History has always been a topic that I personally have never thought could be wrong or false; it has always been something that I thought was unquestionable, but Hans Koning opened my eyes to the fact that we should always question history and explore things further. The stories told about Columbus are those of heroism and adventure, but Hans Koning explains in his book Columbus: His Enterprise that our beliefs on who Columbus was as a person are astray.
Koning says that the story of Columbus is “Eurocentric” and told to glorify the European civilization of that time period; therefore, the most important argument that Koning makes in his book is that Columbus really was a selfish, and greedy con artist. Koning makes it a point in his book to show that Columbus was a very selfish man. He describes a scene from before his first voyage when Columbus left his son an orphan just so he could set out to sea. Throughout the book we can also see his selfishness get worse and worse as he becomes more and more infamous throughout Europe.
Koning states, “Columbus assuredly was not a force for the good. If an entire race stood in his way, it had to go” (70). This only goes to show that Columbus only looked out for himself and really did not care about the well-being of others. Another part of the book that also demonstrates this idea is when Koning describes when Columbus and his men came across the “savages” on his second voyage. Koning describes how the savages were over powered and struggled to survive Columbus and his crew.
The part that makes these killings so selfish on Columbus’ part is that he had no reason to kill these people, yet they still managed to massacre the helpless natives. When I was growing up I never pictured Columbus as a very greedy man, in fact I always thought he wanted to explore the world due to his passion for discovery, but Koning makes sure to explain that he was anything but that. Koning states that “Gold was his, and Spain’s, obsession” (61) which obviously shows that Columbus was a money-hungry man just looking for ways to acquire wealth; however, the greed Columbus had did not only revolve around gold and wealth.
Columbus showed greed when it came to women. Koning writes, “They were to be used as sex slaves for the crew” (75) referring to how Columbus wanted six women who escaped from his hold to be returned just for his and his crews own ‘use’. This behavior is despicable and greedy because he wants these people to be trapped for his and his crews’ personal access. Lastly Koning proves that Columbus was a smooth talking con artist who was able to trick people into doing what he wanted.
Columbus did this from the start of his voyage by, “[speaking] the language they wanted to hear: almost anything was worth a try in order to catch up with Portugal in the race to the Indies” (36). Koning shows that once again Columbus was not what we really thought he was. Koning explains how Columbus was a con artist further when he retells how when first meeting the natives, “[he] gave them a thousand pretty thing in order to get their affection and make them want to become Christians” (62).
This specific piece of evidence was actually a part of his sons’ retellings of his time on the ship, which proves that this evidence is extremely reliable. The book Columbus: His Enterprise written by Hans Koning opened my eyes personally on not just Columbus himself, but to the fact that history is not always set in stone. There are some things in history that we should question just like Hans Koning did. My perception of Columbus is entirely different now due to this book.
Before reading this I pictured Columbus as a brave and adventurous man who set out to sea to try and explore new lands; however, I quickly learned that he was in fact a selfish and greedy con artist who treated others poorly and only ever looked out for himself. Koning proves this through his blunt and honest retelling of what really happened back in the 1400’s when Columbus sailed across the ocean, using evidence from history to prove his point. Koning showed in his book that history is something that we should question and ponder before believing it completely.