Thursday, September 2, 2010

First Seminar - "Columbus, the Indians and Human Progress"

After reading Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States Chapter 1, post your thoughts on the following questions:

1. What are the TWO most important things Zinn says about Colombus and why?
2. What is the most important thing he says abou the writing of history?

Be sure you are thoughtful in your posts, provide evidence that backs up your claims and provide page numbers to reference the text! (Also be sure you sign your posts!)


  1. 1. The first thing that I found very interesting about Colombus that Zinn says is how Colombus was raised knowing all about trade patterns and how exactly trade can make you wealthy and work the best. I think that this is so important because he really was full of knowledge in the area, but in a sense it just made him more greedy. Colombus in my opinion was too greedy and i think that a really good example of this is how he claimed he saw land the evening before the other guy that Zinn mentions does, and he in turn gets the reward for finding the land even though in truth, the other man who saw it in the morning DID see it first. He is greedy in taking advantage of the indians too when he sees that they will give him ANYTHING and he wants to find gold. The second most important thing i think that Zinn said about Colombus was how he sent back exaggerated reports about his journey. He tells so many lies for a good reputation. He is so afraid to be seen as a failure. He doesn't send just one, but multiple reports that lie about what he has been doing in the Americas. He fails to mention his involvment with the indians and his difficulty finding gold.

    2. The most important thing that Zinn says about history is that there will always be multiple arguments regarding a topic, but as a historian it is important to just tell things how they were without including an opinion. You do not want to weave in a point of view with the facts.

    -Julia Coash period 8

  2. 1. Howard Zinn comes to many conclusions regarding Columbus in the opening chapter of "A People's History of the United States". The two most important conclusions Zinn draws about Christopher Columbus are that he should not be revered as a hero and that he was one of the reason that slave trade began. Zinn portrays Columbus as a man bent on returning to Spain with plenty of gold in tow, even if that meant killing and enslaving thousands of natives. Furthermore, Zinn describes Columbus' method of securing gold. Any native that did not find gold had their hands cut off and bled to death. The tyrannical portrait which Zinn paints is hard to ignore, especially as he quotes the journals of Bartolome de las Casas to further validate his thesis that Columbus was not who most believe. Columbus' part in slavery is another important thing that Zinn says about Columbus. He saw the natives as perfect vessels to carry out work. Columbus is not known for a part in slavery, and Zinn pointing this out is essential to a better view of Christopher Columbus.

    2. Howard Zinn also goes over his view of the writing of history. His most important idea on writing history is that it must be creative. He writes that too many historians "..recapitulate the failures that dominate the past is to make historians collaborators in an endless cycle of defeat." This, he says, leads to history blind of looking to the future in order to prevent possible problems. Zinn stresses that history writing should enlighten people so history does not repeat itself. This is the basis of Zinn's theory on history writing, making it the most important.

    - Rachel Oestreicher

  3. 1. One important thing about Colomubs is that Zinn is trying to tell us is that he is not the man that he is precieved to be. Zinn describes him as a greedy and evil man. This conflicts with our view of colombus today because we are taught to view him as a hero, someone we should all be thankful to for discovering America. However, Zinn's picture of colombus makes him look more like a geonocidal tyrant rather then a hero. When Zinn quotes "La Casa" we find out from a primary source the eviles Colombus and his men commited to the natives. The second point Zinn is trying to show us is the ways Colombus went about getting Gold. Colombus and the spaniards went about as they pleased, enslaving the natives and looting thier belongings. As time went on, huge portions of the native populations died working for the spanish.

    2. I think Zinns main point about history is that we cant only consider our own peoples/nations views, we must look at history from different points of view

    Ryan Molloy

  4. 1. Zinn does not denounce who Columbus is, yet brings up points of whether or not he should be perceived as a hero. Zinn shows how he, like many Europeans at that time, wanted to exploit America for wealthy means. Yes Columbus introduced the start of colonization, progress, modernization, and the foundation of America; but he also introduced disease, greed, racism, and death. Obviously all these instances were not intentional, all he and others like him cared about was making money. But how Zinn gives both sides of Columbus is essential in understanding the discoverer of America.

