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Long overdue in the eyes of many scholars, this comprehensive examination into the life of Christopher Columbus rehearses the many alternative theories of Columbus’s origins and the objections each has to the Italian theory of his birth. School children around the world are taught that Christopher Columbus was Italian, or, more precisely, a Genoese who sailed to the New World for the Spanish only because that country’s sovereigns gave him the money for the project; many scholars throughout history, however, have ...
Long overdue in the eyes of many scholars, this comprehensive examination into the life of Christopher Columbus rehearses the many alternative theories of Columbus’s origins and the objections each has to the Italian theory of his birth. School children around the world are taught that Christopher Columbus was Italian, or, more precisely, a Genoese who sailed to the New World for the Spanish only because that country’s sovereigns gave him the money for the project; many scholars throughout history, however, have cast doubt onto this version of the explorer’s story. After digging up these counter-cultural theories and discussing their individual merits and prejudices, this scholarly investigation selects the theory most likely to be true: Christopher Columbus was a Catalan, born in the principality of Catalonia, a member of a family hostile to the dynasty that ruled his newly united country.
Posted August 6, 2009
I've read several bestseller mystery novels this summer, and enjoyed just as much Merrill's non-fiction detective story about the origins and identity of Columbus. (He drew me into the story as well as Stieg Larsson did.) This book is a great place to be introduced to several centuries worth of scholarship on Columbus's origins. Merrill helps us look at the documentary evidence for all the possibilities, and then lays out a very compelling, well-documented, well-reasoned argument that Columbus was a native Catalan-speaker surnamed Colom.
Dr. Merrill thoughtfully and critically addresses all the points raised by the anonymous "Columbus was Genoese" reviewer. The reviewer simply, uncritically repeats the received academic "wisdom" of the past several centuries.
This book should appear at least in the top 10 of search results for "Columbus". I paged through several hundred results and never saw the book. Maybe I missed it, or maybe it wasn't there. I knew to look for "Colom", so I found it. "Columbus origins" also worked.
Disclaimer: Chuck and I hitchhiked north from Salamanca in the fall of 1969 on our own journey of discovery. We've stayed in intermittent, irregular contact since then. I was looking for some Columbus material to use with my high school Spanish classes a couple of years ago, when I was surprised to find Merrill in a Discovery Channel video about the Columbus origins, and a chance telephone conversation with him a couple of weeks ago let me know that his book had been published last winter. If not for our relationship, I wouldn't know the book existed. It really belongs in all public, university, and private libraries that have any materials about Columbus and certainly at or near the top of any list of scholarly reviews of the literature on the origins of Christopher Columbus.
Posted February 9, 2009
In "Christopher Columbus," Univ. of Okla. Press (1987), pp. 10-11, Gianni Granzotto lists the following information from documents written by contemporaries of Columbus: <BR/>1. Pietro Martire d'Angera (Peter Martyr) was the earliest of Columbus's chroniclers and was in Barcelona when Columbus returned from his first voyage. In his letter of May 14, 1493, addressed to Giovanni Borromeo, he referred to Columbus as Ligurian ["vir Ligur"], Liguria being the Region where Genoa is located. <BR/>2. A reference, dated 1492 by a court scribe Galindez, referred to Columbus as "Cristóbal Colón, genovés." <BR/>3. In "History of the Catholic Kings," Andrés Bernaldez wrote: "Columbus was a man who came from the land of Genoa." <BR/>4. In "General and Natural History of the Indies," Bartolomé de Las Casas asserted his "Genoese nationality."<BR/>5. In a book of the same title, Gonzalo de Fernández de Oviedo wrote that Columbus was "originating from the province of Liguria." <BR/><BR/>Samuel Eliot Morison wrote the following in Chapter II of "Admiral of the Ocean Sea," pp.7-8.<BR/><BR/>"There is no mystery about the birth, family or race of Christopher Columbus. ... There is no more reason to doubt that Christopher Columbus was a Genoese-born Catholic Christian, ... Every contemporary Spaniard or Portuguese who wrote about Columbus and his discoveries calls him Genoese. Three contemporary Genoese chroniclers claim him as a compatriot. Every early map on which his nationality is recorded describes him as Genoese. Nobody in the Admiral's lifetime, or for three centuries after, had any doubt about his birthplace.<BR/>If, however, you suppose that these facts would settle the matter, you fortunately know little of the so-called 'literature' on the 'Columbus Question.' By presenting farfetched hypotheses and sly innuendos as facts, by attacking documents of proven authenticity as false, by fabricating others (such as the famous Pontevedra documents), and drawing unwarranted deductions from things that Columbus said or did, he has been presented as Castilian, Catalan, Corsican, Majorcan, Portuguese, French, German, English, Greek, and Armenian." <BR/><BR/>Morison noted that many existing legal documents demonstrate the Genoese origin of Columbus, his father Domenico, and his brothers Bartolomeo and Giacomo (Diego). On page 14, Morison wrote: <BR/>"Besides these documents from which we may glean facts about Christopher's early life, there are others which identify the Discoverer as the son of Domenico the wool weaver, beyond the possibility of doubt. For instance, Domenico had a brother Antonio, like him a respectable member of the lower middle class in Genoa. Antonio had three sons: Matteo, Amigeto and Giovanni, who was generally known as Giannetto (the Genoese equivalent of 'Johnny'). Giannetto, like Christopher, gave up a humdrum occupation to follow the sea. . In 1496 the three brothers met in a notary's office at Genoa and agreed that Johnny should go to Spain and seek out his first cousin 'Don Cristoforo de Colombo, Admiral of the King of Spain,' each contributing one third of the traveling expenses. This quest for a job was highly successful. The Admiral gave Johnny command of a caravel on the Third Voyage to America, and entrusted him with confidential matters as well."Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.