If you are interested in revisionist history, another great “starter” resource is Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States of America.
He asserts, (rightfully, in my opinion), that history in general is a malleable commodity and every word, phrase and omission has connotations that may or may not be discernable by the reader.
I’m no expert on the media, history, or even particularly liberal or conservative. However, I am open-minded enough to listen to other people’s arguments without resorting to cliche’ed responses. With that in mind, please reserve your judegment for Zinn’s views because, at first, they can seem outrageously “left.”
Zinn asserts that Columbus believed he’d landed in Asia (answering the question of why Native Americans are called “Indians”). Because they had no written history, it’s difficult to gather a full account of what happened within those few disasterous decades. Columbus and the spaniards, however, did keep journals…which reveals quite a bit.
The Arawak Indians (Tainos) greeted Columbus in the Bahamas. Columbus considered them gentle and people of peace. “They do not bear arms, and do not know for I showed them a sword–they took it by the edge and cut themselves.”
He continues with other observations that now seem culturally insensitive (because they’re so gentle they’d make fine servants, etc.). Anyway, we all know why Columbus was there…not to discover the new world as it was already pretty well discovered…but for gold. He makes no secret of this in his journals.
By 1500, Colubus’ forces had erected crosses all over the Bahamas–he was very religious–but also 340 gallows. Why would he build so many gallows?
Samuel Eliot Morison (Harvard historian and an admiring Columbus’ biographer) writes: “Whoever thought up this ghastly system, Columbus was responsible for it, as the only means of producing gold for export… Thos who fled to the mountains were hunted with hounds, and those who escaped, starvation and disease took toll, while thousands of poor creatures in desperation took cassava poison to end their miseries.”
Morison is referring to Columbus’ system for producing the vast tracts of gold the Arawaks supposedly had. The natives were ordered to produce a specific quantity of gold, and if they could not their arms were severed.
“So the policy and acts of Columbus for which he alone was responsible began the depopulation of the terrestrial paradise that was Hispaniola in 1492. Of the original natives, estimated by modern ethnologist at 300,000 in number, one-third were killed off between 1494 and 1496. By 1508, an enumeration showed only 60,000 alive…in 1548 Oviedo (Morison is referring to Fernandex de Oviedo, the official Spanish historian of conquest) doubted whether 500 Indians remained. -Morison
Speeding things up a bit, when gold couldn’t be produced, he sent slaves (about 500; though 200 died en route). From his journal in 1498: “From here one might send, in the name of the Holy Trinity, as many slaves as could be sold…”
Also take a look at Bartolome de las Casas, a Dominican priest who arrived in the New World a few years after Columbus and was horrified. He wrote a book called The Devastation of the Indians.
From Casas’ book we witness horrible, horrible atrocities commited by Columbus’ men. These accounts were corroborated by a group of Dominican friars, who addressed the Spanish gov’t in the hopes they would intercede.
It is estimated that in Cuba during the time, 7,000 children died in a period of 3 months due to enslaved and overworked parents, malnutrition and exposure.
Of course there was also the accidental deaths, such as typhoid, typhus, etc.
However, consider if cultural differences are “accidental.” For example, the Arawaks’ culture did not include any concept of private property. Yet, if a native “stole” from Columbus’ men they were beheaded or burned at the stake.
Columbus gave his men women to use. This is not a cultural misunderstanding. An Italian noble named Cuneo describes in his journal how he raped and beat a Caribbean woman whom Columbus had “given” him.
Anyway, I think we can ALL agree that Columbus discovered America kinda like I might “discover” a coke in your fridge.