Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem: How Religion Drove the Voyages that Led to America

Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem: How Religion Drove the Voyages that Led to America

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by Carol Delaney
     
 

“One of the 100 best books of the year.” —The Times Literary Supplement

Five hundred years after he set sail, Columbus is still a controversial figure in history. Debates portray him either as the hero in the great drama of discovery or as an avaricious glory hunter and ruthless destroyer of indigenous cultures. In Columbus and

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Overview

“One of the 100 best books of the year.” —The Times Literary Supplement

Five hundred years after he set sail, Columbus is still a controversial figure in history. Debates portray him either as the hero in the great drama of discovery or as an avaricious glory hunter and ruthless destroyer of indigenous cultures. In Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem, Carol Delaney offers a radically new interpretation of the man and his mission, claiming that the true motivation for his voyages is still widely unknown.

Delaney argues that Columbus was inspired to find a western route to the Orient not only to obtain vast sums of gold for the Spanish Crown but primarily to fund a new crusade to take Jerusalem from the Muslims before the end of the world—a goal that sustained him until the day he died. Drawing from oft-ignored sources, some from Columbus’s own hand, Delaney depicts her subject as a thoughtful interpreter of the native cultures that he and his men encountered, and tells the tragic story of how his initial attempts to establish good relations with the natives turned badly sour. Showing Columbus in the context of his times rather than through the prism of present-day perspectives on colonial conquests reveals a man who was neither a greedy imperialist nor a quixotic adventurer, but a man driven by an abiding religious passion. Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem is not an apologist’s take, but a clear-eyed, thought-provoking, and timely reappraisal of the man and his legacy.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A dramatic story with repercussions that could reach the heavens." —Washington Post

"A new and provocative interpretation of Columbus. Carol Delaney uses her training as a cultural anthropologist to brilliantly explicate Columbus’s strange, apocalyptic world. By being more sensitive to the differentness of the past than most historians, she has written a remarkable work of history, and one that is utterly accessible." — Gordon S. Wood, author of The Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth fo the United States

"This absorbing book adds a new and penetrating chapter to the long history of Jerusalem. But it does so by recapturing some fascinating and critical information about another iconic figure, namely Christopher Columbus who - Delaney makes clear - sailed west, but had Jerusalem on his mind the whole time. Carefully documented and well crafted, the book reads like a superb historical novel. Columbus himself nearly steps off the pages, and when we are finished we know him much better than we have before, including his idiosyncrasies, delusions and uncanny maritime skills."Harvey Cox, author of The Future of Faith

"Brilliant. Enlightening. The surprise here is not that a vaunted academic like Delaney has written such a deeply researched take on the Columbus legacy, but that she does so with page-turning style, effortlessly transporting the modern reader into the minds and motivations of 15th-century Europe."Martin Dugard, author of The Last Voyage of Columbus

"Everybody knows the story of Columbus, right? Wrong. For far too long, writers have chosen to ignore one of Columbus's most powerful motivations: religion. In this exhaustively researched and engagingly written account, Carol Delaney reveals the remarkable extent to which Columbus sailed across the Atlantic not just to reach the other side but also to hasten the Christian recapture of Jerusalem — and help bring about the end of the world. This is a fascinating and important book." – Toby Lester, author of The Fourth Part of the World

"A welcome reappraisal of Columbus and his legacy." —Kirkus Reviews

"Carol Delaney's Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem...elegantly tells a familiar story—with a twist...The result is a revealing new view of Columbus." Times Literary Supplement, Books of the Year

"A brazen attempt to construct a parable for our times." —Booklist

A decidedly different approach to the man who discovered America.” –The New York Post

