The Villany of Christopher Columbus

UPDATE: Columbus Day is coming up and that is always the busiest day of the year for this blog post.  I would like to offer a disclaimer; I realize the information presented here is one-sided.  My goal was to offset some of the hero worship associated with Christopher Columbus.  All the good stuff you’ve probably heard before.  I simply want informed readers to balance what they already know with these facts, which perhaps you are hearing about for the first time.

As a history teacher, I feel obligated to inform the masses that Columbus was a dirty old man.  I’m sure in the fifth grade, your history book had a little painting of Christopher Columbus, all smiles as he met the Native Americans, and they shook hands.  We celebrate Columbus Day to recognize his discovery of the New World.  Back that tape up in your mind, let me give you some more facts.

In the first place, he was Italian, and we have Americanized his name.  How many guys named Christopher come from Italy?  Secondly, not only was he not looking for a new world, he refused to believe he had found one.  He hoped to get rich by discovering a new trade route to the Indies, and denied the speculation of some in his time that what he had found was a whole new continent.  Columbus made a total of 4 passages, and swore on his death bed that we had reached the Indies.  Thirdly, and the reason he was on his deathbed, was the syphilis he had contracted from raping Native American women.  That’s right, he died of VD.

And what of the legacy he left behind?  Spanish missionary Bartoleme de las Casas was on one of Columbus’s subsequent voyages.  He describes in vivid detail watching helplessly from on board the ship as 20 hunting greyhounds devoured Native Americans at a rate of about 100 per hour.  Later explorers would slaughter hundreds of millions of innocent persons in our “maifest destiny” to claim the New World.  (How exactly does one “discover” a new land that has millions of people already living there?)  Countless societies in Africa would later be completely devastated by the slave trade.  We live in a powerful, prosperous land, that was taken from Native Americans by force and built up on the backs of slave labor.  All made possible by our hero, Christopher Columbus.  Tell your children that story before bed tonight.

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48 thoughts on “The Villany of Christopher Columbus

  1. His real name was Cristobal Colon. I think Christopher Columbus is more of a latinization than an americanization, but sure.
    I have never been able to understand the racists and anti-immigration movements in USA. I mean, of course I’ve never understood them anywhere. But in the States it’s just specifically stupid. How dare they complain that “other peoples are taking over our country”? Isn’t that what you did a few hundred years ago?
    Very good blog post. Me like.

  2. For some reason, I have never liked Columbus. In my mind, he never really discovered the new world, just a few little islands in the ocean. Not to mention that Leif Erikson had already found Canada…

    I don’t know whether or not Columbus was really horrible. I do know that a lot of things set in motion by his voyage were very bad. Why can’t we just give him credit for propelling three little ships across the ocean instead of fussing about how righteous he was or how wicked he was?

    BTW, thanks for visiting my blog, Beautiful Grace.

    -Maria

  3. My son’s second grade books discussing European voyagers of the “discovery” period mentions the vikings voyage not being very well known or believed at the time. Perhaps we should say Columbus accidentally re-discovered the Americas. Since it was a “discovery” to the “civilized” world. All things need to be viewed in context at the times to children. When they are older they can better understand the issues this “discovery” brought. It is odd, this dichotomy that exists around Columbus, hero and villan in one man. Still being a sailor myself, anyone who sailed as far as he did in unknown conditions to unknown destination was gutsy if nothing else.

  4. Exedlylyday has been indoctrinated by the public school system. Columbus is the perfect example of revisionist history. Just because we all learned it kindergarden doesn’t make it so. George Washington never cut down a cherry tree either. Anyone want to call me out on that one?

    I’m not saying everything you read on Widepedia is true either, but their article on Columbus isn’t bad. In this entry on Columbus, you can read statements like this: “During his second voyage, Columbus and his men instituted a policy in Hispaniola which has been referred to by numerous historians as genocide.”

  5. And the truth rears its ugly head.

    What’s funny is that spammers are typically trying to drive traffic to their sites, or to sites that have paid them to increase revenue. Exedlylyday links back to google. Google gets more hits than anything on the web; what’s the point?

