4/07/2012

Hans Koning's Columbus

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Hans Koning has discarded society’s traditional view of Christopher Coloumbus as a hero. In the introduction Columbus His Enterprise Exploding the Myth; Koning dismisses the conventional image of Columbus as false. He proposes to explain his rejection by detailing the circumstances which allowed Columbus to convince the King and Queen of Spain to support his idea as well as Columbus’ voyages and his treatment of the aboriginals he encountered. This report will cover the mechanics, the bibliography and the themes of Hans Koning’s composition, as well as investigating whether Koning was effective in his bid to dethrone Columbus as a champion.


The mechanics of a novel are very important because they help leave an overall impression with the reader. Koning has divided his book into ten chapters. The chapters follow the chronological order of Columbus’ life and voyages. The end of the text contains a bibliography which is followed by an added section by Bill Bigelow. This segment is titled Columbus in the Classroom. Bigelow attempts to add to Koning’s point of disgust with society’s uniform view of Columbus by illustrating the misconceptions of history in school textbooks. Koning’s text is directed at the high school level, most likely in hopes to replace the traditional textbooks. The vocabulary used is not complex and the ideas presented are easy to follow. Although mechanics play an important role in the overall impression of a book, the bibliography is even more significant.


The bibliography is a key element in the presentation of an author’s thesis. It is the bibliography where the reader can go to question sources the author has used in preparing his argument. Koning presents his bibliography in paragraphz form instead of simply providing a list of sources. Koning not only uses a variety of secondary sources but he also used primary sources. For example he uses De Las Casas’ ( the friar on the voyage ) Account of the First Voyage and Destruccion de las Indies. His use of primary sources diminishes the possibility of a bias in the text. Hans Koning’s use of a variety of sources ranging from other texts, to texts primarily based on primary sources to a couple of actual primary sources, shows a wide range of material used. The bibliography helps to show the reader the sources of the author’s ideas. However if those ideas are not presented in a manor with which the reader may identify, the entire text falls apart. One of the first ideas that Koning presents are the circumstances which existed in Spain to allow Columbus the oppurtunity to present his idea


Throughout history ‘great’ events have only been able to take place due to the conditions that permitted them to occur. Meaning, certain conditions needed to exist in Spain before Columbus would be able to present his idea and more importantly for that idea to be taken seriously. Koning goes to great lengths to ensure that the reader understands the importance of those conditions. It was not until 14 that Spain became a nation state. This newly formed state who was attempting to overcome a financial crisis spurned on by the expulsion of the Jewish community sorely lacked gold. At the time gold was the most common form of currency; it was needed to help fund wars and help build up Spain’s economy.


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Spain’s system of economics was very poorly established. The nobles held all the power and the remaining part of the population were starving peasants. Although wool was the national export it did not yield any profits. The mentioned events illustrate why conditions in Spain were suitable for a modern concept of economics. It was Christopher Columbus who put forth the idea of Spain moving to an international notion of commerce. He wanted to discover an alternate route to the riches of the East, thus eliminating the trade tariffs imposed by the Moslem’s. In presenting his plan, Columbus guaranteed the King and Queen of Spain that they would be destined to obtain all the gold and riches they could possibly desire as well as the opportunity to convert the heathens of the east to Christianity. In presenting the conditions that existed for Columbus’ concept to be taken seriously and consequently accepted, Hans Koning displays the attitudes of greed in Spain which in the later voyages of Columbus become extremely relevant.


Christopher Columbus sailed across the Atlantic on four occasions. Koning’s obvious lack of respect for Columbus is clear when he hints that it was not he who sailed across the Atlantic yet it was the crew who sailed Columbus across the ocean. The king offered a reward to the first man who spotted land on the maiden voyage. According to Koning, Juan Rodriguez Bermeo, a member of the crew, was the first to spot land. Columbus countered his claim and said that it was he who was the first to spot land, thus claiming the reward for himself. By including this example, Koning portays Columbus as a greedy man who would stop at nothing to achieve his goal of money and fame. Upon arrival the land was claimed in the name of the King and queen of Spain. He did not bother to take into account that there was already an established civilization. Right from the very beginning Columbus had no intentions of developing an equal trade relation with the natives, instead he wrote in his journal that they would make good servants or slaves. On his return trip to Spain he also brought back native prisoners to show the King and Queen. Hans Koning uses the initial treatment of the aboriginals to foreshadow the destruction the natives would undergo at the hands of the Europeans.


Hans Koning goes to great lengths to describe the fashion with which the Europeans conducted their affairs in the ‘new’ world. The innocent natives did not stand a chance against the gold driven Europeans, because Columbus made unreasonable demands upon those he had conquered. For instance all people over the age of fourteen were required to collect gold for the Spanish. They were required by law to bring a hawk’s bell full of gold to the Spaniards every three months. The punishment for failing this task was to have your was to have your hands cut off. The natives could not resist the treatment of the Spaniards. The Spanish were better equipped then they were with armor, muskets, swords, horses and dogs. The dogs were used to chase down those who attempted to resist the evil ways of the conquerors. The Spanish were successfully able to destroy the natives and their way of life just under a half century. Hans Koning spends much time on this subject in his text. He uses these many examples to show not only Christopher Columbus but all of Europe as a selfish greedy population who placed aside morals and humanity in the name of wealth and capitalism.


After the second voyage Columbus spent the remaining part of his life insisting that he had indeed found a passage to the East and that there were many riches awaiting the Spanish. Instead he died a man who played a very key role in the destruction of many civilizations. Hans Koning spends a lot of time and uses numerous examples to convince the reader that Columbus should not be hailed as a hero but rather a man who condoned the practice of genocide.


The author puts forward convincing arguments, thus making it quite obvious how he wishes his text to be interpreted. Koning questions the traditional view of Columbus and demands the reader to do the same. Subsequently the reader should question Hans Koning. In his introduction Koning says that he will present facts, yet he never defines his definition of facts. As a result the reader may be unclear if Koning’s text consists of facts or if it consists of Konig’s interpretation of history. Hans Koning does a good job of convincing the reader his views of Christopher Columbus.


Hans Koning uses his book Columbus His Entreprise Exploding the Myth to reject society’s glorification of Christopher Columbus. In his book Koning describes the conditions that existed in Spain to allow Columbus the opportunity to have his idea heard and accepted, the voyages across the Atlantic and his treatment of the natives.





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