    2. As mentioned above, Zinn's way of writing history is not about one group or another. He involves documents, ideas, and evidence from both parties and lets the reader decide who is at fault or not. I believe that he is somewhat biased, yet tries his best to do what he wrote his book for, to teach the true side of history and support it with facts.

    Joe Albanese

  5. 1. One of the most important things Zinn says about columbus is how the english were not able to live with them or be in a society with them. So the English nchose to exterminate them and take their land. Christopher Columbus was a leader in this action and strongly advised it. An example of this is that Columbus enslaved indians and brought them across the atlantic back to Europe. The other important thing Zinn said about Columbus was that he cared about gold and the extravagances to make a man wealthy. He did not care about the history he was making or the new civiliation he was interacting with for the first time.

    2. The most important information I learned from what Howard Zinn said was how much of different perspectives the indians had of the europeans. They thought differently and had no understanding between each other at all.

    Zack Davidoff

  6. 1. The first important thing Zinn said about Columbus was his disregard for the Native's ("Indians') feelings. He treated them with disrespect and immediately showed an attitude of arrogancy. For example, he captured natives in his search for gold because he thought they could be able to help him in his own selfish pursuits.

    Another important thing Zinn pointed out about Columbus was that he was basically full of empty promises. He promised his financial backers in Spain that he would be successful in the new world- finding gold and slaves. When he wasn't as successful as he had hoped, he fabricated the report he sent back to Spain.

    2. Zinn says the most important thing about the writing of history is it's lack of total objectivity. He says that it is impossible for historians to be completely unbiased and that they will inevitably favor one side of every argument.

    -Chloe Williams

  7. 1)
    The most important thing Zinn says about Columbus his overall lack of empathy and reason. While he does not directly state this his words consistently imply it. Upon first meeting the Natives he regarded them as pawns to be moved around on his would-be future plantations. He disregarded their gift and scoffed at their lack of advanced weaponry. He paid no attention to fact there was limited gold on the Island and thus in turn ended up killing off a large portion of the Natives who were not able to meet the quota. He takes the reward Rodrigo earns (for no apparent reason)

    2) While Zinn may talk of being biased in history I believe that the main thesis of his argument is two parted. First without death there can not be progress, as he mentions in the bombing of Hiroshima and Vietnam war (these events helped advance America and Western civilization). Secondly, history is different depending on whether one is an average person, or a noble, or a slave in a community. This doesn't necessarily mean there is a bias it simply means that one must take a holistic view of society to truly understand it.
    Danny Glass

  8. Howard Zinn comes to realize two very important things regarding Christopher Columbus in the first few chapters. First, Zinn feels controversial towards the emphasis on Columbus heroism and success as an explorer and de-emphasize their genocide. Columbus took advantage of the Arawak Indians by forcing them to work and be imprisoned. He also was responsible for the large number of Indians who died as a direct result of the exploration into the new world. Columbus’s overall total control lead to total cruelty. Second, Zinn feels that Columbus’s exploration led to the slavery outbreak in the new world. After the Europeans in the new world worked the natives as much as then could before they fought back, they needed a second source of laborers. They began shipping them to the new world to work on the plantations. Zinn points out that the existence of slavery in Africa was used to justify slavery in the new world. Although the two were unable to compare because slavery in Africa was a lot like serfdom where the serfs had a few rights and freedoms. Slavery in the new world was cruel and salves received no rights.
    Zinn believes that when it comes to writing history the most important thing is to not only list the facts and evidence, but also show different points of view. Many history books show Columbus as a successful navigator and explorer. They rarely show him as the leader of a genocide etc. it is important to not only show Columbus view of the natives, but the natives view of Columbus as well. overall Zinn believed it was important to include the different view point of the parties included.

