After reading Columbus' letter what do you think his views of the new lands and people he encountered?
What seem to be his values, assumptions, and goals as expressed in his letter and how might these have influenced what he included in his letter?
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The main source of Columbus' attitudes of the new land and of the people he encountered are not preserved in a letter but in his journals which were delivered under seal to Ferdinand and Isabella. The original Journals were lost, however Bartoiomeo de las Casas, who accompanied Columbus, insisted that he recalled the content of the Journals and reconstructed them. Columbus had little to say about the land, but a great deal about the people, particularly their possession or knowledge of gold, which was his primary concern. Reading the Journals indicates Columbus' attitude was typical of the perceived European superiority which was common at the time. It gives one the impression that he considered the people he encountered to be simplistic, naive, and easily dominated. He remarks that they had no knowledge of metal tools and weapons and cut themselves when they examined his sword. he goes so far as to state that they would make "good servants," yet at the same time demonstrates the typical European interest in Christianizing them:
Weapons they have none, nor are acquainted with them, for I showed them swords which they grasped by the blades, and cut themselves through ignorance. They have no iron, their javelins being without it, and nothing more than sticks, though some have fish-bones or other things at the ends. They are all of a good size and stature, and handsomely formed. I saw some with scars of wounds upon their bodies, and demanded by signs the of them; they answered me in the same way, that there came people from the other islands in the neighborhood who endeavored to make prisoners of them, and they defended themselves. I thought then, and still believe, that these were from the continent. It appears to me, that the people are ingenious, and would be good servants and I am of opinion that they would very readily become Christians, as they appear to have no religion. They very quickly learn such words as are spoken to them. If it please our Lord, I intend at my return to carry home six of them to your Highnesses, that they may learn our language. . . . could conquer the whole of them with fifty men, and govern them as I pleased.
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