This year I would like to develop a unit on the historical exploration of the New World in concert with the “celebration” of the Quincentenniary of America. My unit will seek to reflect the thoughts and the diverse opinions of the discovery/conquest by both European and American nations alike since 1492. The issues of democracy and conquest as perceived differently by different peoples will highlight intellectual curiosity and controversy.
As an underlying theme of my unit, I will develop the theory of quest extensively. As my unit develops, we will follow Columbus on his New World expeditions. As his emphasis moves toward the coveting of gold and the development of slave trading, we will gauge the reactions of the Spanish Crown. We will also try to understand the plight of the Arawak Indians as their islands are invaded, their peoples are massacred and their lands are ravaged.
As the centuries move along, we will analyze the reactions of peoples and nations across time. In the sixteenth century, the exploits of Columbus are only rarely mentioned. During the seventeenth century, Italy begins its praise of Columbus s achievements and as we move into eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Americans began to hail Columbus as their Immigrant epic hero. But as we approach 1992, Gary Wills writes that “a funny thing happened on the way to the Quincentennial observation of America s discovery. Columbus got mugged. This time the Indians were waiting for him.’’(1)