    -Elisa Santelia

  9. He describes Columbus with an imperialistic and selfish personality. He tells us how Columbus lands in the New world admiring the Arawaks but yet planning to use their generous hospitality for his benefits. His imperialistic attitude is shown as he right away captures the Indians to use them as a guide to gold. Makes a military base to exploit the land to search for gold and capturing the natives by force. He shows his selfish side by telling his financial supporters in Spain his false location and the benefits he has obtained there, to buy him more time to exploit the land and to get more expeditions. He also states what Morison has said in his book about Columbus is that he was very willing to be successful.

    Howard Zinn states the history books used in the United States describe the Columbus day as a celebration hiding the bloodshed and cruelty caused from it.He explains that a historian should only state facts from the evidence taking neither sides and telling the true history which has taken place for others to develop opinions and decide.

    Farhan Nasim

  10. 1. There are two important aspects that Howard Zinn expresses about Columbus. Howard Zinn states that Columbus should be perceived as a different person. He views Columbus as an arrogant and cruel person. He also views Columbus as a very avaricious person and that people have misconceptions about him being the hero that discovered America. Columbus took advantage of the Arawak Indians after his discovery of America. For instance he took away their natural rights and captured them. He did this to pursue his goal and to find the gold because he was selfish. The second important aspect that Howard Zinn pointed out about Columbus was that his brutality towards humanity led to slavery. Zinn states that the slavery in Africa was different because all of their rights weren't stripped. On the other hand slavery in America was totally different because they had no freedom at all.

    2. Zinn analyzed that the most important thing about the writing of history was not only the evidence to back up your claim and the supporting facts. Different perspectives was the key to get the concept of history and to fully understand the differences. Columbus was always known as an explorer and his cruelty towards people was concealed for many years. It is best to have more than one opinion on things.

    - Alexi Contrata

  11. The most important thing Zinn mentions about Colombus is that he is glorified as a hero to the European world but that Colombus was far from our standard of "good." Zinn brings up that Colombus was the first to enslaved the natives of modern day Haiti and the Dominican Republic as well as cheating them with unfair trades that ended with Colombus taking much more than he gave. Eventually the whole land which was once all native land was taken by force and the natives were forced to work on dangerous plantations as slaves. Zinn makes sure that the reader understands that Colombus treated the Indians as less than people, which leads to the question, should we really have a day to commemorate a man who lead to the death and enslavement of millions of people? Its important to evaluate the people we see as heros and what Zinn says about Colombus should make people think much less of him and open up some ignorant eyes.

    The 2nd notable point that Zinn brings up about Colombus is that Colombus opened up a whole network across the Atlantic ocean. With the introduction of a new land new goods were available to the Europeans and since there was no form of currency the Europeans offered their own goods. Soon all sorts of European and American commerce was traveling back and forth, allowing for the two cultures and the world to become closer together.

    Zinn presents a very mature method of documenting history. He gives us the idea that you need to hear about the bad as well as the good. For a long time people ignored the atrocities committed by Colombus because they looked upon him as a hero, the founder of America. However upon closer analyses one may find that Colombus isnt such a great hero after all. Reading books by authors with a similar understanding of history as Zinn will open our eyes and let us make our own opinion on people such as Colombus. Its important to always remember the bad as well as the good because if anything should be embellished, it shouldnt be history. In order to learn from our past we need to have all the facts, to make our own judgements and only then can we grow as a people.

    Matthew DiRe

  12. Howard Zinn described Columbus as a man sent on a voyage in search of great riches for the country of Spain and in his search, exploited any resources in which benefit him on his search. Through conquering foreign territory, Columbus used the Native peoples to his advantage and nearly wiped out 90% of their population in doing so. Zinn explains how Columbus was determined to discover a nonexistent treasure where he had practically became a parasite on the land he plagued. He leeched the Native's for the agricultural methods and later turned on them in his desperate greed.

