Tuesday, October 2, 2012


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Christopher Columbus and the New World

Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the New World was a negative historical event. Christopher Columbus’ findings led to the exploitation and slavery of the Native Americans. The contact of the Europeans with the New World’s Natives brought many diseases to the New World, which eventually led to the destruction of the Indians. The Europeans exploited the New World and destroyed the harmony with nature that the Native Americans had maintained for thousands of years. The Europeans brought a new disease, syphilis, back to Europe from the New World. Eventually, Columbus’ discovery of the New World led to the decline and eventual eradication of a rich Indian culture that had been developing for thousands of years.

When Christopher Columbus first came to the New World, he said he believed that the Indians themselves were the New World’s riches, yet he did nothing to protect them. Columbus said “the Indians of this island . . . are its riches for it is they who dig and produce the bread and other food for the Christians and get the gold from the mines . . .and perform all the services and labor of men and of draft animal“ (Viola 1). Christopher Columbus began the genocide of the Native Americans and it is believed that he and his men killed or exported one-third of the original population that he found within four years. He captured Indians as slaves an shipped them back to Europe. Hundreds of Indians died in captivity. “His (Columbus‘) marauding band hunted Indians for sport and profit-beating, raping, torturing, killing, and then using the Indian bodies as food for their hunting dogs. (Weatherford).

The Europeans brought many new diseases to the Western Hemisphere that were devastating to the Native Americans. According to historians, these new diseases included measles, bubonic plague, yellow fever, amoebic dysentery, diphtheria, influenza, smallpox, the whooping cough, and malaria (Viola 85). In contrast with the nearly universal immunity of Spaniards, Indians were extremely susceptible to smallpox. To the Indians, smallpox was the most devastating of the new European diseases (Crosby 57).


It is logical that the Europeans may have received a new disease after all of the diseases that the Indians got from the Europeans. Historians believe that the Europeans brought syphilis back to Europe from the New World, but it is possible that syphilis was already in Europe and a new strain of it was brought over from the New World. Columbus and his crew returned to Europe in 14 and there were descriptions of a new venereal disease spreading across Europe within two years (Viola 17). Many people believe that the Europeans of the fifteenth century were the first to be in contact with syphilis. One contemporary of Columbus, Ruy Diaz de Isla, agreed that 14 was syphilis’ first year saying, “ the disease had its origin and birth from always in the island which is now named Espanola” (Crosby 1).

The Indians lived in harmony with nature for thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans in America. Indians described America as a “disease free paradise” before the Europeans came. When settlers came to the New World from Europe, they disturbed the ecological balance of America and began the industrialization of America. “No sooner did they (the Europeans) discover the new world than they began to subdue it; claim and settle it, till and harvest it, exploit and export it” (Viola ). According to descriptions given by early explorers, before the arrival of Columbus, America showed no real evidence of human contact (Viola 6)

The introduction of the Europeans to the Native Americans destroyed the Indian culture. Diseases that killed the Indians were most effective on the young and old which destroyed the Indians’ educational system because the elderly taught the young all tribal knowledge. Deaths eventually wiped most or all of the Indians’ tribal knowledge. Entire tribes died out and the surviving members of remaining ones were substantially weakened. Indians’ life within the tribe was affected because medicine men, who were once respected and revered within the tribe, lost their positions and their honor due to their inability to cure his people of European diseases (Viola 1). Eventually, Indians that were not enslaved or killed by European diseases were forced west and onto reservations. Indians no longer had the freedom to hunt and travel as they had for thousands of years and they had to change their way of life (Viola 1).

Columbus‘ discovery of the New World could not have been a positive historical event in history because it had negative effects on everyone involved. The Indians, the people of the New World received new diseases, were killed and enslaved, and lost their culture and history. The New World itself was exploited and disturbed by the new settlers and explorers. Also, the Europeans received a new venereal disease, syphilis. “And so the Europeans located a New World, met a beautiful people full of love on its shining beaches, claimed the land, and enslaved the people who had occupied it for centuries” (Viola 11).

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