Monday, January 23, 2017

World Without Columbus, part 1

"It all changed in 1492.

The Muslim Kingdom of Granada fell to the monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, uniting Spain under their rule. In addition, they expelled all Jews in Spain who refused to convert to Christianity by royal edict. By seizing the lands and wealth held by the non-Christians in their country, the rulers of Spain hoped to offset the expenses of their military efforts.

Still, the coffers in Córdoba begged for gold, and the financial prospects for the new monarchy were scarce. Trade with China and India was the surest path to wealth, but The Ottoman Empire blocked the traditional Silk Road to the East, and the sea route around Africa, discovered in 1488 by the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias, was lengthy and hazardous.

An Italian navigator, known to the Spanish as Cristóbal Colón, had been lobbying the Spanish Court for seven years to finance an exploratory mission to find a route to the Indies by sailing West across the Atlantic Ocean. His argument was passionate, and the rewards could be enormous, but the risk was also considerable. With the help of a few private investors from his native Italy, and some creative money shuffling by the Spanish Royal Treasurer, the expedition set forth from the port of Palos on the evening of August 3, 1492.

It was a desperate gamble, and neither Isabella nor Ferdinand truly believed the expedition would ever return. Columbus’ calculations on the circumference of the Earth were clearly erroneous. He thought the world was much smaller than it actually was, and most authorities believed the crew would starve to death before reaching land.

He never reached China or India, but found a land and people unknown to Europeans at the time, and the world changed forever.

However, what would have happened if he had not returned? It was a very close thing…"

There is the question: What would the world look like if Columbus had not returned?

From the Afterword of Burning Woman and the Ghost Lance, available on

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