Columbus: His Enterprise: Exploding the Myth

Columbus: His Enterprise: Exploding the Myth

Columbus: His Enterprise: Exploding the Myth

Columbus: His Enterprise: Exploding the Myth


Most of us have been taught to think of Christopher Columbus as a single-minded, courageous visionary whose navigational skills led him to “discover” the Americas. In this beautifully written revisionist biography, accessible to people of all ages, Hans Koning gives us the true history of Columbus’ life and voyages.

Koning describes how Columbus’ consuming drive to send mountains of gold back to Spain shaped his life, beginning the story with his childhood in Genoa and ending after his return from his fourth and final voyage, an old man in disgrace. He shows how Columbus’ discovery led to the enrichment of the conquerors through the plunder and murder of the native peoples of the Americas.

In an afterword for teachers, Bill Bigelow a high school social studies teacher and the author of several curricula shows how the book can be imaginatively used in the classroom to teach students to read history skeptically.


Columbus: His Enterprise was written and published fifteen years ago. Miraculously, it has stayed in print ever since (with slowly increasing sales). I write “miraculously” because books in the United States that see the light of day without ads or other flourishes rarely live more than a few months. Miraculously also because during all those years I have not often found sympathy or even comprehension for its point of view, its discovery that Columbus was neither a wise but misunderstood explorer nor even a brave adventurer, but (quoting my own book) “a man greedy in large and in small ways, cruel in petty things and on a continental scale.” More often than not, I saw people being surprised at the suggestion that the traditional image of Columbus, as taught in our schools, was a political one, based on our smug and biased reading of the past.

But in the most recent years there has been a change in the air. A new generation of children—black, white, red, yellow—in our schools has been asking for a more objective, less Eurocentric, white race-oriented, teaching of history (and this . . .

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