Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Feinstein, Stephen. Columbus : Opening up the New World.

Feinstein, Stephen. Columbus : Opening up the New World
Enslow 2009 112p 31.93 978-1-59845-101-6 jr/sr
Great Explorers of the World (Enslow)

Lots of primary source material allows us to hear Columbus’ true voice and provides an accessible historical look at the explorer his accomplishments, his harsh treatment of native populations and an explanation for how his career ended in disgrace. Here is Columbus as a real man. The author uses multiple historical documents that allow Columbus to speak for himself. These include his logs and letters and documents written by his contemporaries. Seen objectively, Columbus is not the admirable explorer that legend has given us but instead is someone far less admirable. It is shocking to learn exactly how his policies were resulted in the annihilation of millions of Arawak Indians. Moreover, his brutal treatment of the native population was also criticized by his contemporaries and that criticism of his actions is not revisionist history.
The detailed timeline at the beginning of the book is useful for locating sections within chapters because each chapter is subdivided by date. The index at the back allows access to more specific details. Most of the chapters within the book concerns his life at sea and his explorations but there are some additional personal details about his family and marriage to Felipa Moniz Perestrello .
A striking feature of the book’s design is its generous use of color in text and illustrations. Several of the chapters begin with the same illustration of the Santa Maria on different color background. The repeated use of this picture and several other brightly colored images make this appear more juvenile that its actual content. Additional images are taken from art prints,document facsimiles and maps.
The last chapter contains many excellent examples of how Columbus’ voyages led to an exchange of peoples, products and ideas among three parts of the world -- the Americas, Europe and Africa.(87) The author connects with voyages of geographical exploration with the intellectual exploration of the Reformation. He concludes with an overview of the slave trade.
Spadaro, Trish

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