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Thread: Anachronistic views about Christopher Columbus as worse than ISIS leader al-Baghdadi

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    Roma_Victrix's Avatar Gatorade, is it in you?
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    Default Anachronistic views about Christopher Columbus as worse than ISIS leader al-Baghdadi

    I don't mind a lot of videos that TYT releases, but this one really crawls under my skin.



    I get why some don't want to celebrate a man who brutalized the Taino natives of Hispaniola in the manner described in this video, but by the standards of the day Columbus was just your average warmonger and slaver. Should his achievements as an explorer and voyage symbolic of the beginning of a new era of colonialism and the Age of Sail and exploration be diminished by the fact that he did nasty stuff that a majority of his contemporaries happily engaged in? And not just his contemporaries in Italy or Spain, but virtually all of Christian Europe was this brutal (especially when it came to legal punishments of criminals and heretics), to say nothing of the brutal stuff going on in the Islamic Middle East, Hindu India, Buddhist Southeast Asia, Confucian China and Korea, etc. This is the late medieval period: what part of the world at this point wasn't completely neurotic and superstitious, backwards and brutal with short life expectancies? This is the same century that had Timur the Lame and Vlad the Impaler, by the way.

    Another goof in this video is the claim that the Spanish colonists just murdered millions upon millions of Taino people to the point of extinction on the island of Hispaniola. In fact, it's estimated that some 90% of the natives were killed off by Old World infectious diseases like smallpox that the New World natives did not have immunities to fight against (Elizabeth Abbot, Sugar: A Bittersweet History, 2010). It's pretty clear that many were killed in systematic genocide, but that doesn't account for the vast majority of these natives ruled over by a relatively small amount of European colonists.

    Do you think Columbus should lose his holiday in the USA, or should we continue to embrace this genocidal, harsh totalitarian monster as the great and brave explorer, the more positive aspects of his character?

  2. #2

    Default Re: Anachronistic views about Christopher Columbus as worse than ISIS leader al-Baghdadi

    When people claim ISIS is something straight out of the 12th century, they're right but for the wrong reasons, in the sense that ISIS would have been pretty typical in the 12th century, and are only considered a bunch of homicidal maniacs by today's comparatively lax developed world standards; with the exception of how well they're televised, they're nothing special in terms of cruelty by Syrian civil war standards.
    They've certainly got nothing on the likes of Dracula or Tamerlane, which even 15th century contemporaries thought were complete psychos (though in Timur's case, a remarkably competent, cultured, pious and intelligent psycho; its hard to pigeonhole real people, they tend to be quite complex).

    I believe in passing judgement on historical figures by the standards of their day, and by his, while Columbus was no saint, he was no devil either. The version of him passed off as a national hero is completely white washed and does a disservice to history, yet the extreme opposite of an incompetent and a butcher is also greatly exaggerated.
    The masses yearn for a simple narrative, yet history is rarely simple.
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    Praepositus
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    Default Re: Anachronistic views about Christopher Columbus as worse than ISIS leader al-Baghdadi

    Times have changed/ And we've often rewound the clock/ Since the Puritans got a shock/When they landed on Plymouth Rock.
    If today/ Any shock they should try to stem/Instead of landing on Plymouth Rock/Plymouth Rock would land on them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Caligula's_Horse View Post
    ...
    The masses yearn for a simple narrative, yet history is rarely simple.
    Yep. By and large there really is no history, just visions and revisions. One narrative gets built up to support a current state of events, and to attack the current state of events you attack the interpretation of the past that supports it.
    Jatte lambastes Calico Rat

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    Default Re: Anachronistic views about Christopher Columbus as worse than ISIS leader al-Baghdadi

    I've always felt the Conquest of the New World was a disjointed and not that interesting narrative, so couldn't care.

    The real interesting aspect was that Columbus managed to persuade the Spanish monarch to pawn the crown jewels to support the venture, and that he made it across and back. The strategic implications are a different story.
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    Praepositus
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    Default Re: Anachronistic views about Christopher Columbus as worse than ISIS leader al-Baghdadi

    Quote Originally Posted by Condottiere 40K View Post
    I've always felt the Conquest of the New World was a disjointed and not that interesting narrative, so couldn't care.

    The real interesting aspect was that Columbus managed to persuade the Spanish monarch to pawn the crown jewels to support the venture, and that he made it across and back. The strategic implications are a different story.
    Indeed. Its almost surreal the course of events, with Cristobal heading off to France before being called back, and as every schoolboy knows, promising to find a way to India and making it less than a third of the way.

