diumenge, 13 d’abril del 2008

Was Columbus Catalonian?

School children around the world are taught that Christopher Columbus was Italian, or, more precisely, a Genoese who sailed to the New World for the Spanish only because that country’s sovereigns gave him the money for the project. The idea that Columbus was Italian also fits well with some histories of the Renaissance, which hold that Italy was the birthplace of the Renaissance and that it spread from there. In fact, the Renaissance in Spain is often said to have begun in 1492, the year Columbus, an Italian, "discovered" the Americas.

But what if Columbus were born somewhere else? What if he were Spanish or Catalonian, an area of Spain with Barcelona as its political and cultural center? Such a finding could have far-reaching implications for historical scholarship and for national identities—in fact, it could provide evidence for other historical theories which hold that Italy’s role in the Renaissance may be less prominent than previously thought.

These are some of the implications that stem from Professor Charles J. Merrill’s 40-year program of research to discover the origins of Columbus, the findings of which are summarized in this book. "There‘s no question that some of the proponents of the revisionist theories of Columbus’s origins have been moved by nationalism or other non-scholarly considerations," Merrill writes in the Introduction. "The best of the unofficial theories have been published in books and journals with minimal circulation, often in obscure languages, that take a good deal of effort to find and read. Having taken the trouble to find and read them, I propose briefly to rehearse those alternative theories ... then to give the standard, Italian version and explain ... the objections that have been made to it; and then to expound ... the thesis that I think is most likely to be the true one: namely, that Christopher Columbus was a Catalan, born in the principality of Catalonia, a member of a family hostile to the dynasty that ruled his country."


Chapter 1 Claims That Columbus Was Not Italian
Chapter 2 The Official Story: Columbus Was Italian
Chapter 3 Weaknesses in the Official Story
Chapter 4 History of Columbus’ Catalan Origins
Chapter 5 Colom Catalià
Chapter 6 The Trastámaras
Chapter 7 Questions Answered
Chapter 8 Conclusion

CHARLES J. MERRILL is associate professor of foreign languages at Mount Saint Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., where he teaches Spanish and Latin. He graduated from Dartmouth College and earned master’s and doctorate degrees from Duke University. He has done extensive research in medieval Catalan literature and has appeared on a Discovery Channel documentary that examined the life of Christopher Columbus.