This essay has a total of 2148 words and 8 pages.
explain what Columbus expected to find in the Indies, how his reports reflected these findings
Although the journals and diaries, in which Christopher Columbus is said to have recorded his discoveries, have long been lost to us and the ones that remain are not the originals, these works may not tell the whole story, or even possibly the truth of his discoveries. This essay will endeavor to explain what Columbus expected to find in the Indies, how his reports reflected these findings and the deception in what he reported back to the empire in a bid to hide his misfortunes. Upon the ‘reading of Marco Polo’s journals concerning his travels to China in 1170-1190 and being told of Cipangu (Japan) and other populated islands, Columbus decided to search for a faster sea route to the Far East’. Even though Columbus set out to find faster trade routes for King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, he had an alteria motive and that was to improve his and his family’ s position within the Spanish kingdom. Columbus not only set out to discover a faster trade route through Asia, but also expected to find many commodities that would benefit himself and his sovereigns. Columbus sought trading commodities such as gold, silk and spices, which he believed would be found in large amounts throughout Asia. He also sought land to colonize and declare ownership by Spain. Columbus’ third aim was to Christianise the natives of Asia, if any were to be found. Behind all of these objectives lay Columbus’ true aim which was to become ‘Admiral of the Sea’, to gain more support for future voyages, and also to enable his descendants a better position within Spanish society. Columbus’ ultimate goal was to locate the ‘great Asian trading centres that Marco Polo had discovered and written about’. To find Asia, ‘Christopher Columbus instructed his crew to explore directly to the west without deviating to the south as ordered by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, and then he gave the crews his own ideals, which were that they would not see land for at least another 750 leagues’ . Although Columbus had sailed before and had navigational knowledge, his image of the world was a lot smaller than it actually was. This resulted in him underestimating the true distance of Japan from Gomera, and in doing so, he discovered the Indies. This would explain while even though ‘Columbus searched for Marco Polo’s golden roofed palaces on every newly discovered island, none were to be found’. ‘Nothing that they observed about the islands matched the descriptions given by Marco Polo, there were no populous cities or golden roofed palaces’. Columbus had heard some of the Indians speaking of a place called Magon, which he interpreted as being Mangi, a province of Cathay that Marco Polo had discussed in his transcripts. This misinterpretation of the native language gave Columbus hope that he was in the approximate area of the Indies mainland, but on further investigation the truth became apparent. But with the discovery of the misunderstanding, ‘Columbus forced all his crew to sign a declaration that they had reached the Asian mainland’. Columbus could not inform his sovereigns that he had not reached his promised destination of Asia. If Columbus’ lie had been revealed, financial backing would have ceased and there would have been no exploration of the newly discovered islands. Columbus could not declare to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella that he had happened upon a new land, as this was not the agreement for his continued financial backing. Columbus knew that to continue to receive the sovereigns’ financial support he had to declare that he had actually found a faster route to Asia, and that he had actually landed there. Although these written declarations were false, Columbus could never reveal the truth about his location. If this truth had become public knowledge then all that he had worked towards, such as his family’s future benefits and his Admiralty would never be achievable.
Upon arrival in ‘Asia’, ‘Columbus expected to locate gold, pearls and spices by trade or conquest’. Columbus had spent his life reading of Marco Polo’s Asia that was filled with gold and ‘upon seeing small pieces of gold pierced in the noses of the natives of San Salvador; Columbus interpreted this as a sign of Marco Polo’s gold and Asia’. The sight of this gold sparked Columbus to explore the island for more gold and commodities. Columbus states that ‘the Indians told him there was a great deal of cinnamon and pepper on the island and an infinite amount of gold…there were also people on the island who wore pearls’. It is strange that Columbus, who has been on the island for only a small amount of time, is able to converse with people of a different race in a foreign language. He did not appear to think that there may be misinterpretation in what he thought the Indians were actually saying. He interpreted the message from the Indians in a way that would benefit him; he heard what he wanted to hear. Columbus then took the information he needed and ‘wrote to his sovereigns stating that Espanola had many mines, great rivers and good waters, many of which are filled with gold….he promises all the gold, cotton, spices and mastics they need’. Perhaps Columbus continued to deceive his sovereigns in the hope that further explorations and meetings with the Indians would prove beneficial. After some time, with still no gold or commodities found, Columbus writes that ‘the Indians have told him that by continuing his voyage south, he would come upon a King who possessed a lot of gold and that there were also rivers of gold there’. Although Columbus sent out exploration parties to search for gold and other commodities, he was never to find them in the large amounts that he perceived were present in the area. Columbus, faced with the reality that he was not in the vicinity of Marco Polo’s Asia, had to revise his royal orders and change his ideals as to what he was going to achieve by this new discovery. Again Columbus hides his actual discovery as to what he had actually encountered. The only gold which Columbus found was worn by the natives, and this was often in the form of nose rings. As for the pearls, precious stones and spices, he had found none. Once Columbus realised that he was unable to supply large amounts of gold, pearls or spices back to the empire, he embellished the writings in his log, so a
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