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Columbus is not mathematically challenged

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  • Columbus is not mathematically challenged

    Alexandrian mathematicians had measured Earth's circumference with surprising precision over a millenium before Columbus completely miscalculated it.
    Had columbus been even close in his calculations, he would have realized that India was much too far to attempt to reach it by sailing westward from Spain, so he would not have chanced upon America.
    America would probably have been discovered by Portuguese sailors travelling from Africa to Brazil and by Russian explorers reaching Alaska and then gradually traveling down the coast.

  • #2
    The Portuguse were the most active in those days. & at least one ship had been sent far into the central Atlantic by weather, possiblly into sight of Brazil. The Portuguse had a interest in colonizing the Atlantic islands. Maderia & others had been settled during the previous seventy years. If they stumbled onto other like Bermuda regular exploration would have followed. the Portuguse were fairly methodical about that.

    Further north there was still interest in 'Thule' or the northern lands. Earlier in the 15th Century at least one merchant ship had proweld along Greenlands coast looking for the Norse settlements & furs. The fur trade was big business in europe and merchants were talking about the furs that had come from the northwest in their grandfathers time.

    The most intrguing are the fishing camps on the Canadian Maritimes. There is strong evidence those dat back to the very earliest 16th Century. So far historians have not accepted evidence they were there before year 1500, but I dont think anyone would be suprised it it turned up. The fishing camps of the early 16th Century led swiftly to permanent settlements in the mid to late century so there is some reason to think they would have in OTL

    The Russian fur traders did not reach Alaska until 200+ years after Columbus, but again it is likely they would have. Chinas leaders had ceased subsidizing trade exploration missions earlier in the 15ht Century. Maritime activity fell of & Chinas fine naval capability stagnated for several centuries.

    What would likely happen is Bereton or Gascon (& Irish or Welsh?) fishing camps lead to settlements spreading from the newfoundland coast southwards, with fur traders joining in & then the other sorts of religious refugees, gold prospectors, and criminals. In the south Portuguese explorers would lead to settlements on the periphery similar to the Spainish settlements of OTL. They would be later in the century as it would depend on accidents of navigation and weather. The question here is if Spain would join in very quickly? The explosion of colinization of the 16th Century was financed by the newly wealthy Spanish crown. Without Columbus dragging them across the water Spanish interest might lag far behind Portuguse settlement. the Spanish might not start inventing in exploration and claims until much later in the 16th Century.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Draco View Post
      Alexandrian mathematicians had measured Earth's circumference with surprising precision over a millenium before Columbus completely miscalculated it.
      Had columbus been even close in his calculations, he would have realized that India was much too far to attempt to reach it by sailing westward from Spain, so he would not have chanced upon America.
      America would probably have been discovered by Portuguese sailors travelling from Africa to Brazil and by Russian explorers reaching Alaska and then gradually traveling down the coast.
      Well you say that but the only reason he went from Spain was because they backed him. He had gone to see Englands Henry VIII who turned him down. If not he'd have landed somewhere on the labrador coast perhaps or even where Jamestown ended up...

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      • #4
        Yes, temporary Viking and later whaling and fishing settlements in Canada are intriguing. Especially the fact that those lands would not be claimed by a king by th 15th century.
        It always amazes me how absurd myths endure millenia, while extremely important knowledge can be lost so easily. How could Columbus not have known Greek measurements of Earth's circumference or the existance of Greenland so close to Iceland, both of which the Vikings had inhabited long before?
        Even a larger and better rigged version of an old Viking longship seems to have much less drag than a carabelle.

        Columbus went to see many kings and was only backed by the Spaniards. But like I said, had he or the Spanish courtiers not been poor mathematicians, the expedition would not have been undertaken.

        With his rather deficient knowledge of northern currents and the North Atlantic weather, I doubt that Columbus could have arrived in North America from Wales or Ireland before his crew mutinied or the ship sank. Even if he arrived, in October, he would have had a difficult time surviving the cold and natives before returning to Britain. Henry would have been smarter to use his own whalers and fishermen for such an expedition.

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        • #5
          The Bristol Connection

          There is some evidence in a manuscript written by Lope Garcia de Salazar (1399-1476), that an expedition from Bristol got there first.

