Biology, culture and History

inform each other: Columbus in the Americas, 1492-1517

Colonization, and the ecology of invasions -- Island biogeography -- geographical epidemiology yield a fuller dimension to the Columbian exchange as clues to population changes in ecological history.

These four characteristics of biology give us a fuller description than can be had from eye-witness accounts and thus, yield a fuller, veritable dimension to the Columbian exchange.

Competitive exclusion principle:

Creatures "must not only excel in the struggle for existence, they must also adapt themselves to meet new conditions and still win out over their competitors."

Storer, p. 98.

"No two species can occupy the exact same niche over time without one giving way to the more adapted or more numerous species."

Dasmann, pp. 78-79 [1984].

Any exotic species will crowd out a native species when it is introduced and occupies the same niche as the endemic species that it replaces.

Pigs & Chickens

Columbus' journals of his voyage:

Writer Barbara Hyatt feels that
Columbus had a "messianic idea" that in Hispaniola he could find enough gold to restore Jerusalem to Christendom -- to extend the reconquista to the holy city itself!

conflicting statements in his diary

The double reckoning of Christopher Columbus
by Barbara Hyatt
first he is glib:
"Today it rained."

More from Columbus' journals :

August 3rd, Pinta breakdown in rigging -- enroute to the Canaries & Columbus suspected sabotage. He wrote:
"The pilots of the three ships disagreed on our location, adrift."

His diary raises the twin issues of: the ethics of voyage and the function of discovery.

His genocide of the Arawaks and the Caribs reveals a tension in the Medieval mind --

the hubris of arrogant knowledge mislead those responsible for expeditions.
enslavement of the native islanders
rape of the native women
Aruak Woman


Columbus describes the young women
"as naked as their mother's bore them."

Of these natives he says:
"They should be good and intelligent servants."
he "deciding to count less distance than was run so that if the voyage should be long the men would not be frightened or dismayed."

{9 September 1492}
"I do not wish to tarry, in order to reach and visit many islands so as to find gold." {Oct. 15}
December 6 he anchored off of Hispanola (Haiti & Dominican Republic)

"all the trees were as different from ours as the day from the night and so the fruits, the herbage, the rocks & all things."

of the Island Arawaks:

"are very unskilled with arms . . . [and] could all be subjected & made to do all that one wished."

"In another island . . . greater than Espanola . . . . there is gold beyond counting !"


Crosby's Metamorphosis Conclusions


Germs, Seeds & Animals | Sweetness and Power | The Labyrinth of Solitude | The Negro | A Small Place


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Study Guide: Nature, History & Place in the Caribbean by J. Siry.


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