Each year around Columbus day, we are bombarded with articles about how terrible Columbus was. The issue did not register with me. I figured because so many people hated him, he probably was not a man worth venerating. Then I watched a YouTube video that very reasonably presented new facts I had never heard before. I began to be curious if he really was as bad as people made him out to be. However, as I interacted with people who had very strong opinions about Columbus, none of them could really give me any details about his actual story. If you ask your average Columbus hater for a brief outline of what happened on his 3rd voyage, they would probably just stare at you confused. They were just parroting what they read on Buzzfeed or what someone else had told them. I realized that I was no better than them. So, I decided it might be worth my while to read a recent biography on the man at the center of so much controversy. The most recent I found was "Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem" by Carol Delaney. I had no idea what I was getting into! Little did I realize I was going to stumble into one of the most incredible stories I had ever read and begin a two year long research project due to this fascination.
As a sailor myself, with a love for the ocean and exploration, the story grabbed me from beginning to end. It is like every great sailing adventure story wrapped into one person. His story has everything from shipwrecks, to mutiny, to being marooned on an island for a year, to political intrigue, religion, sex, betrayal and all of this taking place against the backdrop of some of the most fascinating, exotic and beautiful coastlines in the world, where mankind was still living in a primeval state. When you add on top of that the historical and sociological significance of two entirely unconnected civilizations coming into contact with one another, the result is simply a story that defies equality.
But was Delaney's book accurate? I decided to read multiple other biographies including "Columbus The 4 Voyages" by Laurence Bergreen and probably the most famous biography "Admiral of the Ocean Sea" by Samuel Elliot Morrison. I decided to read all of these biographies along with some other shorter biographies and read primary sources as found in books like "The Four Voyages: Being His Own Log-Book, Letters and Dispatches with Connecting Narratives" and "Historia de las Indias" by Bartolome de Las Casas. I went through his life month by month from 1492 onward and found that Delaney's amazing story was indeed accurate and as incredible as I originally thought.
After almost 2 years on this project I did not want to forget all the things I researched. I decided to put together a series of short articles telling the story as best I could based on my reading of these incredible biographers and the primary sources. What follows is my understanding of the Columbus story based on my research and accounts. I believe that my account is accurate to the facts but am open to revisions if needed. I welcome any feedback and encourage any and all to go to the primary historical sources for more details on any aspects of this fascinating story. Click Here to begin reading part one of this incredible story. It all begins with Christianity and the Sea.