          There were documented voyages of exploration from Bristol in 1480 & 1481, but given Salazar's manuscript it appears that these were not the first.

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          • #6
            Maybe he was using a copy of Zuane Pizzigano portolan chart.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portolan_chart

            Or one which it was based on. which shows the location of the Canary islands, Madeira Islands, the Azores.
            Antillia group which is fictional, Columbus didn't know that, reported to be 200 leagues (690 miles) west of the Azores, maybe that's where he was heading for.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zuane_Pizzigano
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antillia
            • 'If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.' Sun Tzu

            Definition of government, "an institution which prevents injustice other than such as it commits itself" by Ibn Khaldun

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            • #7
              A thought about consequences if initial permanent European explorations and settlements happened in North America and central South America (east coast, of course). Might such an unfolding have given more of an opportunity to the Aztec and Inca Empires to realize the nature of the incursions and for some time for the native populations to adjust to European introduced diseases? Perhaps enough for a situation somewhat resembling that of India with British colonialism to eventuate?

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Tuor View Post
                ... Might such an unfolding have given more of an opportunity to the Aztec and Inca Empires to realize the nature of the incursions and for some time for the native populations to adjust to European introduced diseases?
                Culturally most adapted with much speed. Others with less, and some were stubborn & clung to the old ways. The already well organized groups of Central America would have grasped things like metal working quickly. Tho the lack of large surface coal deposits and easy iron ore would have been a handicap.

                The disease problem is another matter. Early Spanish documents and archeology strongly suggest frequent & multiple waves of disease epidemics reduced the population of the Americas by over 80% in a century or less. Epidemics continued to ravage the original populations to the present day.

                Tho now you got me visualizing 19th Century steel mills at the confluence of the Allegheny & Mongahela rivers, established & run by the Iriquoi confederation

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                • #9
                  Good point about long term disease effects, but the cultural adaptation was generally remarkably quick and effective, not only in the Iroquois Confederation but others like in the U.S. Southeast, where George Washington's preferred Indian policy was progressing so well land hungry European Americans (disgracefully led by Andrew Jackson) caused the Trail of Tears to get their land (especially in Georgia). Here's a bit from Wikipedia (which sometimes is quite accurate):

                  Background

                  The Five Civilized Tribes, consisting of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee-Creek, and Seminole were well established as autonomous nations in the southeastern United States. The acculturation proposed by George Washington was well underway among the Cherokee and Choctaw. Thomas Jefferson's policy had been to accept the Native Americans' rights to their homelands. All Indians who had adopted a civilized behavior could remain east of the Mississippi. His plan was to guide them towards practicing an agriculturally based society. However, Andrew Jackson sought to renew a policy of political and military action for the removal of the Native Americans from these lands and spoke of enacting a law for Indian removal in an 1829 oration.[citation needed]

                  On May 28, 1830 The Indian Removal Act was signed into law by President Andrew Jackson. While Native American removal was, in theory, supposed to be voluntary, in practice great pressure was put on Native American leaders to sign removal treaties. Most observers, whether they were in favor of the Indian removal policy or not, realized that the passage of the act meant the inevitable removal of most Indians from the states. Some Native American leaders who had previously resisted removal now began to reconsider their positions, especially after Jackson's landslide re-election in 1832. Affected tribes included the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole.

                  The Removal Act was strongly supported in the South, where states were eager to gain access to lands inhabited by the Five Civilized Tribes. In particular, Georgia, the largest state at that time, was involved in a contentious jurisdictional dispute with the Cherokee nation. President Jackson hoped removal would resolve the Georgia crisis.