  6. christoffa corombo was awesome im glad that man lived amd i hope to see more people like him in the future

  7. No American can call the man a villian. He lived in tough times. He couldnt have contracted siffilis from American native women. Siffilis was a European disease that was introduced by the sailors to the natives and in so doing wiped out large colonies such as in the Polinesean Islands these people had no immunity to this desease whatsoever.
    To blame slavery on Columbus is lidicurous. Some history teacher you are… The man was a hero.

  8. As a history teacher i liked the title. This is exactly what I would say. However, I when I teach I balance the man’s life by discussion the good and the bad. I totally agree that he could not have discovered the ‘new world’ when civilizations existed there that were older than baby Europe’s. All history books talk about the genocide of an entire race, so this is not a hidden fact. Syphilis was a European disease, so he could not have contracted it from an Awarak woman; but he and his band did give it to the natives.

  9. For the most part he is an image of George W Bush. They both invaded other countries were in it for the money and Disgraced anthor ethnicity

  10. Except when Bush (actually the United States) invaded another country, we set up a democratic government made up of elected Iraqi citizens. It would only be the same as Columbus if Bush had killed all the Iraqis, then exploited their resources.

  11. I’m sorry, but you arent the brightest history teacher in the shed are you??? I’m an 11th grader and know the facts better than this. Siphilis is european. Columbus didnt die from it either. Go study all your “facts” before you post them. His main reason for his journey was because he thought God had told him to go. His reason for his voyage was religious. Sure, millions died. Not saying that was right, but not all was Columbus’ fault. Did he really think that MILLIONS would be slaughtered before he left for his first voyage? Go do more research.

  12. Nope, syphilis is indeed from the Americas and swept through Europe and Asia like crazy. Chinese had it by 1493! And they thought trade was slow! Of course we traded the natives small pox for it so I guess we came out better…. Columbus was not a horrible man. For the times he was no more or less cruel than your average man. He did indeed think he arrived in some unknown part of Asia but then again the Portugese hadn’t arrived back from India until 1501 so who was to tell him any different? He was the first European to be widely recognized for “discovering” the New World. Had the Vikings established colonies and developed trade Columbus wouldn’t matter but the world changed drastically following his voyage and for that he is worth noting. I certainly wouldn’t be here typing on a computer in the US without him or someone like him!

  13. He is worth noting, for sure. I’m just trying to keep the hero worship in check. True, he was no more horrible than the average European of the times, but that was pretty bad. Europeans discovered a “new world” that already had millions of people living in it, killed them off to take the land, and then built this great nation on the backs of slave laborers brought from Africa. That’s all I’m saying.

  14. Christopher Columbus is the one who discovered the new world also nobody in the old world actually knew that there was such thing . so in 1492 is when Christopher Columbus finally got the money to get three boats and he and his crew. started the biggest voyage of all time oh and hes the one who discovered indians .

  15. Christopher Columbus is a genocidal mass murderer and the world’s first serial killer. I don’t know why people celebrate this horrible man. I describe him as the Jeffrey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy of the 1400s. He enslaved, killed butchered millions of Indians. He does not deserve a holiday and Columbus Day should be abolished.

  16. i am in 5th grade and we are working on our explorers unit and 3 of my friends picked Christipher Columbus. i picked frediand magellon. -dont know how to spell 1st name

  17. That would be Ferdinand Megellan. While he gets credit for sailing all the way around the world, only his crew actually made it. Megellan got involved in a war in the Phillippines, and was killed. His crew continued to Europe and did in fact circumnavigate the globe.

  18. Hi! My name is Hunter Copelan, and I am going to be competing in a technology fair. I want to use a picture i found on your website for my project, and i needed your permission to do so. Is this okay? Thanks.

  19. dude,you seriously go after some ghost bones,try to get first hawkish corporate pirates and war and genocide criminals living in your own lifetime,and after write dythirambic panegyrics at dead merchant sailors looking to trade farther than the neighbor fleets of merry-go-lucky portuguese.These navigators had no idea what or whom they will find,how to trade fairly for the locals and less of all if to rule them,doing it free of all the above prejudices,since you are so modern and full of christian PC,you should know that only a few friars back then had the liver to protest against.And to expect PC BS as this will take many centuries to come to your level to bark back even at Julius Caesar or his scrupulous killer senators for lack of morals.They still celebrate Napoleon in France,though a killer for others.You must be another halfbreed son of a native and conquistador,with some issues against why daddy left you and mommy,or killed her former man.Don’t they have a name for such?

