NPR logo Chatting 'Bout Columbus On Columbus Day

Chatting 'Bout Columbus On Columbus Day


A replica of Columbus' Santa Maria, sailing along Madeira's southern coast. Source: Madeira hide caption

toggle caption Source: Madeira

As a child, my knowledge of Christopher Columbus didn't extend far beyond 1492 and the ocean blue. It wasn't 'til Howard Zinn in high school that I became aware of his brutality toward the natives. And, of course, there's also the fine point that Columbus wasn't actually the first European to reach the New World. But, still, we celebrate.

In a new book called Toward the Setting Sun: Columbus, Cabot, Vespucci, and the Race for America, historian David Boyle argues that for Columbus and his fellow explorers, the race to reach the riches of the orient was as much about turning a profit as it was about discovery. They figured out a way to translate exploration into wealth and power — a plan that quickly came to rely on slavery. If you have questions for David about the economics of exploration, leave them here.



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