People,Ben Giles

A Harvard professor and cultural anthropologist, Delaney is in Washington talking about her newest book, "Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem," which she says sets the record straight on Christopher Columbus' voyages across the Atlantic Ocean.

Why do you say people are wrong about Columbus?

I think a lot of people today are blaming him, or thinking that he was sort of like a conquistador. They blame him for slaughtering and enslaving the natives. But for a lot of those things that happened, he wasn't even there -- he stayed behind on his ship. And in his writing, he was trying to tell his crew on land not to do those things. ... There was no intention of enslaving or conquering. He was setting up a trading post to fund the trade of gold and spices to fund crusades for Jerusalem.

Where was Columbus trying to go?

He was not going to prove the world was round. Everybody at the time knew the world was round, and he was not going out to find the New World. He thought he was going to China, because nobody knew about the existence of the American continent. His idea, which he writes about in the diary of his first voyage, was to go and get gold and spices to fund a crusade to take back Jerusalem from the Muslims before the end of the world.

When exactly did he think that would be?

In his first calculations [made in 1481], he thought there was going to be 1,759 years left, to be exact, so there was plenty of time to get this stuff together. ... Later he recalculated and said there would only be 155 years left.

Why don't people know about this?

He wrote a book of prophesies, and the manuscript wasn't printed until 1894, and then it was not translated into any modern language until 1984. And it wasn't translated into English until 1991.

?- Ben Giles

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