Publishers Weekly
Cultural anthropologist and Stanford professor emerita Delaney introduces us to an unfamiliar Christopher Columbus as a product of his times, when, she says, apocalyptic millennialism dominated Europe. Columbus thus believed that his role was to obtain enough of the fabled gold of the East to launch a crusade to conquer Jerusalem and prepare for the Second Coming of Christ. Delaney argues that Columbus believed that the discovery of the Caribbean islands was an integral part of an unfolding cosmological drama. Using the writings of medieval theologians, the author writes, Columbus calculated that the world would end in 155 years. He attempted to convince Spain's sovereigns that the Gospel had to be preached everywhere so all the world's peoples could be saved, and that Jerusalem had to come under Christian control. As Delaney points out, Ferdinand instead sent Peter Martyr to negotiate with the sultan to protect the Holy Sepulchre and Christian pilgrims. While Delaney's take is fresh, it's encumbered by repetitious writing. And even her careful reading of a little-studied compilation called the Book of Prophecies—that may or may not have been written by Columbus—as a basis for her argument about Columbus's motives provides thin evidence for her conclusions. (Sept.)
Kirkus Reviews

Cultural anthropologist Delaney offers an interpretation of Christopher Columbus's career based on the apocalyptical millenarianism she identifies in his thinking.

The author argues that the reconquest of Jerusalem was the passion of Columbus's life and also the purpose of his voyages. Her substantiation is found in works like theBook of Prophesies, produced near the end of his life, his letters to the Borgia Pope, Alexander VI and the comparison of the flow of the Orinoco with the book of Genesis and the hinterland of the Terrestrial Paradise. Delaney believes these kinds of views have been downplayed in consideration of the explorer's life and work. Focusing on this less-iconic side of Columbus, author casts new light on the policies of the monarchs under whom he worked, first in Portugal and then Spain. His 1492 voyage began on August 2, the day set for Spain's Jews to convert or face execution. The "reconquista" of Al-Andalus from the Moors was considered by Spain's monarchs to be just a step on the road to Jerusalem. As Delaney and others have shown, Columbus was neither open nor truthful about his motives or ultimate plans, so his writings cannot necessarily be taken at face value. His "sail west to go east" strategy failed to find the Indies and their riches and was associated with heterodox cosmological views. As his stories were discredited, he probably had good reason to fear his own monarch's inquisitors.

A welcome reappraisal of Columbus and his legacy.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781439102374
Publisher:
Free Press
Publication date:
07/17/2012
Pages:
319
Sales rank:
709,716
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.90(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"A dramatic story with repercussions that could reach the heavens." —Washington Post

"A new and provocative interpretation of Columbus. Carol Delaney uses her training as a cultural anthropologist to brilliantly explicate Columbus’s strange, apocalyptic world. By being more sensitive to the differentness of the past than most historians, she has written a remarkable work of history, and one that is utterly accessible." — Gordon S. Wood, author of The Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth fo the United States

"This absorbing book adds a new and penetrating chapter to the long history of Jerusalem. But it does so by recapturing some fascinating and critical information about another iconic figure, namely Christopher Columbus who - Delaney makes clear - sailed west, but had Jerusalem on his mind the whole time. Carefully documented and well crafted, the book reads like a superb historical novel. Columbus himself nearly steps off the pages, and when we are finished we know him much better than we have before, including his idiosyncrasies, delusions and uncanny maritime skills."Harvey Cox, author of The Future of Faith

"Brilliant. Enlightening. The surprise here is not that a vaunted academic like Delaney has written such a deeply researched take on the Columbus legacy, but that she does so with page-turning style, effortlessly transporting the modern reader into the minds and motivations of 15th-century Europe."Martin Dugard, author of The Last Voyage of Columbus

"Everybody knows the story of Columbus, right? Wrong. For far too long, writers have chosen to ignore one of Columbus's most powerful motivations: religion. In this exhaustively researched and engagingly written account, Carol Delaney reveals the remarkable extent to which Columbus sailed across the Atlantic not just to reach the other side but also to hasten the Christian recapture of Jerusalem — and help bring about the end of the world. This is a fascinating and important book." – Toby Lester, author of The Fourth Part of the World

"A welcome reappraisal of Columbus and his legacy." —Kirkus Reviews

"Carol Delaney's Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem...elegantly tells a familiar story—with a twist...The result is a revealing new view of Columbus." Times Literary Supplement, Books of the Year

"A brazen attempt to construct a parable for our times." —Booklist

A decidedly different approach to the man who discovered America.” –The New York Post

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Meet the Author

Carol Delaney received an MTS from Harvard Divinity School and a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Chicago and is a graduate of Boston University. She is now a professor emerita at Stanford University and a research scholar at Brown University.

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