The hidden history of columbus



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History is backbone of every culture and tradition. In simple words history is the finding, gathering and presenting information on the events that happened in past. History is a subject which is taught worldwide in schools and other institutions. The teaching of history can change a person’s mentality and point of view on a subject. People’s behavior changes based on what they learn from history and the way it should be taught to minors.

History holds millions of written texts, records and information about past events. From one part of the world to another everything that has happened is written in book of history. People can develop a different point of view depending on what they learn and they might also start behaving differently in common world. How history may change person’s behavior in today’s world can be explained by taking example of Howard Zinn’s article, “Columbus, the Indians and Human Progress”. History of Christopher Columbus is taught everywhere on this planet. He was an explorer, colonizer and navigator, born in Europe and was the first European to land on American soil. He finished four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean that introduced American continents in the western hemisphere to the Europeans. After completing those voyages, he started his efforts and process to build Spanish colonization in the island of Hispaniola. Back then there was a power struggle going on between European nations for spice and gold trade in Asia. Columbus gave a proposal to reach Asia, which was approved by king of Spain to gain upper hand over rival powers. Instead of reaching Asia, Columbus mistakenly went on to discover the Americas.

Many historians have different point of view on Columbus’s achievement and fame. Readers who are interested in reading history texts written by these historians develop same point of view as the author of that text. Some people consider Columbus as their hero while some people consider him as a great villain. Hero and villain are the words which can be described in thousand ways. Hero is a person whom people admire and follow for his deeds, bravery or sacrifice which benefited in human progress, while villain is a person who is evil and enjoys to trouble people. By looking at Zinn’s article, he clearly says that Columbus was greedy and should not be given the title of a hero. But Christopher Columbus was neither a hero nor a villain; he was just an average person. Commonly people do various things to achieve fame and glory, Columbus was not different and did everything in his possession to achieve what he wanted. Some people work really hard to gain success. As it is been said, ‘work smart, not hard’, this is what Columbus did he worked smart and not hard.

When Columbus first arrived in the Americas, he saw native Indians who were defenseless and didn’t even know how to handle a sword. So instead of calling people from Europe to work for him in search of gold, which would have wasted more money and time, he forced native Indians to work for him. As it is said that there is a power behind every power, Columbus was also forced by king of Spain to bring back gold from the Americas. Based on Zinn’s research, ‘he was offered 10 percent of profits, governorship over new found lands and the fame with new title: Admiral of the Ocean Sea, in return for bringing back gold and spices from Asia, as he wasted kings money for voyages he was threatened to bring back gold from the Americas by any means’(p.2). In his article Zinn clearly says that, Columbus was threatened to bring back gold from the Americas, so even an ordinary person would do anything if he/she is been threatened for life. Similarly Columbus being a common person was forced to bring back gold, so he used native Indians to find the gold and avoid huge costs. In order to save his own life, he killed thousands of Indians and used them as slaves.

Historian’s like Zinn who wrote their point of view against Columbus, forced many people to consider Columbus as an anti-hero. In a story ‘The Untold Story’, where a school girl named Tina Thomas accuses Columbus for killing Native Americans and considers him as a murderer. By looking at this story, it can be said that young Thomas believed what she read or been taught. Small children’s are not mature enough to think out of the box and develop their own thinking on such topic, so they only believe what historians or their teachers tell them. This kind of hatred towards Columbus, who was European, may also develop hatred towards all Europeans and similarly young European children’s may also develop hatred towards Indians who also did killings and bad things.

Therefore, Columbus was neither a hero nor a great sailor, as he went on to discover America’s instead of Asia. He didn’t enjoyed killing people but was forced to do so by king of Spain which proves that he wasn’t a villain as well. A regular person like Christopher Columbus will always be remembered for his help in progress of the America’s. Knowingly or unknowingly, he has contributed on a large scale towards human progress. Every European settlement across the globe has helped taking that part of the world towards modernization. According to Zinn, ‘The Arawaks lived in village communes, had a developed of corn, yams, cassava. They could spin and weave, but they had no horses or work animals. They had no iron but they wore tiny gold ornaments in their ears’ (p.3). This completely shows that native people were not established, as they didn’t even know what iron was. But upon European arrival, Arawaks learned many things which helped the America’s to develop rapidly. Columbus should also not be considered as a hero for his help towards human progress because he didn’t have any goal nor did he plan to develop the Americas. ‘A goal is something that everyone is aiming to achieve, but without proper planning it is impossible’ (Saeman 2008). Columbus didn’t do anything in particular that helped in human progress, but like every part of the world benefited from European settlement, so did the Americas.



In Conclusion, history in school should be taught without differentiating and by not taking any particular side. In school, instead of teaching about killings done by Columbus or Indians, which may lead to hatred between different groups of people, they should only teach basic things such as who was Columbus? And how European settlement helped in human progress? Once students develop enough skills to differentiate between good and evil on their own, school or institution should ask them to give their own opinion by reading one sided articles such as Zinn’s. In writer’s opinion, Columbus should not be regarded as a hero or a villain but only as a normal person who did everything in his possession to save his own life and gain success.

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