The Mysterious History of Columbus: An Exploration of the Man, the Myth, the Legacy

John Noble Wilford, Author, Ashbel Green, Editor Knopf Publishing Group $24 (318p) ISBN 978-0-679-40476-7
With this comprehensive sifting of 500 years of legend, historical documentation and social theory, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter Wilford attempts with considerable success to tell, in his words, ``the story of the story of Columbus.'' Underlining the meager certainties concerning Columbus's personal life, Wilford points out the biases informing most extant documents--e.g., Columbus's own letters and the biography written by his son Ferdinand, known as Hernando. Wilford evaluates subsequent Columbus studies, such as Samuel Eliot Morison's 1942 biography Admiral of the Ocean Sea and addresses some more recent revisionist issues by detailing early slavery practices and the cruelty of Europeans toward native peoples. In Wilford's view, Columbus belonged more to the Middle Ages than to the Renaissance in forcing experience to fit expectations; his tenacious pursuit of his vision may have been powerfully propelled by a personal spirituality. Wilford's account is sometimes lumbering, but overall he effectively cuts through a morass of conflicting, often unreliable sources to give readers a perspecitve on the world's developing views of his subject's momentous ``discovery.'' (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/30/1991
Release date: 10/01/1991
Paperback - 318 pages - 978-0-679-73832-9
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