  20. This article remains the most read thing I’ve ever written, and I certainly did not intend for that to happen. All I wanted to do was take the edge off of some of the hero worship. Columbus did not set out to discover the “new world,” and refused to believe he had done so even when others realized it. He wrote in his journal that each island he landed on was claimed for Spain, despite the fact that many people obviously lived on each one. In 1493 he brought colonists (and soldiers) to begin colonizing the territories for Spain. Europe was coming out of the Middle Ages, and the world was obviously a different place AND I KNOW THIS. This post was meant to offer balance to a very one-sided way of thinking that places Christopher Columbus next to George Washington, Neal Armstrong, Jesus and Gandhi. He was just a man, and a somewhat dirty old greedy one at that.

  21. I am half Iroquois/Seneca.
    What history teachers and crazy people tell us untruth.
    Columbus was a weak, white man that brought the gospel to a small group of Indians.
    We did NOT hate him.
    Less than 20 Native American Indians DECIDED to go back to EU with Columbus, he did not enslave anyone; there were less than 100 white men from EU, there was no place possible that he could enslave a whole nation/nations with less than 100 sickly men.

    Please stop distorting the facts , thank you.

  22. Bartoleme de las Casas was a missionary that came with Columbus on his third voyage. He watched helplessly from the deck of the ship while 20 greyhound dogs ripped up over 100 natives alive. I would hardly say that Columbus brought the gospel. Columbus’s first voyage was one of exploration, albeit he was looking for a shortcut to the Indonesia in order to strike it rich in the spice trade. On his second voyage he commanded a fleet of 17 ships, 100 settlers and Spanish soldiers.

    Finally, Columbus landed on several islands of the Caribbean and never the North American mainland. The Iroquois are from between the Great Lakes to the what is now New York. Exactly who are you calling “we?”

  23. Thank You for posting this. Im in a american school in England, and my teacher was saying the same thing about Christopher Columbus, He also took credit for sighting land when it was actually one of his crew, so technically, even no-one else had ever been on the islands, it still would not have been him ‘discovered’ the Bahamas

  24. You’re kind of a disgrace for teaching such a thing.

    I’m sure you teach that Native American Indians were all peace-loving people with a “noble” culture who simply harvested Veggies (never meat) and danced around all day with neighboring tribes singing to Mother Earth, right? (And they had syphilis, too. Thanks for pointing that out.)

    It’s no wonder that this generation has no sense of adventure and discovery (except for homosexual sexual adventures, I guess) and our space program is starving for attention. We will go nowhere with this kind of Howard Zinn-inspired Marxist excrement.

    Thanks for destroying our kids minds with this nonsense. Get out of teaching. Immediately. Thanks.

  25. I’m a disgrace for teaching that Columbus brought 17 ships in 1493 in order to colonize the Caribbean Islands? He brought hundreds of settlers and armed soldiers to take Native American land by force, planting the Spanish flag on dozens of islands. He “discovered” a land that had millions of people already living on it, which he disregarded as being people by his standards because they didn’t look, dress and speak like he did. The real disgrace would be to go teaching the fairy tale that he was a nice guy who discovered the new world and everybody was happy about it.

    Perhaps the disgrace is that educated adults can’t have a civil discussion about historical figures without shouting and calling names. Without historical references to back up his claims, Chris resorts to calling me a homosexual Marxist. I am an ordained minister with a degree in history and political science. You are entitled to your point of view, but that doesn’t make all others excrement.

  26. Clark, Columbus was a human being. He was a 15th Century Man. He was not a Modern. Stop judging him by those standards. And no one said he was a “nice guy.”

    There is a lot of anger to go around when it comes to brutal conquest, BTW.