    The plan to convert and/or enslave the locals was thwarted by disease, the main smasher of indigenous culture. The random lunacy of the episode continued with Cortez' identification with Quetzalcoatl which beggars belief. If 50 million people hadn't died of disease it would have been weirdly funny. The conquistadores acted with violence and treachery consonant with the age and not at odds with many indigenous cultures, in particular the Aztecs who seem to have been a grim lot and not well liked by the neighbours.

    Sometimes history is a tidal wave, and many are crushed in its path. Classic history dwells on the acts of great men (and occasionally women, so in this case the Spanish monarchs and the Italian explorer would be the focus), Whig historians would make the Catholics villains without rehabilitating the Aztecs, a Marxist historian might see the exploitation of the peasant class and the changing of economic modes by different elites, a post modern historian might identify pre-colonial and colonial value systems and misrepresentations while revising the above positions, but really the factor that most impinged on the lives of New world indigenes in the decades after Columbus' arrival was not decisive Great Men, imposed economic modes or reconstructed world views but unintended viruses, bacteria and protozoans.
    Jatte lambastes Calico Rat

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    Default Re: Anachronistic views about Christopher Columbus as worse than ISIS leader al-Baghdadi

    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclops View Post
    Sometimes history is a tidal wave, and many are crushed in its path. Classic history dwells on the acts of great men (and occasionally women, so in this case the Spanish monarchs and the Italian explorer would be the focus), Whig historians would make the Catholics villains without rehabilitating the Aztecs, a Marxist historian might see the exploitation of the peasant class and the changing of economic modes by different elites, a post modern historian might identify pre-colonial and colonial value systems and misrepresentations while revising the above positions, but really the factor that most impinged on the lives of New world indigenes in the decades after Columbus' arrival was not decisive Great Men, imposed economic modes or reconstructed world views but unintended viruses, bacteria and protozoans.
    Quote Originally Posted by Caligula's_Horse View Post
    The masses yearn for a simple narrative, yet history is rarely simple.
    It is a rare and fine thing indeed when some of the wisest and the brightest here at TWC come forth to posit such marvellous posts and golden nuggets of truth. Hear, hear!

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    Default Re: Anachronistic views about Christopher Columbus as worse than ISIS leader al-Baghdadi

    Quote Originally Posted by Caligula's_Horse View Post
    When people claim ISIS is something straight out of the 12th century, they're right but for the wrong reasons, in the sense that ISIS would have been pretty typical in the 12th century, and are only considered a bunch of homicidal maniacs by today's comparatively lax developed world standards; with the exception of how well they're televised, they're nothing special in terms of cruelty by Syrian civil war standards.
    They've certainly got nothing on the likes of Dracula or Tamerlane, which even 15th century contemporaries thought were complete psychos (though in Timur's case, a remarkably competent, cultured, pious and intelligent psycho; its hard to pigeonhole real people, they tend to be quite complex).

    The real question is: What is more barbaric? Chopping once head off or throwing a bomb from the air without seeing the concequences? At least in the middle ages when they killed someone, they did it with their own hands which means they couldnt kill many people. Today we throw a bomb and kill 100 people and because we dont see the consecuensces we delude our selves into believing that this is civilized

    I believe in passing judgement on historical figures by the standards of their day, and by his, while Columbus was no saint, he was no devil either. The version of him passed off as a national hero is completely white washed and does a disservice to history, yet the extreme opposite of an incompetent and a butcher is also greatly exaggerated.
    The masses yearn for a simple narrative, yet history is rarely simple.
    The idea that modern warfare is more civilized is stupid. What have changed is that we dont see the consecuences of our actions. In middle ages you were forced to cut your enemies head of. Today you either shoot him from a distance or throw a bomb from above. The KEY DIFFERENCE between the two types of warfare is that if i had an axe i would kill few people while today with a gun you can kill much more. So in the end i doubt if we are civilized. We just have the ability to throw a bomb, kill 100 people and not see the results of our actions
    Last edited by Papay; October 08, 2015 at 10:43 AM.

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    Default Re: Anachronistic views about Christopher Columbus as worse than ISIS leader al-Baghdadi

    Quote Originally Posted by Papay View Post
    The idea that modern warfare is more civilized is stupid. What have changed is that we dont see the consecuences of our actions. In middle ages you were forced to cut your enemies head of. Today you either shoot him from a distance or throw a bomb from above. The KEY DIFFERENCE between the two types of warfare is that if i had an axe i would kill few people while today with a gun you can kill much more. So in the end i doubt if we are civilized. We just have the ability to throw a bomb, kill 100 people and not see the results of our actions
    But it did get more civilized, in a "not hard to improve on garbage" sort of way.

