Before we get into this stuff about Christopher Columbus, let’s make it clear that “revisionist history,” as mentioned in the headline above, is not necessarily the pejorative right-wingers think it is.
Revision is part of the normal scholarly process of writing history. As new documents and other sources emerge, historical accounts of past events are revised. Without historical revisionism, all sorts of fairy tales would endure forevermore.
Revisionism in the case of Christopher Columbus and his exploratory voyages to the so-called New World has been a thriving cottage industry for decades now. We know far more about Columbus than we did in my childhood days.
When I was a young boy in a Catholic grade school more than 60 years ago, the good nuns portrayed Columbus as a saintly practitioner of our own faith who bravely proved that the world was round and brought civilization and the one true religion to the savages he encountered when he arrived in our part of the planet.
One year, we were even trotted off to a local cinema to see a highly fictional 1949 movie about Columbus starring Fredric March (poster above). I loved it.
But the story of Columbus and his adventures — misadventures, in some cases — has changed a lot over the past half-century. Earnest scholarship has uncovered slants that cast the subject in a different light, much of it uncomplimentary to the man and the circumstances of his explorations.
This new scholarship, in turn, has prompted some folks who disdain historical revisionism to complain about “political correctness,” a term to which they invariably resort in the face of challenges to their comforting parables.
This discord is healthy, of course, because it prompts further study of the subject at issue. It raises questions that merit serious discussion.
Meanwhile, historical revisionism as it applies to Columbus is alive and well in at least one high school near Applesauce World Headquarters (see HERE).
And THIS GUY wonders if Columbus Day should be renamed Exploration Day.