Article Review: Columbus, The Indians, and Human Progress
The article “Columbus, The Indians and Human Progress” by Howard Zinn presents real facts of the exploration and discovery of the world by Europeans and how they conquered and ruled over the world. The article throws light on the great misconception that the lands discovered and explored by European explorers were uncivilized bare wastelands. On the contrary these were the lands of great traditions, society and in many ways better than European civilizations. In many of the cases the atrocities shown by great personalities like Columbus is coveted instead of becoming a matter of concern for modern civilization. The article also highlights that the reality of all the brutalities met upon the natives the “Indies” are not even taught in the modern day history books. This article tells the reader of how history can be distorted and makes it clear as how stories of brutality can become a subject of celebration through blatant omission.
If the world history of civilization is scrutinized in totality, it is evident that the so called “more” civilized nations always tried to discover, conquer and rule others by forceful ways. Examples can be drawn from what happened in Latin America, Egypt, New Zealand and many other African and Asian countries (Dirks).
The widely accepted truth is that Christopher Columbus was adventurous and a trust worthy Christian (Ife). He was the first to land on the Caribbean Islands and first to discover the “Indians”. However, some documents put this claim to test. Abu al- Hassan al-Masudi a great Muslim Historian wrote that one voyage sailed from port Delba, the same port from which Columbus took sail several years later, in 889 and the voyage was continued for months towards west (Dirks). Ultimately the voyagers discovered the Americas and established business relation before coming back to Spain. In the map drafted by these voyagers the Indies were identified as “the unknown land” (Morgan).
But surprisingly historians many times keep silent on the reality and they portray the rosy sides in the books and keep common people in dark. Columbus’s main aim was to explore the sources of gold which became the most prominent resource for prosperity in Spain (Ife). Spain had achieved a union only very recently and aristocracy ruled a majority, who were peasants. Like England, Portugal and France, 2 percent of the inhabitants possessed 95 percent of the land, and gold became more useful for any kind of business and transaction.
The article very clearly points out the bloodshed that Columbus caused, quoting documented dialogues from his own accompanying voyager Bartolome de Las Casas, who documented the whole Cuban invasion. He documented the war and the taking of men, women and children as slaves and ruthless killings of Indians by Spaniards. Men died in mines looking for gold, women died of over work and children of malnutrition, but all to Columbus’s indifference.
At some instances Columbus showed in-humanity for his fellow mates like Rodrigo, who originally spotted the island of Bahamas; and was entitled to obtain an annual post retirement allowance of 10,000 maravedis for life but Columbus declared to have spotted the islands and claimed the pension instead (Zinn).
It is very clear from this article that Columbus was not as he was painted, and there is ample of evidence elsewhere in documented history, which is either omitted or not mentioned at all. Glorification is a human tendency but one must be shown both sides of the story before it can be bestowed. The article forces the reader to question beliefs and expand the horizon of thinking, breaking up the box built by the common place.
Zinn, H. History Is A Weapon: A People’s History of The United States. HistoryIsAWeapon.com. 2010. Accessed 6 Oct, 2013
Ife, B.W. Introduction to Christopher Columbus, Journal of the first voyage. Early Modern Spain. ems.kcl.ac.uk. 12 Dec. 2005. Accessed 7 Oct, 2013.
Dirks , J. Muslims in American History . Beltsville, MD: Amana Publications. 2006. Accessed 7 Oct, 2013
Morgan, M. Lost History. Washington D.C.: National Geographic Society. 2007. Accessed 7 Oct, 2013