' HISTORY was published, the issue of forgery may go in the other direction!
The book, through early Spanish sources, looks at the rumor that Columbus relied on the map of an ailing Portuguese sailor. It makes plain Columbus' error in thinking he was near Japan (Chipangu) and his belief that he would reach Cathay! We see his rather innocent introduction to the potent tobacco plant and how the natives fed his belief that gold, pearl and spices were nearby.
Columbus is shown to be of mixed character: on the one hand, he generally seems to respect the natives he meets and makes an alliance with one chieftain against the 'cannibal' Caribs. On the other, he takes several natives captive (to have them trained in Spanish so that they can serve as translators on future voyages), gives some Carib women to his men (who raped them as in the case of the vile Michele de Cuneo) and discusses conquest and enslavement of idolators [not particularly shocking considering the long history of conflicts and mutual enslavement between the muslim moors of Spain & Northern Africa and the Christians of Spain & Portugal].
Columbus' biggest problem appears to be his tendency to leave his men (39 on the first voyage) as colonies while he explores elsewhere. Whenver he returns, the natives have either killed the colonists or were at war with them - often due to the Spaniards' greed and licentiousness. Indeed, at one point, he leaves his brother in charge and the Spaniards, being forbidden to sleep with the native women revolt and found a rebel colony where the women were supposed to be more accomodating! Columbus ultimately is forced into an accomodation with these Spaniards and eventually conquers the natives. We also see the separate voyage of Ovando to Hispaniola and the beginnings of the gold mines. Columbus, not unlike a number of his successors, suffered arrest and trial and, after his last voyage, was deprive of power and authority.
Columbus' voyages, following in the footsteps of the Henrican discoveries, would likely have eventually been made by someone but Columbus seems especially driven to exploration. It was an unfortunate fact that he was also a very poor (and often absent) governor. His actions, sometimes courageous and thoughtful, sometimes harsh and reflexive probably represent the more civilized men of his time - when the Middle Ages was just ending, slavery and religious wars continued in Spain, Portugal, North Africa and Italy, and people were still being burned at the stake for heresy.