“One of the 100 best books of the year.” —The Times Literary Supplement
Christopher Columbus is reevaluated as a man of deep passion, patience, and religious conviction—on a mission to save Jerusalem from Islam.
Five hundred years after he set sail, Columbus is still a controversial figure in history. Debates portray him either as the hero in the great drama of discovery or as an avaricious glory hunter and ruthless destroyer of indigenous cultures. In Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem, Carol Delaney offers a radically new interpretation of the man and his mission, claiming that the true motivation for his voyages is still widely unknown.
Delaney argues that Columbus was inspired to find a western route to the Orient not only to obtain vast sums of gold for the Spanish Crown but primarily to fund a new crusade to take Jerusalem from the Muslims before the end of the world—a goal that sustained him until the day he died. Drawing from oft-ignored sources, some from Columbus’s own hand, Delaney depicts her subject as a thoughtful interpreter of the native cultures that he and his men encountered, and tells the tragic story of how his initial attempts to establish good relations with the natives turned badly sour. Showing Columbus in the context of his times rather than through the prism of present-day perspectives on colonial conquests reveals a man who was neither a greedy imperialist nor a quixotic adventurer, but a man driven by an abiding religious passion. Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem is not an apologist’s take, but a clear-eyed, thought-provoking, and timely reappraisal of the man and his legacy.
Carol Delaney received an MTS from Harvard Divinity School and a PhD in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Chicago and is a graduate of Boston University. She was the assistant director of the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard, and a visiting professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Brown University. She is now a professor emerita at Stanford University and a research scholar at Brown University. Delaney is the author of several books, including The Seed and the Soil: Gender and Cosmology in Turkish Village Society, Abraham on Trial: The Social Legacy of Biblical Myth, Naturalizing Power: Essays in Feminist Cultural Criticism, and Investigating Culture: An Experiential Introduction to Anthropology.