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How can you compare Vespucci to Columbus?

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candysweet | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 13, 2012 at 1:22 AM via web

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How can you compare Vespucci to Columbus?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 13, 2012 at 3:10 AM (Answer #1)

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The obvious point is that both men were Italian explorers (Vespucci was from Florence, Columbus from Genoa.) Both men visited the New World on more than one occasion, and both published accounts of their travels, in epistolary form (though Columbus's journal was also published.) While Columbus was more involved with the enterprise of subjugating natives and establishing and exploiting a colony in the name of Spain, Vespucci accompanied voyages as an observer, a navigator, and a cartographer. In fact, he was the head navigator for the Spanish crown at one point in his career. Ultimately, both men did much to capture the European imagination about discoveries in what Vespucci is credited with recognizing as a New World.

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etotheeyepi | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted June 13, 2012 at 4:39 AM (Answer #2)

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One version of the story says that Columbus did not know that he never reached Asia.  Vespucci took careful measurements that proved South America was not part of Asia.

I don't know how Vespucci measured longitude, so I don't know how that would have been possible.

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rachaely123 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted June 15, 2012 at 2:19 AM (Answer #3)

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Amerigo Vespucci, (1454-1512), often disparaged in American history as an opportunist and a cold-blooded realist as opposed to Columbus, (1451-1506), the romantic, was more willing to see things as they were rather than as they ought to have been according to the ancients. An analytical explorer who compared empirical data with the pre-existing textual evidence and found that they could not be made to conform, Vespucci replaced cosmology with geography and located America within real rather than mythic space.
 
If Columbus helped create the dream of America, Vespucci helped define its reality. Neither Vespucci nor those who came after him, however, were any better than Columbus when it came to interpreting the new cultures with whom Europe came in contact. “Collided” may be a more apt term than contacted, for what  happened in the Americas once Europeans arrived had devastating consequences for native peoples. Simply put, neither group understood the other. A large part of the misunderstanding was the result of language barriers, but a greater part was due to the Europeans’ desire to make the inhabitants of America conform to the preconceived notions Europeans brought with them. The most obvious and most long-lasting example of these preconceptions was Columbus’s calling the native peoples “Los Indios,” or Indians. 

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