Was Christopher Columbus an Imperialist?Was Christopher Columbus an Imperialist?

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litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Christopher Columbus was interested in making money. He also wanted his country to gain the glory that would come from finding India and making money for Spain. In his world, it was commonly accepted that native peoples were lesser beings. He was just behaving the way his culture expected. It doesn't make it right, of course.
rrteacher's profile pic

rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I think it's safe to call Columbus an imperialist, he followed the pattern that had been established in the Canary Islands by enslaving the inhabitants of Hispaniola and elsewhere, and even set up a administrative system for governing them. Perhaps calling him a "proto-imperialist" would be more exact, but he certainly set the pattern of conquest, subjugation, and exploitation that characterized early Spanish-Indian interactions.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Yeah, I would say that he was.  The reason for this is that he very much wanted to take more territory for Spain.  He was willing to subjugate the people that lived on the islands he discovered.  The willingness to take territory and to subjugate people is the hallmark of an imperialist.  

cirpili's profile pic

cirpili | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

Columbus killed a million native Americans per year. What does that tell you? For those of you who say that he was just trying to make money, just ask yourself this. Is Erik Prince an imperialist? Absolutely.

ivana's profile pic

ivana | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Salutatorian

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Hm, it is always difficult to judge a person that lived in centuries before us. I think it is safe to say that C. Columbo was not just an adventurer. I don't think his motives were absolutely pure. He did not set on " to bodly go where no man has gone before" because he wanted to make a world a better place. He may have believed that he was, but he probably was motivated primarily by money (or additionaly patriotic reasons).

I'm not sure would I call him an imperialist, because I'm not certain in what sense can we hold him responsible for imperialistic crimes that happened due of his "discovery". Perhaps I'd say he was a moderate imperialist (if that makes sense) because I don't think he was much different from other people in his time (that's not an exuse as someone has said it). 

I'd say Columbo was an average person, not questioning the morals of his time and doing what he though was best. He was probably neither exceptionally moral or immoral. We can admire him for his courage in sailing, but not really for much else.

I don't think we should make a scapegoat for imperialistic crimes out of him.Things are more complicated then that. I don't think he should be made into a hero either.   So, the way I see it is--- yes he was probably as imperialistic as the next person in his time, but not anything less or more.

atomicbavarian's profile pic

atomicbavarian | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted on

I see him as more of a colonialist. His goal was to make money and implanted settlements which he ruled to dominate local inhabitants and reap resources. He wasn't dedicated to ceding control of these locations to a central authority, but used Spain (not his home country) to enforce and fund his enterprises. I see imperialists as more state/government centric undertakings and Columbus seemed more driven by his personal capitalistic goals. The Spanish royalty definitely employed Columbus for their imperial goals.

Cecile Rhodes, now he seems like the poster boy for imperialists. 

mjay25's profile pic

mjay25 | Student, Graduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted on

Yes! I would say he was, as others have mentioned.

Another issue however, is I wouldn't say he discovered any place. American Indians were living on the continent before Columbus happened to arrive, so how was a discovery made when people were already living there?



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