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History vs. Christopher Columbus – Alex Gendler

Many people in the United States
and Latin America have grown up celebrating the anniversary
of Christopher Columbus’s voyage, but was he an intrepid explorer
who brought two worlds together or a ruthless exploiter who brought
colonialism and slavery? And did he even discover America at all? It’s time to put Columbus on the stand
in History vs. Christopher Columbus. “Order, order in the court. Wait, am I even supposed to
be at work today?”Cough“Yes, your Honor. From 1792, Columbus Day was celebrated
in many parts of the United States on October 12th,
the actual anniversary date. But although it was declared
an official holiday in 1934, individual states aren’t required
to observe it. Only 23 states close public services, and more states are moving away
from it completely.”Cough“What a pity. In the 70s, we even moved it to the
second Monday in October so people could get a nice
three-day weekend, but I guess you folks
just hate celebrations.” “Uh, what are we celebrating again?” “Come on, Your Honor,
we all learned it in school. Christopher Columbus convinced the King
of Spain to send him on a mission to find a better trade route to India, not by going East over land
but sailing West around the globe. Everyone said it was crazy because they
still thought the world was flat, but he knew better. And when in 1492 he
sailed the ocean blue, he found something better
than India: a whole new continent.” “What rubbish. First of all, educated people knew
the world was round since Aristotle. Secondly, Columbus didn’t
discover anything. There were already people living here
for millennia. And he wasn’t even
the first European to visit. The Norse had settled Newfoundland
almost 500 years before.” “You don’t say, so how come we’re not
all wearing those cow helmets?” “Actually, they didn’t really
wear those either.”Cough“Who cares what some Vikings did
way back when? Those settlements didn’t last,
but Columbus’s did. And the news he brought back to Europe
spread far and wide, inspiring all the explorers and settlers
who came after. Without him, none of us
would be here today.” “And because of him, millions of
Native Americans aren’t here today. Do you know what Columbus did
in the colonies he founded? He took the very first
natives he met prisoner and wrote in his journal about how easily
he could conquer and enslave all of them.” “Oh, come on. Everyone was fighting each
other back then. Didn’t the natives even tell Columbus about other tribes raiding
and taking captives?” “Yes, but tribal warfare
was sporadic and limited. It certainly didn’t wipe out 90%
of the population.” “Hmm. Why is celebrating this Columbus
so important to you, anyway?” “Your Honor, Columbus’s voyage
was an inspiration to struggling people all across Europe,
symbolizing freedom and new beginnings. And his discovery gave our grandparents
and great-grandparents the chance to come here and build better
lives for their children. Don’t we deserve a hero to remind
everyone that our country was build on the struggles of immigrants?” “And what about the struggles
of Native Americans who were nearly wiped out
and forced into reservations and whose descendants still suffer from
poverty and discrimination? How can you make a hero out of a man
who caused so much suffering?” “That’s history. You can’t judge a guy
in the 15th century by modern standards. People back then even thought spreading Christianity and civilization
across the world was a moral duty.” “Actually, he was pretty bad,
even by old standards. While governing Hispaniola, he tortured
and mutilated natives who didn’t bring him enough gold and sold girls as young as nine into
sexual slavery, and he was brutal even to the other
colonists he ruled, to the point that he was removed
from power and thrown in jail. When the missionary,
Bartolomé de las Casas, visited the island, he wrote, ‘From 1494 to 1508,
over 3,000,000 people had perished from war, slavery and the mines. Who in
future generations will believe this?'” “Well, I’m not sure I believe
those numbers.” “Say, aren’t there other ways the holiday
is celebrated?” “In some Latin American countries, they celebrate the same date under
different names, such as Día de la Raza. In these places, it’s more a celebration
of the native and mixed cultures that survived through the colonial period. Some places in the U.S. have also
renamed the holiday, as Native American Day
or Indigenous People’s Day and changed the celebrations accordingly.” “So, why not just change the name
if it’s such a problem?” “Because it’s tradition. Ordinary people need their heroes
and their founding myths. Can’t we just keep celebrating
the way we’ve been doing for a century, without having to delve into all this
serious research? It’s not like anyone is actually
celebrating genocide.” “Traditions change, and the way
we choose to keep them alive says a lot about our values.” “Well, it looks like giving tired judges a
day off isn’t one of those values, anyway.” Traditions and holidays
are important to all cultures, but a hero in one era
may become a villain in the next as our historical knowledge expands
and our values evolve. And deciding what these
traditions should mean today is a major part
of putting history on trial.

Reader Comments

  1. Native Americans sought the help of Europeans to wipe out other native Americans, most of them were wiped out by disease so the lands were left mostly uninhabited, most tribes harassed and killed unarmed, peaceful settlers

  2. This trial is very easy to have a verdict. Columbus was an inhumane genocidal greedy person. I am glad the Spanish Crown did at least a little to stop his madness.

  3. People often exuse him by saying about the plagues, yes the plagues killed most but still comlumbus killed a lot of people, and it was still, beacuse of him

  4. This video is proof that just because it's a video on the Ted-Ed channel doesn't mean it's correct. While Columbus wasn't a great guy by our time, the worse of the crimes stated by this video are just not true. Some bad and lazy historians have attributed actions to Columbus that he never did. Unfortunately, shocking details seem to be more important than the truth.

  5. FFS, EVERYONE is a villain if you compare them to today's standards. If an entire society acts a certain way, you can't blame a single man for not overturning the entire societal structure of his time and going with it.

