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In the 15th century, Christopher Columbus was one of the most renowned explorers. Despite being an Italian, most of his interests were in adventuring the West Indies. The King and Queen of Spain sent him towards the end of the 15th century to go and explore the Indies. Resulting from this exploration, Columbus in April 1493 wrote to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand a letter describing his discoveries and encounter. However, such discoveries written by Columbus to the King and the Queen have received several critiquing by other historians and sources making its authenticity questionable to date.
There are several themes presented by this letter wrote by Columbus to the King, and from the themes, a lot can be withdrawn concerning the nature of the society at that particular moment. To begin with, Europe had tried to have itself restructured following the Middle Ages and Classical times unfortunate occurrences that had it bedeviled. As a result, the importance of exploration was that it was a means by which Europe would have a clear understanding of the world to make it easy to conquer it. Generally, the European society was imperialistic because, even after realizing that other individuals occupied such lands as Indies, they went ahead to pronounce that they had discovered the lands, assuming the inhabitants of such areas as if they were not aware of their habitats. A good example is when Columbus states that "... I sailed towards the east, coasting to the distance of three hundred and twenty- two miles, which brought us to the extremity of it; from this point, I saw lying eastwards another island, fifty-four miles distant from Juana, to which I gave the name of Espanola..." (Columbus, 1493). Initially, this land already had a name given to it by its inhabitants, but according to the letter by Columbus, it was the intention of the Italians to make it appear as if the land had no name before.
The European society at this moment did not describe or treat the non-whites as human beings indicating that they were also very racist. Especially for the communities that they encountered in West African coasts, they described them as savages and some as backward. And moreover, Columbus goes ahead referring to the Indians as "The inhabitants of both sexes in this island, and in all the others which I have seen, or of which I have received information, always go naked as they were born, except for some of the women..." (Columbus, 1493). From this, it is an indication of how imperialistic the society was, and clearly, it is evident that if after these explorations that the slave trade began. Moreover, it was also out of these explorations efforts that colonialism arose.
There are several concepts used by historians in the understanding of primary sources of information like the letter by Columbus, among them including credibility versus reliability, epistemology, and neutrality vs. objectivity. Furthermore, the concept used in this essay analysis is one of reliability and credibility. The past becomes more immediate in having the source analyzed as a primary source. Additionally, the source of the document is also considered in this analysis. One needs to be very keen in reading this letter since the original message by Columbus got lost.
From the translation of the letter from Spanish, there is an indication that in travelling between Canary Islands to the Indies, Columbus took up to 33 days, a piece of information that is not necessarily credible, as it sounds like the writer could only be trying to appease the Monarchs who had its trips funded. Nevertheless, making a comparison with the diaries of the ship, this information is found to be correct. It is therefore right to conclude that the information is credible and as well reliable since history holds that other than Columbus, there is no other explorer who had made any achievements in the Indies. However, there are also flaws that still retains all the information not to be credible in difficulty believing that Columbus visited the right islands. Additionally, there are also doubts on its validity and reliability since there were no revelations made by Columbus regarding the fact that he lost one ship, neither any information regarding the motive behind their construction of the port at Navidad.
In recapping the essay, the letter by Columbus to the King and the Queen was an outstanding historical information source. The reason for such a claim is because the message had records of happenings and events from the experience of the author (first-hand experience). Nevertheless, it becomes evident that the letter by Columbus was entirely based on his motivations when we place checks and balances of the letter in line with other sources content-wise. It could be true that how Columbus described his attitude could have influenced the Indians while at the same time such descriptions may have suffered his perceptions and not the locals' views. Having in mind the model of credibility and reliability, and furthermore, we can allude that the letter was an attempt reasonably good in the description of the encounters as well as the voyage thereof.
Columbus, C. (1992). The letter of Columbus (1493). Wild Majesty: Encounters with Caribs from Columbus to the Present Day. An Anthology, 14.
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