"In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue." And his arrival in the West Indies led to enduring links between Europe and the Americas. In the early years of our nation's history, Christopher Columbus was raised to hero status by writers and historians wishing to create a common memory for our new nation. Five hundred years later, by the quincentennial of 1992, Columbus' name had become somewhat tarnished. Is Columbus a hero worth celebrating, or was he a cruel imperialist? Discover the debate, and decide for yourself. [Editor's Note: An updated version of this topic can be found here: Christopher Columbus]
This Library of Congress exhibit explores the mix of Western societies that existed before the arrival of the Europeans, and the "first sustained contacts between American people and European explorers, conquerors and settlers from 1492 to 1600." The quality of this site makes it an excellent resource for high-school and college students. It can be navigated sequentially, or use the Outline to jump directly to any subject (such as the Christopher Columbus page.)
What did the eighty-eight sailors of the NiÃ±a, Pinta and Santa Maria eat and drink? How was it stored? How did they cook it? These are the questions answered by this unique site created by an Italian winemaker "afflicted by Columbus quincentennial fever." This particular page addresses Columbus' first and second Atlantic voyages. The balance of the site covers Columbus' entire life, and the gastronomic legacy created by his hemisphere-crossing explorations.
"[T]he first image we encounter as we enter the Capitol Rotunda, is the massive Columbus Doors at the east entrance of the Rotunda. Acting as a literal and figurative gateway to the shrine of American history and mythology, the doors present an interesting focal point for the discussion of American public memory." Standing nearly seventeen-feet tall and weighing 20,000 pounds, the doors were created by sculptor Randolph Rogers in 1857. Designed as eight bas relief panels, topped by a lunette, each panel tells a part of the Columbus story.
In Columbus' day, sailors navigated by dead reckoning: calculating their position by measuring the course and distance sailed from some known point. In order for this method to work, the navigator needed a way to measure his course (Columbus used a magnetic compass), and to measure distance traveled. This fascinating site explores the details of Columbus' navigational techniques, including his unsuccessful experiments with celestial navigation. Be sure to visit its sister site, The Columbus Landfall Page, which reviews all the current evidence and lets you conclude where Columbus first landed.
In 1484, Columbus attempted to convince King John II of Portugal to sponsor his voyage west across the Atlantic. But Portugal was quite satisfied with what they had achieved in Africa and India, and felt no desire to explore what had previously been a disappointing Atlantic. Thus rejected, Columbus turned to Spain. His first attempt there was also unsuccessful, but in 1492, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain finally agreed to sponsor Columbus. This change of heart was due largely to Isabella's desire to spread Christianity and find new sources of wealth.