The courageous voyage of Columbus, which inspired the world for centuries, has recently been the target of criticism by those who think a man from the 1400s should have thought more like a fellow from 2006.
It’s an unfair assessment of the man.
In 1492, when Columbus set out on his voyage of discovery, the Americas were unknown to Europeans and Asians. Although some evidence exists that the Basque and Vikings both had sailed to the Americas, no written map existed.
Columbus did what no one else had and he did what was inevitable: He linked the continents for exploration ó and exploitation. Columbus wasn’t the first person to exploit a discovery. Conquest and exploitation were a way of life among people who lived in the Americas long before Columbus arrived. Indeed, every discovery of every sort is followed by exploitation.
Columbus let the Old World know about the riches and opportunities of the New World. But he is faulted for things he couldn’t control, like the spread of disease, and for things that seemed altogether reasonable to a 15th century explorer, like evangelizing the local population. There is an implicit, and silly, assumption among the politically correct critics of Columbus that the Americas would be somehow purer had Columbus not explored there. But the fact is, it was inevitable that the continents would be linked, if not because of Columbus, perhaps at the hands of some other, even more politically incorrect human.
Columbus was a man whose own vision and courage set in motion an entire world history. That is an incredible accomplishment.