    I’m still PO’d about the Romans invading my ancestor’s homeland, Celtic Britain, and brutally ruling with an iron fist for centuries. I’m upset also about the Angles, Saxons and Jutes invading my ancestor’s land (Roman Britain) and slaughtering, raping and pillaging the land Rome generously civilized. I’m still angry about the godless, brutal Vikings invading and pillaging and raping my noble Anglo/Saxon/Jute ancestors. Those MONSTERS! And what gave the French Normans the RIGHT to subjugate and rule my British and Viking ancestors after 1066! And we all know about those murdering thugs, the British Imperial army, and what they did in the 1760s and 1770s in the totally peaceful American colonies. Horrid.

    In short, this is a very, very old story.The Modern Marxist Left need to grow up and stop turning every non-American, non-white civilization into perpetual victims. Our ancestors were ALL victims of SOMEONE in the past. But we must not remain so, NOW, by holding centuries-old grudges, or fomenting them in the classroom. That’s criminal.

    Let’s stop exaggerating, too. One radio commentator said Americans killed 60 million buffalo in one 10 year period in the 19th century. Absurd and impossible.

    While they’re at it, they should stop demonizing Western civilization and glorifying and whitewashing the Natives as perpetually peaceful – including justifying the savage, bloodthirsty cannibalism of the Incas as “culturally different, but okay.” for example, as one British TV docudramarian went out of his way to do, which was patently absurd.

  27. The difference is that they don’t celebrate Roman Empire Day in England. And yes, many people have said he was a nice guy. Watch a 5th grade filmstrip. Go to kindergarten and color a picture of him. Everybody’s smiling and trading glass beads.

    I didn’t say Columbus was not a man, nor claim he was modern. The Aztec were much more brutal when it comes to human sacrifice than the Incas, but I did not indicate either was acceptable. You’re putting words in my mouth that you can easily argue against; that’s called a strawman. If you’re going to call me a Modern Marxist Leftist (I don’t know why people keep doing that) then please respond to the arguments I made. We celebrate Christopher Columbus each year in October; I’m asking what we’re celebrating exactly? MLK Day, Independence Day, Veterans Day, Columbus Day: one of these things is not like the others.

  28. For someone who claimed he was “nice” when that wasn’t what anyone here said, you can’t bring up a straw man.

    You failed to see him as a mere flawed man, and rather implied here that our vision of him as a God-like mythological figure that was blinding people to his faults, when in fact they are well known at this point. The entire essay applies our modern views of racial tolerance to him and his culture as a measure of worth, which is a faulty historical practice. And it makes my Roman analogy perfectly correct. We didn’t live then, and can’t retroactively put anyone on trial. (Though we surely CAN learn from them and not repeat their behavior.)

    Columbus needs to be honored as an explorer. For his civilization, he DID discover land in the Western Hemisphere. Good for him. We don’t have to love the man’s politics, his typically 15th century racial views or anything else to honor that basic fact of his sense of adventure.

    And you’re right, it was the Aztecs to which I was referring.

  29. Chris,

    I think we both want the same thing, and that is for people to look at the facts and know the truth rather than just believing what “everyone else” says. As long as people’s view is not one-sided, realizing that he did some things right and others wrong, then I will be happy. Same with George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and every other historical figure. They were each human beings in their time, none of them should have alters built in their names. I wrote this on Columbus Day back in 2008; this conversation has now been going on for two years, and if you read each comment it’s all just the same thing over and over. I will soon turn off the comments for this post; you can have one more turn if you’d like.

  30. Clark,
    I am thankful for one, that you are bringing to light many diverse details and raise the question should Christobal Colon be an american hero. Truth is never scary but partial truths are. I agree that this man was a mixed bag for his day – wanting to get gold and yet appearing to come in the name of the Lord! Conquest of land is a fact I wish he could have done it without the destroying people. I don’t know why he would do that. Later in his life, he was the governer of Dominican Republic. The people there love him and the memory of him. So why would he wipe out the tribes early on? Honor is a strange thing. Some kind of way we americans wanted to honor him. I will continue to study this historical figure more.

  31. just wrote an essay on Columbus and preached in church, if you get a chance let me know what you think, I think that for Spain’s history August 2nd is just as important as August 3rd 1492.

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