Di Giovanni (Flat and Corrugated Diaphragm Design Handbook, 1982) presents an extensive history of Christopher Columbus and his travels.
Columbus was born in Genoa in 1451. As far as the historical record shows, the future explorer was largely self-educated and began his sailing career at a young age. In 1492, he famously sailed with three ships under the patronage of Spain, ostensibly to find a western route to Asia. The author explains this journey in detail, including the expedition’s encounters with many native peoples, and asserts that, for all of Columbus’ skills as a navigator, he truly believed that he had found a passage to the Far East. But the story doesn’t end there; Di Giovanni takes readers along on Columbus’ other sea travels, his eventual final return to Spain, and even tells of the demise of his descendants. The journeys of Columbus were not short, and readers will be struck by just how lengthy and frightening sea travel was in the 15th century. Sheer terror plays a big part in this story, and not just for the sailors who dared to test the high seas. The often friendly native people that Columbus met didn’t fare well, and the author avers that “their repeated acts of generosity accelerated their own enslavement and eventual decimation.” Nevertheless, Di Giovanni writes with an affection for Columbus, pointing out that the captain overcame many hardships “all with resilience and acceptance, always trusting in God.” Although this reverence for the explorer may seem dated, the book progresses easily and soberly. The author appears to consider Columbus a hero, but he still includes less savory material; an oft-cited and chilling passage, written by Columbus’ shipmate, Michele de Cuneo, shows how unashamedly brutal the age of exploration could be, as he captured a native girl that “Columbus allowed him to keep as a slave.” Readers likely won’t find Columbus to be endearing in the end, but they’ll probably have learned a great deal about what it meant to venture out on a vast, unforgiving ocean.
A thorough, though not untroubled, understanding of Columbus’ adventures.