Tuesday, October 21, 2008

“Another nutty conspiracy theory!”

“Another nutty conspiracy theory!” That’s what I first supposed as I started to read the manuscript Unmasking Columbus sent me just to edit its English. After all, it turned upside down most of what I had learned about Columbus since the 1940s.
It claimed that Columbus knew in October 1492 that he was nowhere near India, but that he called the Caribbean region he had reached “the Indies” in an outright lie, because he was a double agent actually serving the king of Portugal and double-crossing his patrons, Ferdinand and Isabella, that he was an expert geographer and navigator and a Portuguese nobleman, not a shipwrecked ignorant sailor or wool-weaver from Genoa.
I thought I would read a little of the book to enjoy myself poking holes in its arguments and then decline to edit it. However, the more I read, the more convincing its massive accumulation of historical details became. Far from fanatics, its authors present their claims modestly, pointing out areas that need further research, and even saying that their conclusions at present lack 100% proof. True, history rarely admits of 100% certitude, but I would say that their book provides the best answers to many previously unexplained problems in the Christopher Columbus puzzle.
I now believe that if Columbus were alive and on trial by any fair civil court, he would be found guilty of huge fraud carried out over two decades against his patrons.... Against my initial instinct, despite a lifetime that has taught me to question all things, I found myself believing that the case against Columbus presented here is about as solid as Fawn Brodie’s claims that Jefferson sired slaves by his Black slave Sally.... I refer you to two news clippings about my doctoral research at Columbia University, dealing with questions of authorship (to show that I am used to weighing evidence, evaluating sources, drawing conclusions from written remains). They are the New York Times, Sunday, August 6, 1961, pp. 1 (col. 2), 70 (col. 1) and Time magazine, August 18, 1961, pp. 43, 44.

(James T. McDonough, Jr. earned his Ph.D. in classical philology from Columbia University
and taught at St. Joseph's University for 31 years. He was a Professor at a number of Universities)