In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue... you remember how the rest of the poem goes:
"Indians! Indians!" Columbus cried; his heart was filled with joyful pride.
But "India" the land was not; it was the Bahamas, and it was hot. The Arakawa natives were very nice; they gave the sailors food and spice.
So the poem is an extreme, almost embarrassing simplification of the cataclysmic change brought to the New World by Columbus and subsequent explorers. Not just to native peoples, but to the environment, ecology and biology of not only the continent, but of the world.
Or, as Charles Mann puts it: "There is a growing recognition that Columbus's voyage did not mark the discovery of a New World, but its creation." And how that world was created is the subject of his new book, 1493.
- Charles C. Mann, author, 1493
- 1493 by Charles Mann (PDF)
This segment aired on August 29, 2011.