09/12/05 - columbus

In today's excerpt - dramatic new discoveries sometimes take time to have their effect:

"The news of Columbus's return [from discovering the New World] had at first little impact on Spaniards. Like any novelty, it was seized upon by a few writers—notably in Spain by Peter Martyr— and given diffusion among the curious in Europe. Columbus's first report (or 'letter') on his voyage was printed nine times in 1493, and eleven more times by 1500. In the discover's mind there was the inevitable confusion between what he had encountered and what he had hoped to find. The gold samples he brought back spoke, however, for themselves, and stimulated the sending of a second, more serious expedition, which left Cadiz in September 1493. ...  In 1498-1500, he reached Trinidad and the mainland (or Tierra Firma) of South America, and in 1502-1504, he scouted the coast of Honduras and the Isthmus of Panama. But after the first of these he and members of his family were sent home in irons, as a consequence of serious disputes among the settlers of Hispaniola. And the final sailing was conspicuous by its failure to discover anything significantly new.

"Columbus died rich but disappointed in 1506. The new lands seemed to offer no quick route to Asia, as he hoped [and in fact Columbus never realized that his discovery was not adjacent to Asia] and the available wealth included gold and a few slaves but no spices [then deemed the most valuable prize] ..."


Henry Kamen


Empire: How Spain Became a World Power, 1492-1763


First Perennial


Copyright 2004 by Henry Kamen


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