Foote, T. 1991.  “Where Columbus Was Coming From”, Smithsonian, December 1991, pp. 28-41. 

1. The article is focused on Western Europe from 1450-1506.  Foote wrote it because of diverse perspectives on Columbus and the conquest that he initiated.  Was Columbus a product of a “golden age”?  Was he a “boastful slave trader”? Answers to these sorts of questions reflect the complex nature, and interpretation, of Contact between the Old and New Worlds.

2. What political, military, and religious events were the most important stories in Spain in 1492?
Spain defeated the Moors (Muslim North Africans who had exerted varying degrees of of control in the Iberian Peninsula for more than 600 years) at Granada and expelled them from Spain.  Also, The Spanish Inquisition began.  This often brutal campaign sought to expel Jews from the Iberian peninsula.

3. How was Venice exceptional in what we now know as Italy? Venice was the only stable, progressive political territory, a city-state, in Italy.  They distinguished themselves from the rest of the region with order, government services, spies, diplomats, far-reaching trade and a fleet of trading ships. 

4. What and where was the role of Islam during this time? This was a time of Muslim encroachments into some powerful regions of Europe (Constantinople and Athens).  With the exception of Spain, the advance of the Muslim threat persisted into the 1600s.  

5. Note the less than refined manners of court.

6. Who fought?  "undisciplined men who fought for hire or for booty". For whom?  Condottieri  At whose expense? whole populations of the countryside

7. Why were cities like fortresses? Because of roving bands of "undisciplined men who fought for hire or for booty"

8. Characterize the extreme violence and the peoples’ taste for entertainment. Punishments were extremely violent and brutal and people valued the entertainment value of the violence.  Strange..

9. How was religious devotion different than in our current society? It is difficult to imagine the extreme religious devotion that permeated society.  It is so foreign from our existence.  How was it manifested in the actions of artists, political leaders and religious leaders?  Art (Michelangelo), political leaders (Torquemada) and religious leaders (popes) were inspired by religion, justified their actions on the basis of their religion, and pursued corrupt policies shielded by their religion. 

10. What was the “bonfire of the vanities”? Events in which Italians demonstrated their religious zeal and rejection of worldliness by burning luxury items in bonfires. 

11. How did the printing press increase societal violence and church corruption? A bestselling book led to widespread violence against presumed witches; the Catholic printed and sold indulgences.

12. Note how Copernicus discovery did not produce an immediate, revolutionary understanding of Earth and the heavens. 

13. Note how knowledge often was often only accepted if it had been produced originally by the Greeks or Romans and revived: for example, Galen.

14. What were doctors “old standbys” to restore a person to health? "puking, purging and bleeding" to balance the humours.  Dehydration must have been rife.

15. Characterize sanitation practices. Plazas were kept clean.  Everything else was filthy. Trash was thrown in the backstreets, over the walls or in the rivers.  Pigs were effective urban recyclers of waste.

16. Who was Ptolemy?  A second century geographer. What was his contribution to Western Europe’s understanding of the Earth? Muslims had preserved and added to his works.  In the 15th century Europeans used his Geography to understand the nature of the earth's surface and plan long voyages.

17. Why did Braudel claim that “Europe needed to expand into the New World”?  Muslim Arabs controlled access to the riches of the East, so Europeans needed an alternative destination to increase their wealth.

18. Characterize the practice of slavery during Columbus life? It "existed everywhere", but was decreasing in Europe because of Christianity's favorable view of manumission.

19. What do you think of the last 2 paragraphs on p. 40-41?  They begin with the words, “Such a view may be forgiven…”  I appreciate the balance.  I believe European civilization brought some advantages and disadvantages to the New World. I wish so much of the pre-Columbian New World had not been destroyed.  However, I do not believe it was some harmonious Eden.