    Developed countries have stopped butchering civilian populations wholesale, which is already a pretty big leap forward. Starvation of the enemy is also for the most part not really seen as an objective to strive for (it helps that it takes forever, and people have gotten this idea that wars are best kept as short as possible). There's this whole Geneva convention thing that most nations nowadays do try to respect, including such gems as minimal treatment of POWs, a ban on taking slaves, not shooting civilians for fun, banning certain particularly nasty weapons...
    The situation is of course much worse in areas like Syria or sub-Saharan Africa, largely because those places lack a lot of the modern niceties most of the rest of the world has like stable governments or discipline in the ranks, but for the most part, its not nearly as bad as it used to be in say, the 1500's.
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    Default Re: Anachronistic views about Christopher Columbus as worse than ISIS leader al-Baghdadi

    Quote Originally Posted by Caligula's_Horse View Post
    But it did get more civilized, in a "not hard to improve on garbage" sort of way.

    Developed countries have stopped butchering civilian populations wholesale, which is already a pretty big leap forward. Starvation of the enemy is also for the most part not really seen as an objective to strive for (it helps that it takes forever, and people have gotten this idea that wars are best kept as short as possible). There's this whole Geneva convention thing that most nations nowadays do try to respect, including such gems as minimal treatment of POWs, a ban on taking slaves, not shooting civilians for fun, banning certain particularly nasty weapons...
    The situation is of course much worse in areas like Syria or sub-Saharan Africa, largely because those places lack a lot of the modern niceties most of the rest of the world has like stable governments or discipline in the ranks, but for the most part, its not nearly as bad as it used to be in say, the 1500's.
    Indeed, a brief acquaintance with say Roman military history demonstrates how routine brutality was, pre modern warfare everywhere was pretty rank. When Carthage fell to Scipio and when Konstantinopolis fell to Mehmet the cities were both given over to days of rape and slaughter as a matter of course. These days someone bombs a hospital by accident and everybody loses their minds.
    Jatte lambastes Calico Rat

  10. #10

    Default Re: Anachronistic views about Christopher Columbus as worse than ISIS leader al-Baghdadi

    I mentioned it on these forums before, there is nothing as irritating as presenting the history through modern morale-values or standards and wanting yourself to be taken seriously. It's one thing the question the reason of some actions or simply discuss but when you are "presenting" as in using some form of media to lecture people about history, that's just so ugh...

    I just can't wait for white knights and other over the top liberals for to whine about gay rights in Henry II's England or more realistically complain about the portrayal or treatment of women, other ethnicity etc.. in a historically accurate manner.

    "Why aren't women fighting at Hastings? Joan of Arc was a women and fought. And why aren't all these actors and extras English, and where is the diversity, this movie/show is whitewashing misogynist hogwash! "

  11. #11

    Default Re: Anachronistic views about Christopher Columbus as worse than ISIS leader al-Baghdadi

    But we do judge history by modern standards. We all agree that many historical practices are bad and don't belong in the modern world. When the coalition took Baghdad, they didn't loot and rape for three days.

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    Default Re: Anachronistic views about Christopher Columbus as worse than ISIS leader al-Baghdadi

    Quote Originally Posted by Condottiere 40K View Post
    The real interesting aspect was that Columbus managed to persuade the Spanish monarch to pawn the crown jewels to support the venture.
    I'm sorry to disappoint you, the old nonsense of about Isabella to pawning her jewels to meet Columbus's costs is a myth.The key investors in the voyage were a group of Italian bankers in Seville and court officials in Castile and Aragon.
    In fact, it was only when it became apparent that the project could be financed at no direct cost to the king anf queen there seemed no reason not to let Columbus sail and see what happen.
    At the time, Catholic monarchs were anxious about the gains Portugal was making as a result of Atlantic exploration, and the monarchs give him letters adressed vaguely to the "most Serene Prince our dearest friend" (sic), which Columbus intended to present to the ruler of China.
    ------
    Roma_Vitrix
    Do you think Columbus should lose his holiday in the USA
    I fail to see the reason. There is nothing wrong with the Columbomania...all the blame cannot be laid at the doorstep of Winnifred S. Stoner, whose poem "The History of the United States" contained the immortal lines;
    In the fourteen hundred and ninety-two,
    Columbus sailed the Ocean blue"


    Farther removed from the tone and sensibility of this poem,the native Jimmie Durant's poem,

    " In school I was taught the names
    Columbus, Cortez and Pizzaro and
    A dozen other filthy murders

    No one mentions the names
    Of a few of victims

    In school I learned the heroic discoveries
    Made by liars and crooks...


    A founder of the American Indian movement wrote: " Columbus makes Hitler lokk like a juvenile delinquent"
    ---
    But the fact remains, we can't judge the past by standards of today. Adam Smith famously described the voyages of Columbus and Gama as the "greatest events recorded in the history of mankind" ( Wealth of Nations)
    The discovery of America, and that of a passage to the East Indies by the Cape of Good Hope, are the two greatest and most important events recorded in the history of mankind.

