What kind of a person was Christopher Columbus?

1 Answer | Add Yours

akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

It is challenging to make judgments on historical figures.  Conditions and contexts compel people to act in a particular way that makes them look different as time passes.  Columbus has to be regarded as brave in his undertakings.  The fact that he embraced the spirit of exploration at the time and risked much to bring such a vision into reality is part of the reason why he could be seen as a brave person.  Additionally, Columbus could also be seen as bold in his beliefs.  He was a bold person because he truly believed that what he was doing was correct, a reflection of something larger, and could only be done by someone like himself.

Part of this characterization also illuminates some "not- so- pleasant" traits.  Columbus was driven by material riches.  Columbus undertook his endeavors with the strict belief in material wealth being the end result. Columbus might have sailed in his belief of Providence or for the monarch, but he made sure that he received compensation for his work, indicated in the contract he signed with the Spanish monarchy:  "Your Highnesses grant from now henceforth to the said Don Cristóbal [Christopher Columbus] ... the tenth part of the whole, after deducting all the expenses which may be incurred therein."  Driven by this coveting of wealth and the belief in his own superiority, Columbus could be seen as rather cruel.  In the enslavement of Native Americans, his cruelty is on display:  "They should be good servants .... I, our Lord being pleased, will take hence, at the time of my departure, six natives for your Highnesses."   The trafficking of human flesh for profit is a part of Columbus' legacy, something that Columbus actively knew:  "...with fifty men they can all be subjugated and made to do what is required of them."   The idea that the "Columbian Exchange" is named for Columbus is a reflection of this characterization, as well.  In this transfer, Columbus was able to bring diseases and hardship to indigenous people who became part of his desire for wealth.  This would also have to be part of a Columbus characterization.  

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,911 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question