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Explain how the changing reputation of Columbus illuminates the nature of historical study.

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Introduction

Matt Eagles Explain how the changing reputation of Columbus illuminates the nature of historical study. Depending on which school of thought one belongs to will ultimately shape and mould opinions and interpretations of events and people. History although arguments support its scientific nature of fact-finding is still largely based on interpretation of evidence and its relevance to people; it is after all a humanities topic of study. Armesto immediately raises the question in his article with its title asking the reader for a conclusion as to the status of Columbus, hero or villain? Depending on the audience there will be polar opinions as to the answer. The theme of myth versus reality has considerable effects on the image of Columbus and his changing reputation. A statue in Barcelona commemorates his achievements yet there is no hallmark to his doings from the descendants of the Arawak Native that were enslaved, nor the indigenous Caribbean people. The notion of history being scripted by the victors is relevant to a topic as this; such myths hold information but little fact. ...read more.

Middle

This theory of empiricism was designed to purvey the truth by facts alone explaining what events happened yet not explain why they did or the effects the actions or events had on others. With examples such as Columbus this would highlight the whole importance of fact-based history through the selection of facts and the interpretation of the evidence. The accounts and diaries of Las Casas would only serve the needs of supporters of Columbus, documenting victories and reinforcing his role as a purveyor of civilisation. The accounts of the indigenous people enslaved by Columbus would be in direct conflict with Las Casas. Seemingly then there appears to be no middle ground. Historians such as Elton deem History to be "Dead reality, independent of the enquiry" Basing all comments on the collection of facts through sources alone is flawed as there is eventually the need to be a level of interpretation by the Historian and this is where the level of objectivity is quashed. ...read more.

Conclusion

Columbus would have been labelled as a cog in the wheel of Globalisation. The writings by Las Casas of Columbus were self-perpetuating and as Armesto claims an original form of P.R. The legend of Columbus has warped the historical truth, as we know it and raises an issue examined by Carr surrounding fact versus historical fact. If something is deemed true is it a fact? Ultimately history is written to instil a sense of nationalism or pride in ones home country. Spaniards from the legend of Columbus are depicted as brave and challenging faced danger full on and showing no fear, an image that sits well with the egos of people with strong nationalistic beliefs. The flipside is that the oppressed can use the history to the their devices also promoting an image of neglect an maltreatment as an answer for there problems in the present day. History can never be left to tell itself therefore there is an essential role of the Historian, these people can shape and change a persons reputation or life story by manipulating what is deemed fact to there own cause. ...read more.

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