    Their consequences have already been very great: but, in the short period of between two and three centuries which has elapsed since these discoveries were made, it is impossible that the whole extent of their consequences can have been seen.

    What benefits, or what misfortunes to mankind may hereafter result from those great events, no human wisdom can foresee. By uniting, in some measure, the most distant parts of the world, by enabling them to relieve one another's wants, to increase one another's enjoyments, and to encourage one another's industry, their general tendency would seem to be beneficial.
    Last edited by Ludicus; October 10, 2015 at 01:34 PM.
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    Default Re: Anachronistic views about Christopher Columbus as worse than ISIS leader al-Baghdadi

    Quote Originally Posted by Roma_Victrix View Post
    Do you think Columbus should lose his holiday in the USA, or should we continue to embrace this genocidal, harsh totalitarian monster as the great and brave explorer, the more positive aspects of his character?
    What do you celebrate on Columbus day?

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    Default Re: Anachronistic views about Christopher Columbus as worse than ISIS leader al-Baghdadi

    Quote Originally Posted by Hobbes View Post
    What do you celebrate on Columbus day?
    I think they have always celebrated the Discovery of America ... but now, after having read this interesting, intelligent and disturbing question, I've some doubt ..

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    Default Re: Anachronistic views about Christopher Columbus as worse than ISIS leader al-Baghdadi

    I've always celebrated the discovery of North America on Turkey Day.
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    Default Re: Anachronistic views about Christopher Columbus as worse than ISIS leader al-Baghdadi

    Quote Originally Posted by Caligula's_Horse View Post
    But it did get more civilized, in a "not hard to improve on garbage" sort of way.

    Developed countries have stopped butchering civilian populations wholesale, which is already a pretty big leap forward.
    How naive. If your developed nation is the US, then they have shown at any opportunity that Geneva convention is ignored if it stands in a way of winning. And they are in the best position to be nice in war since since WW2 they fought expeditionary wars against much weaker opponents with no emotional animosity against them. The primary guideline in American (or French, British, Russian, whatever) expeditionary warfare is not to make the war unpopular at home.

    Any other modern war of two more evenly matched sides who share a border is full of examples of everything that you mentioned. Right down to starving the enemy, in fact it's happening right now in Syria to Syrian army enclaves surrounded by ISIS, and ISIS isn't doing it because of medieval mindset but because it's the only thing they can do. Of course, starving an enemy today is more about preventing it from getting fuel than food, but food still applies.

    Now imagine a conflict of the WW2 scale happening today. Firebombing and nuking of civilians, huge POW camps full of starving prisoners because resources are better spent on your own troops, millions of untrained conscripts raping and looting and officers having bigger worries than disciplining a soldier for raping someone, revenge killings, killing of prisoners because you can't be bothered to take them prisoner, and most countries which signed weapon bans still have those same weapons in reserve, just in case. If there is a mortar team shooting at you from the hospital, you blow up the hospital and everyone in it. That is the reality. No conventions in real war, except one - retribution. Only thing keeping anyone from using chemical and nuclear weapons is fear of equal retribution. Or international condemnation if it's a local conflict and you're not a superpower. Or bad press at home and loss of war support if you are a superpower fighting expeditionary war.

    In short, rules of war are a joke no one ever took seriously.
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    Default Re: Anachronistic views about Christopher Columbus as worse than ISIS leader al-Baghdadi

    Quote Originally Posted by Hobbes View Post
    What do you celebrate on Columbus day?
    Back when I was in school, you celebrated having the day off and that was about it...

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    Default Re: Anachronistic views about Christopher Columbus as worse than ISIS leader al-Baghdadi

    Quote Originally Posted by brandbll View Post
    Back when I was in school, you celebrated having the day off and that was about it...
    This^^. Although I wouldn't mind celebrating the discovery of America. Dressing up as a Viking and pillaging Canada could be fun.


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    Default Re: Anachronistic views about Christopher Columbus as worse than ISIS leader al-Baghdadi

    I personally dont see celebrating Columbus day as a good thing, theirs nothing about him really worth celebrating.
    Last edited by SLN445; October 15, 2015 at 01:09 AM.

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    Default Re: Anachronistic views about Christopher Columbus as worse than ISIS leader al-Baghdadi

    Quote Originally Posted by Magister Militum Flavius Aetius View Post
    This^^. Although I wouldn't mind celebrating the discovery of America. Dressing up as a Viking and pillaging Canada could be fun.

    You just gave someone an idea about how to spend their weekend!

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