    Zinn feels that when writing history, the use of unbiased facts and creativity are necessary in writing successfully. If opinion should be present, it is the author's responsibility to utilize ideas from both arguing sides to provide accurate data.

    Mike Sperduto

  13. Samantha Angilletta

    1. The First important thing that Zinn stated about Columbus is the basic fact that he commited genocide to all the people in the new world by opening up their wonderful world of peace to disease and harsh labor. Once the diseases Europeans carried over started attacking many people the death rate grew higher and the Indian population shrunk. Instead of figuring out how to learn the ropes of for farming and hunting, Columbus took advantage of what the indian people knew and enslaved them so all the harsh labor can be done for them. After Columbus started the slave trade Africa became a huge part of history. Africans had a very demographic background which was basically calling the Europeans to make them all slaves. The Africans were shipped back and forth around the world in unsanitary tightly squeezed ships making them become the main reason for a rise agriculturally and economically for Europeans. If it wasnt for Spain realizing how harsh the slaves were treated slavery could still be active today. The second important thing Zinn Stated about Columbus is how when he got to the new world he began colonizing as soon as he could, bringing the slaves with himc. Columbus took the native people and enslaved them as if they were violating his land and as their punishment they had to be forced into doing all the labor the Europeans wanted. The Europeans tried to take over as much land as possible and they did, because only few of the Indian tribes survived European colonization some still around today.

    2. The most important thing in history according to Zin is not using only one persons outlook or opinion, but state the true facts and evidence behind them. Even if some of the facts are negative they need to be said just as the postive facts do in history. Myths are created to mix up history and without getting the complete true story first a person would never know a myth from a true story. This is why in history the most important thing is to tell the facts no matter what the ones beliefs who writes to us are.

  14. 1.
    The exposing of Columbus as not being the hero he is perceived to be is the first most important thing. This sheds to the light the genocide of the Native American culture. Columbus set a precedent of exploiting and enslaving the native american people causing American culture to forever be tainted. It is a wonder how so many textbooks and how on Columbus day nobody mentions how he sacrificed lives just to make a profit. His greed was a reflection of the morals of Europe during the time period and goes to show how the victor rights history (pg. 8) Second, the way Columbus saw the hospitality of the Indians as a sign of weakness shows how his mind worked. (pg.4). It was a sign of greed that he also displayed while taking the prize for finding for America himself. Columbus was a greedy man who took what he could get from the poor and that was something i never knew.

    2. Zinn made a key point by showing how history is always told only from the point of view of the winners and how someone has to tell the story of everyone else, because that is where you really learned what happened. This point is very important because it really shows how you need a full depth of knowledge about a subject to make a true decision and too many people don't know the true story.

  15. 1. Zinn's book provides the reader with an unusual view of Christopher Columbus and his voyages to the New World. Contrary to popular opinion, Zinn sees COlumbus not as a hero, but as a leading contributor in the genocide of the Native American Indians. He not only provides thorough examples of the cruel treatment carried out by the Europeans under Columbus' rule, but explains the justification from their viewpoint as well. Through use of religion and the belief that the Native Americans' generosity was a sign of weakness rather than kindess, the Europeans believed their wrong doings were right in the eyes of God. Howard Zinn states that this man's actions should be put down in history as a leading factor in the abuse and deaths of both the Native American people and their culture, but aren't looked at in that sense, for many, until a later form of education. Zinn also mentions that, in the process of these awful actions, Columbus and his men were benefitting greatly; the importance of this is that as a historian, Zinn’s job is to not only provide historical fact, but analyze and find patterns within the facts. Doing so, Zinn proves that it is a large part of who we are as humans to take an action, and if beneficial to us, provide some form of justification, no matter what the ultimate cost.

    2. Zinn explains that when writing history, one should not only aim to please the reader, but also look forward and make an attempt to provide various opinions.; creativity combined with factual information is what a historian should be working towards. Zinn, as an historian himself, also aims to provide the information from a different perspective, often one that is not usually seen or thought of by the audience.

    Allie Fuller