Historical sources

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The primary historical sources for the study of Christopher Columbus are as follows:

  1. Christopher Columbus — He wrote a few journals, several letters, “The Book of Prophecies,” etc.
  2. Ferdinand Columbus — He was Columbus’ son and accompanied him on his fourth voyage. He wrote his father’s biography, titled “The Life of the Admiral Christopher Columbus by his son Ferdinand,” also known as the Historie.
  3. Peter Martyr of Angleria — He was a historian and a contemporary of Columbus. His “De Orbe Novo” is a collection of letters he wrote as the events were happening or close to the timeline it happened.
  4. Bartolomé de las Casas — He was a historian, Dominican friar, and a contemporary of Columbus. He wrote “Historia de las Indias” Volume 1, 2, and 3 (or more, depending on the publishing house). The English version, “History of the Indies,” translated and edited by Andrée M. Collard, is a summary of the original set of volumes. He used Columbus, Ferdinand Columbus, and Peter Martyr as sources for his history, with the addition of many other documents and his own personal experiences.
  5. Andrés Bernáldez — A historian and a contemporary of Columbus, he wrote “Historia de los Reyes Católicos don Fernando y doña Isabel.”
  6. Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas — He was a 16th-century chronicler and historian who wrote “Historia general de los hechos de los castellanos en las Islas y Tierra Firme del mar Océano que llaman Indias Occidentales” (“General History of the Deeds of the Castilians on the Islands and Mainland of the Ocean Sea Known as the West Indies”). Though his work was written and published about a century after the discovery, it is considered one of the best and most complete works of its kind.
  7. There are also legal papers, official documents, Columbus’ testament and will, as well as letters from a few other contemporaries, and other miscellaneous documents.

You can find most of these primary historical sources for free, under public domain, either at your local public library or on the web, in places like Google Books, Internet Archive, Project Gutenberg, etc.

Each of these primary historical sources had a point of view or perspective about the historical events. For example, Columbus told us what he did; Ferdinand Columbus, his son, told us why he did it; Peter Martyr, Andrés Bernáldez, and Herrera told us how Spain saw it, and Bartolomé de las Casas told us how he saw it.

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