Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem by Carol Delaney

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FIVE HUNDRED YEARS AFTER HE SET SAIL, the dominant understanding of Christopher Columbus holds him responsible for almost everything that went wrong in the New World. Here, finally, is a book that will radically change our interpretation of the man and his mission. Scholar Carol Delaney claims that the true motivation for Columbus’s voyages is very different from what is commonly accepted. She argues that he was inspired to find a western route to the Orient not only to obtain vast sums of gold for the Spanish Crown but primarily to help fund a new crusade to take Jerusalem from the Muslims—a goal that sustained him until the day he died. Rather than an avaricious glory hunter, Delaney reveals Columbus as a man of deep passion, patience, and religious conviction.

Delaney sets the stage by describing the tumultuous events that had beset Europe in the years leading up to Columbus’s birth—the failure of multiple crusades to keep Jerusalem in Christian hands; the devastation of the Black Plague; and the schisms in the Church. Then, just two years after his birth, the sacking of Constantinople by the Ottomans barred Christians from the trade route to the East and the pilgrimage route to Jerusalem. Columbus’s belief that he was destined to play a decisive role in the retaking of Jerusalem was the force that drove him to petition the Spanish monarchy to fund his journey, even in the face of ridicule about his idea of sailing west to reach the East.

Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem is based on extensive archival research, trips to Spain and Italy to visit important sites in Columbus’s life story, and a close reading of writings from his day. It recounts the drama of the four voyages, bringing the trials of ocean navigation vividly to life and showing Columbus for the master navigator that he was. Delaney offers not an apologist’s take, but a clear-eyed, thought-provoking, and timely reappraisal of the man and his legacy. She depicts him as a thoughtful interpreter of the native cultures that he and his men encountered, and unfolds the tragic story of how his initial attempts to establish good relations with the natives turned badly sour, culminating in his being brought back to Spain as a prisoner in chains. Putting Columbus back into the context of his times, rather than viewing him through the prism of present-day perspectives on colonial conquests, Delaney shows him to have been neither a greedy imperialist nor a quixotic adventurer, as he has lately been depicted, but a man driven by an abiding religious passion.

About Carol Delaney

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Carol Delaney is Associate Professor Emerita of Cultural and Social Anthropology at Stanford University. She is author of The Seed and the Soil: Gender and Cosmology in Turkish Village Society (1991) and Abraham on Trial: The Social Legacy of Biblical Myth (1998), and is co–editor of Naturalizing Power: Essays in Feminist Cultural Analysis (1995, with Sylvia Yanagisako).Deborah Kaspin is an Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at Rhode Island College and has taught at University of Virginia, Yale University, Wheaton College, and Rhode Island College.
Published September 20, 2011 by Free Press. 338 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Religion & Spirituality, Travel, Sports & Outdoors. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem

Kirkus Reviews

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The author argues that the reconquest of Jerusalem was the passion of Columbus's life and also the purpose of his voyages.

Jul 01 2011 | Read Full Review of Columbus and the Quest for Je...

Publishers Weekly

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Cultural anthropologist and Stanford professor emerita Delaney introduces us to an unfamiliar Christopher Columbus as a product of his times, when, she says, apocalyptic millennialism dominated Europe.

Jul 11 2011 | Read Full Review of Columbus and the Quest for Je...

Huffington Post

Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, a historian at the University of Notre Dame who has written extensively on Columbus, harshly criticized the books in The Wall Street Journal.

Oct 05 2011 | Read Full Review of Columbus and the Quest for Je...

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