HIST 120 – Wk. 2 PS Documents
Christopher Columbus (1493)
Juan López de Palacios Rubios, Il Requerimiento (1510)
Bartolomé de las Casas (1552)
Christopher Columbus, Letter to Luis De Santangel, 1493
Christopher Columbus, who was born and reared in Genoa, Italy, obtained most of his early seafaring experience in the service of the Portuguese. As a young man, he became intrigued with the possibility, already under discussion in many seafaring circles, of reaching Asia by going not east but west. Columbus's hopes rested on several basic misconceptions. He believed that the world was far smaller than it actually is. He also believed that the Asia continent extended farther eastward than it actually does. He assumed, therefore, that the Atlantic was narrow enough to be crossed on a relatively brief voyage. It did not occur to him that anything lay to the west between Europe and Asia.
Columbus failed to win support for his plan in Portugual, so he turned to Spain. The Spaniards were not yet as advanced a maritime people as the Portuguese, but they were at least as energetic and ambitious. And in the fifteenth century, the marriage of Spain's two most powerful regional rulers, Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, had produced the strongest monarchy in Europe. Like other young monarchies, it soon grew eager to demonstrate its strength by sponsoring new commercial ventures.
Columbus appealed to Queen Isabella for support of his proposed westward voyage. In 1492, having consolidated the monarchy's position within Spain itself, Isabella agreed to Columbus's request. Commanding ninety men and three ships - the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria - Columbus left Spain in August 1492 and sailed west into the Atlantic on what he thought was a straight course for Japan. Ten weeks later, he sighted land and assumed he had reached his target. In fact, he had landed on an island in the Bahamas. When he pushed on and encountered Cuba, he assumed he had reached China....