  6. The only problem they actually have with Columbus is he was not english or went under England flag, but under Castille's one… If dont celebrate genocide of natives was so important for them, they wouldnt celebrate Thanksgiving…

  7. Not really convinced by Colombus's defense. "It's tradition" isn't really a point. Need a hero? You mentionned immigration, well, here you have, a wide bunch of heroes who struggled to build America, to which anyone could identifies to.

  8. If i could trafel back in time i eould give the natives a vacine or expose them to old world diseases so they could build up imunity and survive and interact with the old world

  9. The indigenous people were practicing cannibalism and human sacrifices. When the conquistadors entered Mexico City they found a bin with a 100,000 skulls in it. Columbus was a great Christian hero that brought civilization to the new world. Shame on you.

  10. After reading some of the comments, it's obvious that there is a lot of Columbus excuse makers and some really sick people we have to live with.

  11. Well, if Columbus is found guilty: you have to close all the cities of America and return them to Europe, by ships, dismantling all of New York, so that he returns to be a serlva (because we cannot be necessary collaborators of the culprit ), the indigenous press, universities, and even mobile phones and the Internet, and they will return to 1491.

    And we Europeans will have to return gold and silver, for capitalism and globalization, and we will not be able to emigrate. And we can't drink chocolate anymore.

  12. Christopher Columbus was a whiteback that came over here as an illeagle immigrants. And he brought over all kinds of diseases and spread them to the indigenous people (later dubbed native American Indians)

  13. Slavery and suppression of others existed in the Americas long before Columbus. All Native American Tribes, from Alaska to Fireland, practiced slavery in some point of their history. The Aztecs ruled with violence over other Tribes. So Native American morality and ethics were not worse or better than the European. Humans are all the same, violence and exploitation of others are in our nature, sadly!!!

  14. I am taking a Day off . I don't have a true Job anyways .
    I have a better idea of what do for Christmas . For me he is not a Villain, or a Hero. Every one is a Sinner.

  15. The Crusades clip could have been more accurately stated…Christians still believe it's the loving thing to do to teach people about Jesus' love… but certainly not by the sword.

  16. Always keep in mind what people are being referred to in historical journals. I'm sure most people even though don't necessarily write it out clearly in their own journal/diary. Why not just celebrate Columbus Day on Oct 12, when his crew sighted land, and Indigenous People's Day (which should be celebrated almost everywhere in the world), on the 14th, when he first met them? A confrontation, peaceful or not, between 2 cultures always brings hardship, that's the nature of change. Like when the Arabs conquered northern Africa or Constantinople, or Turkey.

  17. This video is just a series of straw men. I lost my last shred of respect for Ted over this. Just another "mainstream" outlet for lies.

  18. Without Christopher Columbus great achievement "America" wouldn't be the greatest nation on Earth! 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸 🇺🇸

  19. All of the damming evidence against Columbus is from one piece of propaganda written by a political rival. Or as you call it "serious research".

  20. Isaiah 40:22 (ESV)
    22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
    and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
    who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
    and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;

    So we knew the earth was round, even before Aristotle.

  21. @2:55 to be fair 90% if accurate (personally I,m not certain about that as the reports appear to vary) were killed by disease without having ever met a white man due to the fact that the people who inhabited north and south america had no immunity to the diseases most of the population of the rest of the world lived with for centuries before that time, according to what is being reported in the ongoing debates.

  22. This is perfect for my class. I teach them the horrible things he did and then make them justify why he gets a holiday. They don't have to agree with their assignment, it's more a critical look of how history is written. As an extra credit assignment, they have to write a 5 paragraph persuasive letter to the school board to try and get the holiday renamed. I love that this has both sides of the argument here.

  23. If you find that Columbus was a villain instead of a pioneering explorer, then you should do yourself justice and leave the Americas.

  24. So many so called heroes are nothing but ruthless murderers, the likes of Custer for one. Those "heroes" were simply greedy murderers. And then came the worst! Christianism. The natives worshipped mother earth, the cycle of life, the seasons.

  25. I noticed that you forgot to mention that the natives were cannibals who were eating other tribes and even their own babies! Or that upon arrival they burned Columbus's settlement, killed many of the Spaniards and when they were caught Columbus let them off the hook. Oops! I guess those historical facts didn't fit the narrative.

  26. One thing that never seems to mentioned in these debates over Columbus Day is the holiday's importance to the Italian American community. To many cities with a large Italian population the holiday is a celebration of Italian history and culture.

  27. This is bad. You talk too fast, and I don’t even know what you’re saying cause you use vocabulary that I don’t even know! In class teacher told us to jog down important notes, but no one jogged down even one word because you talk to fast.

  28. not so fun fact: there were around around 2 million Arawaks on the West Indian islands of Greater Antilles(pretty sure the numbers aren't that accurate though) when Columbus arrived IN 1492. Sixty years later there were none.

  29. Columbus was accursed of mismanagement because of the punishment that he gave to his own people for mistreating the natives

  30. I don’t think the excuse “None of us would be here today” really matters. Who cares if we wouldn’t be here when Columbus came? His legacy caused the death of people who lived on this land as there rightful home that belonged to them in the very first place.

  31. Columbus's work or antics resulted in globalization. Good or bad, he changed the world and the lives of more people than any other person or invention in the history of mankind.

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