The four journeys of Christopher Columbus are some of the most important in European history. To be a part of them would present the students with innumerable discoveries of nature and cultures that have ceased to exist in modern times. This paper will provide a variety of information that the students would need to know when taking the trips.
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Benefits of Traveling with Columbus
Traveling with Columbus would provide a unique opportunity to discover a part of the world previously unseen by European society. All of his trips involved seeing lands with new types of plants, animals, and cultures. He and his crew met several cultures living on the islands of the region. In his letter from 1493, he writes: “I found very many islands filled with people innumerable, and of them all, I have taken possession for their highnesses, by proclamation made and with the royal standard unfurled, and no opposition was offered to me” (Baym et al. 35).
This quote suggests that the meetings during the voyage were friendly in nature which would be an exciting experience. The trips would involve such activities as hiking, search for minerals, interaction with the local populations and other adventurous activities during which the students would be able to take pictures and collect souvenirs.
Suggestions for a Smooth Trip
The trips that Columbus took were very dangerous and often led to issues caused by insufficient resources, especially during the voyages themselves. It would be critical to bring large amounts of food and freshwater, including those that would prevent scurvy and other seafaring diseases. The food would need to last for a long time so no products that expire quickly should be taken. Warm and waterproof clothing would be required due to storms and cold nights. Navigational equipment such as compasses and telescopes could also help during the travels.
The students should also bring writing and painting materials and instruments such as paint, ink, paper, and other supplies. If cameras and phones are not allowed during the trip, they would have to rely on drawings and paintings to capture the beauty of the newly discovered lands and the unique culture of the island people.
Things to Watch Out For
Columbus wrote about a variety of pleasurable things that he encountered during his voyages. For example, he writes about a great variety of avian life present on the island he named “Espanola”: “and the nightingale was singing and other birds of a thousand kinds in the month of November where I went” (Baym et al. 37). This suggests that a great variety of new creatures could be seen during the trip. Students should attempt to catalog them and examine their behavior. They should also watch out for new types of fruit and plants because they might be either perfectly edible or poisonous.
During his fourth trip, the students should be especially careful as it was the most traumatic for the captain and his crew. They were attacked by the native population of Panama and had to flee. His paper from the voyage tells a story of a man who is unsure of his position. He and his crew are infirm, and he believes there are enemies that want him dead. His crew shipwrecked on the island of Veragua and many are in a critical condition (Baym et al. 37). It would be unwise to go to such a trip unprepared and perhaps it should be avoided altogether.
How to Approach the Author According to the Gospel Message
Columbus was a religious man, but his actions were not always in line with Christian beliefs. It would be important to approach him carefully and try to connect through religious beliefs. Perhaps the beauty of the new lands could be seen as the glory of God’s creation, and the amazing privilege of seeing it in its natural state should be emphasized. Columbus was amazed by the bounty of the lands, and sharing this experience could create a certain bond between him and the students. Perhaps he could learn to appreciate this land as not only a place to plunder but as a beautiful creation of God.
Utilizing the Modern Cultural Background
One of the most tragic aspects of Columbus’ journeys lies in the treatment of natives that he and his crew were involved in. The natives were often seen as savages and lesser people by the crew. Their beliefs were far from humanitarian, and they cared little for the culture of these people. However, students with a modern outlook on native populations would be able to not only make contact with them but also learn firsthand about their way of life. While there are records from cultural researchers from the time, some cultures went extinct before they could be examined.
Role of Christian Values in Interactions
By focusing on Christian values, the students could prevent a variety of negative events that occurred during the voyages. For example, when meeting a new nation, it would be important to show that the crew has come in peace and does not wish any harm to the native people. They should be treated in the same way that other people are treated. Perhaps with time, they would see the Christian faith as their own if the crew and the students would show respect and kindness that God’s teaching preaches. This way the natives would be more willing to collaborate in the discovery of new lands and resources (Taylor 12).
Influences on Columbus’ Writing
The influences on Columbus’ writing can be seen in the way he describes the trips. The first trip was primarily a political one in nature. He was tasked with finding a westward route to Asia for the Crown of Castile (Bradford 14). The state required a new trade route, so the mission was seen as one of great importance. Columbus was primarily motivated by fame and fortune and in his letters he often makes sure to glorify his actions (Taylor 18).
In a letter from an early journey, he shows himself to be a humble servant of the royal family in order to gain further favor from them. However, a letter from the last journey shows a more bitter side of the man (Desai 180). By then, the discovery of the New World inspired thousands to voyage across the seas, and Columbus felt that he deserved better than his current disposition.
How Students Would Experience the Journey Differently
It is possible that knowing the fate of many of these cultures the students would feel like they should prevent it. Despite common beliefs, the world of the 1500s was not without a humanist outlook. Even during these voyages, people have noted that the way Columbus describes the people of the islands is not just, and the actions he describes in his writing can be considered sinful and reprehensible. However, students would be able to prevent them if they connect with Columbus on an emotional level.
To be a part of Columbus’ journeys would be incredibly exhilarating. They involved the discovery of lands and cultures that lived there without outside contact with the world. Perhaps with the modern outlook, a better connection with the people of these lands could be made.
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Baym, Nina, et al., editors. The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Vol. 1. 8 edition, W. W. Norton & Company, 2012.
Bradford, Ernle. Christopher Columbus. Open Road Media, 2014.
Desai, Christina M. “The Columbus Myth: Power and Ideology in Picturebooks About Christopher Columbus.” Children’s Literature in Education, vol. 45, no. 3, 2014, pp. 179-196.
Taylor, E. G. R. Select Documents illustrating the Four Voyages of Columbus: Including those contained in RH Major’s Select Letters of Christopher Columbus. Vol. 2. Routledge, 2017.