The Conquest of Paradise: Christopher Columbus and the Columbian Legacy

by Kirkpatrick Sale

Hardcover, 1990



Call number

E112 .S16


Knopf (1990), Edition: 1st, 453 pages


Christopher Columbus' arrival on a small Bahamian island in 1492 is often judged to be a defining moment in the history of mankind, changing forever the map of the world. Kirkpatrick Sale offers readers a unique take on Columbus and his legacy, separating the man from the legend. Sale also looks at the global consequences of the discovery, revealing the colossal impact this brief moment in history had not only on a continent but also on the world. Now with a new introduction by Sale, this classic book is being re-issued for the 500th aniversary of Columbus' death in the heart of Castille.

User reviews

LibraryThing member AlexTheHunn
Although Sale may have been correct in his assessment of Columbus as perpetrator of outrages and introducer of evil into the western hemisphere, his delivery and method of presentation are flawed by his polemical and seemingly unobjective stance.
LibraryThing member PCorrigan
Really hard to rate this one. It is fairly well-written and seems well-researched based on the notes (although not literally footnoted with numbers) and there is much interesting information. But I am not sure this guy should be called a 'historian'. Without looking up a thing about him, he seems
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to be a man on a mission. Hence the word Legacy in the title? This is more of a polemic against everything (and nearly everyone) European. In his view, repeatedly stated, the European civilization and people alone on earth were capable of and in fact compelled by a posioned ideology to commit the destruction of the New World along with genocide. This is pretty strong stuff but it suffuses the work. Page 91 gives an example of his view--"a civilization still dispirited and adrift, turmoiled and beset, sickened by gloom and suffering", etc. A civilization of death (nearly an entire chapter devoted to the Europeans propensity for dying and hence killing, he surmises). It goes on and on in this vein. Had the Persians, Carthiginians, Arabs, Mongols or Ottomans (to name several non-European empires) just a few more boats and a little more intrepidity they would surely have halted their invasionish ways at the first site of the beautiful natives and paradise of the New World!. Surely THEY would have left the Tainos alone upon seeing how reverential they were to the land. The Europeans lived in a tough neighborhood, nowhere is this mentioned. Spain spent 700 years of fighting to reclaim their land from the Muslim invasions. Does not even rate a mention in the index. The Mongols swept to their eastern border and crushed Russia and the Muslim empires. This is too inconvienient to mention. You will recoil of course upon reading of what did happen to the New World (mainly death by disease which neither the Europeans or anyone had literally a clue in the medicinal sense), anyone with today's knowledge and sensibilities would. The wanton slaughter is nauseating and ecological damage dismaying. But the author wants to judge and condemn an entire continent and people by standards of today that simply did not exist. Slavery was rampant around the 'civilized' world and before, and certainly existed in the Muslim realms where slaves were routinely taken in conquest and slaughter, rape and destruction of enemies par for the course. This book has to be read to absorb the totality of this man's condemnation of Europe, Columbus is just a vessel of that hatred. Written in the early 1990s, I imagine it has become (or already is) the 'playbook' for the dismantling of the legend and renaming of everything Columbus. And sadly probably embraced in leftist history departments in every major University. When discussing the apparently perfect Indian culture of the entire New World, almost totally pacific, eco-friendly, and so happy he fairly gushes with enthusiasm and calls any historian who dares question that view 'mean-spirited'. I have read quite a bit on the Indians and there is much to admire and to disdain. The torture methods for captives among many tribes were second to none (read 'Comanches' by T.R Feherenbach). He writes this after writing one of the most mean-spirited accounts 'history' that I have read. He actually provides a very interesting summary on the legacy of Columbus as it developed over the ensuing centuries: first ignored and then barely known, grudgingly acknowledged, finally celebrated (only by about 400-yr mark, 1892) and thence on to today's rather mixed reception. But the kicker comes in the Epilogue on p. 369 of my edition when he states that 'there is only one way to live in America, and there can ONLY (my emphasis) be one way, and that is as Americans--the original Americans--for that is what the earth of America demands'. I wonder what this writer has renounced to actually go back and live as the 'original' Americans. I'll have to look it up.
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Original language


Physical description

453 p.; 6.5 inches


039457429X / 9780394574295


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