christopher columbus letter to the spanish royal treasurer describing the islands of india recently discovered 14 march 1493 knowing that it will afford you pleasure i have decided upon writing you this letter to acquaint you with the events

AMH2010 Answer those questions base on the text.

Christopher Columbus’ Letter to the Spanish Royal Treasurer describing “the islands of India recently discovered”: (14 March 1493)

KNOWING that it will afford you pleasure, I have decided upon writing you this letter to acquaint you with the events of my voyage, and the discoveries which have resulted from it. Thirty-three days after my departure from Cadiz (Spain) I reached the Indian sea, where I discovered many islands, thickly peopled, of which I took possession without resistance in the name of our most illustrious Monarch, by public proclamation and with unfurled banners. To the first of these islands, I gave the name of the blessed Saviour (San Salvador), relying upon whose protection I had reached this as well as the other islands…I proceeded along its coast and found it to be so large that I could not suppose it to be an island, but the continental province of Cathay (China). Seeing, however, no towns or populous places on the coast, but only a few detached cottages, with whose inhabitants fled when they saw us.

These islands are exceedingly fertile, surrounded with many bays; numerous large rivers, and contain many lofty mountains. They are very beautiful, and distinguished by a diversity of scenery; they are filled with a great variety of trees of immense height, and which I believe to retain their foliage in all seasons; some of them were blossoming, some bearing fruit, and all flourishing in the greatest perfection. The various birds were singing in countless numbers. There are seven or eight kinds of palm trees, which considerably surpass ours in height and beauty. The abundance of the rivers surpasses anything that would be believed by one who had not seen it. The (islands) abound in various kinds of spices, gold, and other metals.

Both sexes (of inhabitants) go always naked as they were born. None of them are possessed of any iron, neither have they weapons, being unacquainted with and incompetent to use them, not from any deformity of body, but because they are timid and full of fear (and) flee in such haste at the approach of our men, that the fathers forsook their children and the children their fathers. As soon however as they see that they are safe, they are very simple and honest, and exceedingly liberal with all they have. They exhibit great love towards all others: they also give objects of great value for trinkets. I however forbad that articles of no value (dishes, plates, glass, keys, and leather straps) should be given to them, although if they could obtain them, they imagined themselves to be possessed of the most beautiful trinkets in the world.

It even happened that a (Spanish) sailor received for a trifling leather strap as much gold as was worth three nobles. The Indians would give whatever the seller required; an ounce and a half or two ounces of gold. Thus they bartered, like idiots, gold for fragments of bows, glasses, bottles, and jars; which I forbad as being unjust. I did this in order that I might easily conciliate them, that they might be led to become Christians, and be inclined to entertain a regard for the King and Queen, and that I might induce them to seek out, and collecting, and delivering to us such things as they possessed in abundance, but which we greatly needed

. On my arrival, I had taken some Indians by force in order that they might learn our language…In a short time, either by gestures or by words, we were enabled to understand each other. These men are still traveling with me, and continue to entertain the idea that I have descended from heaven; and on our arrival at any new place they published this, crying out immediately with a loud voice to the other Indians, “Come, come and look upon beings of a celestial race”: upon which both women and men, children and adults would come out in throngs, crowding the roads to see us, some bringing food, others drink, with astonishing affection and kindness.

(The people have) no difference of language, they all clearly understand each other, a circumstance very propitious for what I conceive to be the principal wish of our most serene King, namely, the conversion of these people to the holy faith of Christ, to which, as far as I can judge, they are very favourable and well-disposed. There was one large town on (the island of) Espanola of which especially I took possession, situated in a remarkably favourable spot. I ordered a fortress to be built there. But supposing these people should wish to injure my men, they could not do so, for they have no arms, they go naked, and are moreover too cowardly, and those who hold the fortress, can easily keep the whole island in check.

As far as I have learned, every man throughout these islands is united to but one wife. The women seem to work more than the men. I could not clearly understand whether the people possess any private property, for I observed that one man had the charge of distributing various things to the rest, but especially meat and provisions and the like. I did not find, as some of us had expected, any cannibals amongst them, but on the contrary men of great deference and kindness. Neither are they black, like the Ethiopians: their hair is smooth and straight. I saw no cannibals, nor did I hear of any, except in a certain island on the side towards India, where people feed upon human flesh.

Finally, I promise, that with a little assistance, I will procure for our most invincible sovereigns as much gold as they need, as great a quantity of spices, and as many men for the service of the navy as their Majesties may require. These marvelous results are not to be attributed to any merit of mine, but to the holy Christian faith, and to the piety of our Sovereigns; for that which the unaided intellect of man could not compass, the spirit of God has granted to human exertions. Thus it has happened (that I) have accomplished a task to which the powers of mortal men had never hitherto attained. Therefore let the king and queen, our princes and their most happy kingdoms, and all the other provinces of Christendom, render thanks to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who has granted us so great a victory. Let Christ rejoice on earth, as he rejoices in heaven in the prospect of the salvation of the souls of so many nations hitherto lost. Let us also rejoice, as well on account of the exaltation of our faith, as on account of the increase of our prosperity, of which not only Spain, but all Christendom will be partakers. CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS, Admiral of the Fleet of the Ocean.


1- How does Columbus describe the islands and its people?

2- How were Columbus and his small force of men able to so easily dominate the hundreds of thousands of natives he found living on the islands?

3= Does Columbus realize he has found a completely new continent?

4- What does he plan to do with his new “possessions?” What do the islands have that he desires

5- How do Columbus’ Catholic beliefs affect his sense of duty?

6- Did reading this primary source affect or change your opinion of Christopher Columbus? How did or did it not line-up with what you already know about this very important figure in history?

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