Mostrando las entradas de febrero 7, 2009

Enterprise of the Indies

During the 1470s and early 1480s, Christopher Columbus participated in several long voyages that took him as far as Iceland and Africa. Trade with Asia (then called the Indies) was very profitable at the time, and he began to formulate the idea that it would be faster and easier to travel to Asia by sailing westward from Europe, going across the Atlantic Ocean, than by traveling east, as was commonly done. Contrary to legend, all educated fifteenth-century Europeans knew that the earth was round, but no one had any idea about its size; most theories underestimated the size of the earth by about one-third. Most people also believed the earth was one huge landmass, consisting of Europe, Africa, and Asia, surrounded by water. It was not surprising that Columbus guessed incorrectly at the distances between continents.

Naming his plan to reach Asia on a westward route “The Enterprise of the Indies,” Columbus tried unsuccessfully to persuade Portuguese king John II (1455–1495) to support a…


Man made his appearance on the western continent unnumbered ages ago, not unlikely before the close of the glacial period. It is possible that human life began in Asia and western North America sooner than on either shore of the Atlantic. Nothing wholly forbids the belief that America was even the cradle of the race, or one of several cradles, though most scientific writers prefer the view that our species came hither from Asia. De Nadaillac judges it probable that the ocean was thus crossed not at Behring Strait alone, but along a belt of equatorial islands as well. We may think of successive waves of such immigration--perhaps the easiest way to account for certain differences among American races.

It is, at any rate, an error to speak of the primordial Americans as derived from any Asiatic stock at present existing or known to history.
The old Americans had scarcely an Asiatic feature. Their habits and customs were emphatically peculiar to themselves. Those in which they agreed with t…