Andrews (1984) writes:

In his day, Columbus was considered to be more or less a failure, but he opened the way for the success of others. His death in 1506 was scarcely noted.

Are the above remarks true?

  • 5
    This appears to be a question that is purposely subjective, with the intent of providing the author an opportunity to dump all their knowledge on the subject without worry of being objectively wrong (as long as the argument can be supported). This is great for school essays, but is simply not the kind of question we can field here. Our format requires objectively answerable questions. If your own research on this topic turns up a question that looks objectively answerable, feel free to ask that here. – Pieter Geerkens Nov 25 '18 at 9:37
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    @PieterGerkens I disagree; It is very well possible to objectively summarize the contemporary public opinion of well-known figures. JMS's answer demonstrates this. Although I do not think that there is any historical basis for the claims quoted in the OP (minor setbacks like being deposed as governor for cruelty aside). And although the OP shows little evidence of any effort to substantiate the claim before asking as stipulated in the How to Ask in the Help Center. – 0range Nov 26 '18 at 15:10


In his day, Columbus was considered to be more or less a failure, but he opened the way for the success of others. His death in 1506 was scarcely noted.

Are the above remarks true?

Noted by whom? Columbus died in his bed, surrounded by his family and friends, well off due to profits from his discoveries. (For more than a decade he received lucrative trade royalties from the Indies).

Still, I can see how that statement is true. Columbus died, after suffering a disabling illness for years which left him drained physically and emotionally. He died disgraced and out of favor with the royal family whose support formed his most important partnership for his most famous voyages. He died denied perpetual royalties to his newly discovered territory and trade route. Finally Christopher Columbus died before his greatest discovery was itself understood.

disabling illness
Columbus suffered from reactive arthritis or Reiter’s syndrome which caused him to bleed from his eyes, and have sore arthritic joints, making him appear possessed and making it physically difficult for him to get around. His malady was likely caused by hardships which occurred during one of his voyages, eating poorly prepared or rotten food and suffering unclean circumstances. This disease was poorly understood and misdiagnosed in Columbus's time. The medical resources in the 1500s were insufficient to treat the malady and its overt symptoms left him exhausted and with strange characteristics like bleeding from his eyes, both of which were debilitating professionally and personally.

Columbus was recalled from office, first Spanish governor of the Indies, in 1499 by Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand after reports of tyranny conducted by him reached the royal couple. He would never again be appointed to any position by the Spanish royal court.

Denied Perpetual Royalties
This action, of being recalled, nullified the contract Columbus had with Spanish Crown "Capitulations of Santa Fe", which had guaranteed him and his heirs 10% of all profit taken from the new world.

This combination of maladies and reported misconduct meant King Ferdinand would not entertain his petitions for a new office, nor was he welcomed at court. ( Isabella died in 1504, two years before Columbus).

Before his greatest discovery was itself understood
When Columbus died in 1506, he did not die as the man who had discovered the new world. Nobody yet understood the scope of Columbus's discovery. In 1506 people including Columbus believed he had found islands off the coast of India. Columbus was famous at the time of his death for discovering a new trade route to India, not the new world.

The Death of Christopher Columbus
Columbus himself never knew that he had discovered the New World, nor did anyone else the time. All he thought he had found was outlying bits of Asia.

Columbus had made his fourth and final passage to the Indies in in 1502, three years after being removed as Governor. Columbus was searching for the Strait of Malacca, the passage to the Indian Ocean which he of course never found. This inability to find the path to Asia from his Indies cast a shadow over his discovery of the reported new trade route he believed he had found.

I can see how he would have been perceived a failure. Even though he had accumulated great fame and wealth from his discoveries; he was out of favor, disgraced, and denied the monetary benefits of his discovery and the acknowledgement for those discoveries which history would remember him by.


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