Martin Leer


That 1492 marks a double event and a watershed in European civilization and world history, is inescapable to all serious recent commentators and interpreters of that year and the subsequent half millennium. One witness to the events of 1492 later in a letter to his employers remembered how 'on the second day of January, I saw the royal banner of your Highnesses raised, by force of arms, on the towers of the Alhambra ... and, thereafter, in that same month ... your Highnesses, as Catholic Christians and ... foes of the sect of Muhammed and of all idolatries and heresies, thought of sending me, Christopher Columbus, to the regions of India ... and your Highnesses ordered that I should not travel overland to the east, as is customary, but rather by way of the west, whither to this day, as far as we can know for certain, no man has ever gone before' .1 Felipe Fernandez­ Armesto in his recent biography of Columbus teils this 'irresistible and incredible' part of 'the Columbus romance' in a rather more ironical way: how for instance 'Columbus made the first leg of his Atlantic journey by mule to Granada' (the mule in fact a great privilege in those times of war).2 But even Fernandez-Armesto sees the siege of Granada a little more than a theatrical backdrop to the decision, long deliberated, about sending Columbus out on to the Western ocean.



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