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Columbus Day: A Study in Machiavellian Philosophy

By Shannon Owens, Reference Department

We can all recite the poem: “In fourteen hundred ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue”…I know, I know, I can see your eyes rolling from here.  Christopher Columbus, born in Genoa (like the salami) Italy, is frequently credited with “discovering” the New World (aka: The Americas). This is a rather dubious claim, given that Viking explorer, Leif Erikson, landed in Newfoundland and Labrador a good 500 years before Columbus went about destroying indigenous Caribbean culture (I digress). It’s impossible to say why Columbus remains ingrained in our history books and general psyche, whilst Erikson is relegated to a footnote, but I would hazard a guess here: American culture is profoundly impacted by Western European culture, whereas Nordic culture remains a mystery. It certainly wouldn’t be the only factor, but I imagine this is not insignificant.

Nevertheless, it’s worthwhile to take a closer look at the man who gives us parades, bank holidays, time off from work, and downright incredible retail sales (I’m eyeing a pair of gorgeous boots being sold at a fifty percent markdown as we speak, so kudos, Cristobol)! Mr. Columbus was a marine entrepreneur (read: seaman) who was obsessed with finding a western route to China, India, and the spice and gold islands of Asia.  Here’s where we run into another common misconception:  Lore suggests that the entire world thought the world was flat at this time and Columbus was the renegade willing to challenge this idea. Nearly all educated Europeans knew the Earth was round. This wasn’t even a recent revelation. Around the sixth century BC, Greek mathematician, Pythagoras, theorized that the Earth was round, and about two centuries later Aristotle concurred with his findings. So, no, Columbus’ crew was not terrified that they’d fall off the edge of the world (despite what Washington Irving would have you believe).

Columbus was barely successful finding anybody who would fund this venture. It took nearly a decade to find a backer (monarchies in England, Portugal, and France had all refused) and Spain was not an easy mark, either. In fact, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand had once declined before changing their minds in the eleventh hour.  Still, Columbus was granted his fleet and crew, comprised of three ships: the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria (two of which actually had different names…Spain was an extremely Catholic country and named all their ships after saints…Pinta was a nickname translated as  “the painted one” and the Nina was actually the Santa Clara). This joint venture could prove mutually beneficial: Isabella and Ferdinand could gain power while exporting Catholicism to locals and Columbus’ contract guaranteed him ten percent of any riches he found and a noble title.

On October 12th, the expedition reached land (probably Watling Island in the Bahamas). Later that month, Columbus sighted Cuba (which he thought was China) and finally in December, the expedition landed on Hispaniola (Columbus surmised that this must be Japan). Here, he established a settlement of 39 men, and went about his business, terrorizing the locals (the Taino people, though Columbus referred to them as Indians). In March of 1493, he left the settlement and returned to Spain. Nearly six months later, he returned to Hispaniola to find the settlement destroyed. To this day, nobody knows exactly what happened.  Columbus traveled island to island, and since he couldn’t seem to find the riches he had boasted of to his patrons, he sent Isabella 500 slaves instead. This was downright horrifying to the Queen, who believed these people were now Spanish citizens, and she swiftly rebuked Columbus for his monstrous actions.

Christopher Columbus landing in Santo Domingo

In 1498, Columbus embarked on his third journey to the New World. First, he visited Trinidad and then South America before returning to the settlement in Hispaniola (which he had left his two brothers in charge of this time).  Once again, it was decimated, but this time it was by the colonists themselves who had revolted against their leaders. It would seem that brutality and mismanagement run in the family.  Spain sent new governorship and Columbus returned to Europe in in chains, arrested for the goings on.  By 1502, Columbus had been cleared of most charges (although stripped of noble titles he had received previously) and the Spanish monarchy funded one last trip to the New World. It was an unmitigated disaster. Columbus made it all the way to Panama and then promptly abandoned four ships when they came under attack by natives. Columbus returned, bereft, to Spain, where he died in 1506.

It would seem that the man’s lasting legacy was one of abuse, brutality and ultimately, felony.  He enslaved locals and introduced diseases that decimated the remaining indigenous populations. Other European countries hopped on the colonial bandwagon, which created environment change along with the borderline theft of local natural resources. He is blamed, not unfairly, for biological warfare. Interestingly, the phrase “Columbian Exchange” is used by historians to describe the exchange of plants, animals, and goods between the East and West. On the other hand, advocates could make the point that his legacy underlines the importance and history of the Age of Exploration. It’s globalization in its earliest form. Obviously, his actions cannot all be discounted as negative. Perhaps his lasting legacy is a cautionary tale on the grandest scale.

 


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So You Think You Can Write: The Everyman Answer to Your Potential Publishing Needs

By Shannon Owens, Reference Department

The Technology Age is upon us, ladies and gents! Anything you could ever desire is at your fingertips, rendering third parties nearly obsolete when it comes to food delivery (Seamless, Uber Eats) and retail shopping (Amazon, StitchFix). Now it’s extended into the wonderful world of publishing! ePubs and PDFs are part of our everyday vernacular, and self-publishing has become a rather commonplace alternative. You can see the draw: who needs to find a rare (and potentially expensive) agent at a major publishing house?

Who needs to have a 1,000 pound printing press stowed away in their basement? Why, nobody at all! In fact, being a member of our library gives you access to online software that allows you to publish your own book(s)!

Pressbooks allows you to create professional-quality EBook and print-ready files of your book in ePub, MOBI, and PDF formats. You can write and edit your books without any worry of coding or graphic design: neither is required here. Pressbooks has several themes and formats to choose from, but it won’t take any ownership over your newly minted masterpiece! Already started writing your book? They’ve got you covered there, too! You can copy and paste each chapter into the Pressbooks format or you can upload your entire document from Microsoft Word.

Here’s how to get started with Pressbooks:

  • Visit our library website here
  • Toggle over the eLibrary drop down link and click on Pressbooks Self-Publishing on the far right side of your screen
  • Click “Connect Via Your Local Library” (the big blue button in the middle) which will direct you to the BiblioBoard homepage
  • You’ll need to create a profile: click on “Get Started Now”

Now that you’ve knocked out the basics, it’s time to get down to business! You’ll be prompted to add your book information: title, pub date, cover, etc. Most of these data entry spaces are optional, so keep that in mind if you’re still unsure on the details of the book. The main BiblioBoard page allows you to edit data, organize chapters (Main Body), and create a preface (Front Matter) or bibliography (Back Matter), etc. This same page gives you the ability to choose from twenty themes to make your book aesthetically pleasing and uniquely you! When all is complete, every “I” dotted and every “T” crossed, you can export your latest work. Worried this may be difficult? Fear not, the export process involves one button! Can you guess what that button reads? Yep, “Export”…tough stuff, I tell you!

What are you waiting for? Go get signed up and start writing (uh, well, typing) today! This program is absolutely free and one of the best resources for budding authors that our library has available. More questions? Check out Pressbooks’ YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/user/pressbooks


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