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Just One Guy


“In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”  It’s what we all learned in elementary school and probably much of the extent of what remember from grade school.  And we should remember it right? I mean if Columbus had not sailed the ocean blue in 1492 in order to prove the world was round then he would never had found America and been able to head back to Europe in order to let them know  that the world was round and that he’d discovered America.  And had this been the case we’d all be in Europe right now speaking European and we’d never know the world was round or that there is a big land mass just aching to be colonized!....Right?  Well this is probably not the case.  Everyone who was anyone during Columbus’s time knew the world was round and, on top of that, Columbus was just trying to find a way to the orient, not prove the world was round.  Furthermore, although Columbus was important and is worth remembering, he was not the literal discoverer of America, there were many people who came before him. In addition had Columbus not headed west, someone else most likely would have found America and conquered its inhabitants.

There is no doubt that Columbus was not the first man to discover America because when he got to the new world there were already millions of people living there who’s hole way of living would be completely destroyed do to the clash of cultures brought on by the arrival of Columbus.  Additionally, Columbus was apparently not even the first European to discover America for many people believe that the Vikings, along with various other Europeans, traveled to the new world Centuries before Columbus even dreamed of getting on a boat.  This is what Nash and Graves mean when they say not literally did Columbus discover America. 

Nash and Graves do ad, though, that significantly Columbus did discover America and in that sense they are right.  No matter who came to America before Columbus, it was Columbus who found America at the right time.  As Columbus was getting ready to leave from Spain, Europe was in the midst of wonderful cultural and political changes that helped to push the European powers out side their own boarders.  One could almost say that Europe was finally taking care of the prerequisites of colonization.

The cultural change that was then taking place was the renaissance witch emphasized classical thinking and promoted exploration & competitiveness (Beatty & Johnson p.369) both of witch would have helped Columbus, or anyone else, on their way west.  As for the political changes, many of the once week governments were becoming stronger and more centralized.  Two great examples of these political changes are Portugal and Spain.  With the help of Prince Henry the Navigator, Portugal was the first European country to truly consolidate its powers.  After doing so Portugal started sending ships out to explore the world around them witch later becomes very lucrative helping to make Portugal one of the riches countries in Europe. Spain Consolidated its powers shortly afterward with the marriage of Fernando and Isabella who together won “the Reconquista” by driving the Mores out of Spain.  Spain was then ready to send ships out just like its smaller neighbor Portugal who had proved that exploration held a financial incentive.  This played well with the renaissance idea of competition for now Spain and Portugal would compete to see who could find the best way to the orient.  Sense Portugal had already claimed the rout around the tip of Africa, Spain decided to go around the world; that’s where Columbus comes into play.  Columbus was just crazy enough to try it!  Although had Columbus not been willing to try, once again, someone else probably would have been, after all there were plenty of incentives to explore the world.

It was, though, Columbus who was the right guy at the right time who went across the Atlantic and landed in the Caribbean.  It was Columbus that told the Europeans that there is something to the west at a time when the Europeans were ready to hear and act upon it.  And so it was Columbus who was the significant finder of America that lead to the massive race to take over the American Empires and carve up the New World for European use. It was not, though Columbus who wreaked havoc on the Native Americans single handedly, in that essence he was just one of many men that lead to the almost complete destruction of the Native American way of life.  Columbus was more or less the man that opened the door for the American conquest.  It was men like Cortez and Pizarro that, in essence, burst threw the door to take advantage of the technologically inferior Native Americans.

 So basically then Columbus was just one guy in the scheme of things, who opened the door for Europe to head west and have its way with America.  Moreover had Columbus not opened the door to the west, one of the many men who fallowed him in to the sunset most likely would have opened the door instead.  Sense, though, Columbus was the first European to discover America when Europe was ready for its discovery he became the significant discoverer of the New World. That’s why we remember that in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.




Beatty, John; Johnson, Oliver: Heritage of Western Civilization Volume 1 Eight Edition.  Prentice Hall. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.  1995


© All words and music written and owned by Shawn Nelsen.