                  The Indian Removal Act is today highly controversial. While most European Americans during this time favored the passage of the Indian Removal Act, there was significant opposition. Many Christian missionaries, most notably missionary organizer Jeremiah Evarts, protested against passage of the Act. Future U.S. President Abraham Lincoln also opposed the Indian Removal Act. In Congress, New Jersey Senator Theodore Frelinghuysen and Congressman Davy Crockett of Tennessee spoke out against the legislation. The Removal Act was passed after bitter debate in Congress.
                  Did disease effect the densely settled Central and South American Indians disproportionately? Even a decimated Aztec population would still have been far more numerous then a Cortez like filibuster in numbers, and with time to perhaps adjust to the current Europen armor, guns, and horses. Given how well native Americans adjusted to innovations like the horse on the Great Plains, with a decade or two to adjust, and no Quetzelcoatl to be used as a Fifth Column into Tenochtitlan, how about a scenario with the Aztec polity surviving in some form. And even more so the Inca, given mountain fastnesses not only better strategically but also to slow down diseases.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Tuor View Post
                    Did disease effect the densely settled Central and South American Indians disproportionately? Even a decimated Aztec population would still have been far more numerous then a Cortez like filibuster in numbers, and with time to perhaps adjust to the current Europen armor, guns, and horses. Given how well native Americans adjusted to innovations like the horse on the Great Plains, with a decade or two to adjust, and no Quetzelcoatl to be used as a Fifth Column into Tenochtitlan, how about a scenario with the Aztec polity surviving in some form. And even more so the Inca, given mountain fastnesses not only better strategically but also to slow down diseases.
                    Short answer is yes. Epidemics had a lot to do with the ability of small Spanish armies to subjugate central America. There is a book titled '1491' which focuses on the pre Columbian people & current knowledge of their culture and technology. A few sections discuss the large changes that occured at the start of the 16th Century. It would be a good primer/summary of late 20th Century understanding of conditions in the Americas i the 15th Century.

                    Another older book on my shelf focuses on the early 16th Century European incursions into North America, north of the Rio Grande. One nearly forgotten expedition was led by a Spanish aristocrat named Navarro (Navorro?) toured the southern Mississippi basin about the same time Cortez did his thing. Navarro had worse luck. He lost contact with his ships & some years later four survivors (out of 300+) stumbled into a Spanish outpost in what is now Mexico. One of the survivors left a written account which still exists in Spanish archives. This man gave a straight forward description of a densely settled region across what in now the Georgia through Mississippi region. Town populations of up to 500 person are common, and counts of 800+ are noted in the text. intense agriculture surrounded these towns, & trade is described between them. 19th & 20th Century archeology has some confirmation of some towns of comparable size, and evidence of extensive agriculture from the 13th or 14th Centuries through the 15th.

                    However several subsequent expeditions 20 - 30 years after Navarro disappeared reported none of this. Tiny villages of a few dozen inhabitants & a few towns of more than 100. There are observations of decayed & runined towns, some recently abandoned, and numerous fields that had been abandoned for some years.

                    There are two ways to interprete this. One is the Navarro survivor could not count very well & the later observations of extensive abandoned agriculture & villiages reflect slash & burn agriculture techniques. The other suggestion is a large population was killed off by diseases brought in by the Navarro group and the many others who poked about the coast from 1500. to 1530.

                    Getting back to central America of the early 1500s. The Spanish accounts, mostly by priests of the numerous epidemics are said to be fairly grim reading. The fragments I've seen in the English language histories sound bad & the estimates of deaths beyond huge. There are other historical versions that find the overall death rate from disease far less. Some of those provide far lower estimates of the pre Columbian population, others simply ascribed fewer epidemics or losses.
                    Last edited by Carl Schwamberg; 11 Oct 12, 11:11.

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                    • #11
                      until the 18th century cast iron and steel was not produced using coal but charcoal, which has much less sulfur and burns hotter. England, France and Spain were rapidly running out of forests to make steel, glass, lime, gun powder, etc, and to build ships, houses, etc,
                      This is why the immense forests in America were invaluable to Europe and why developing the technique to make coke out of high grade coal boosted British industry.

                      Non ferrous metallurgy was quite developed in the Americas, which were still in the copper age and well acquainted with lost wax casting, etc, They could smelt copper and worked gold and silver exquisitely.
                      The Purepecha or Tarasco Indians who inhabited the region where I live were never defeated by the Aztecs and used hardened copper arrow and spear heads.
                      Although by far most Indians died in large numbers after the Spaniards arrived, many archeological epidemiologists claim that the symptoms described in most cases do not coincide with smallpox and other Eurasian diseases but with a hemorrhagic fever virus that mutated from being trasmitted strictly by mice (like the Hanta virus in the 4 Corners area) to being transmitted in air between humans.
                      It was probably the mixture of smallpox and a hemorrhagic fever virus that caused 80 to 90% of the population to die, causing cultural collapse.
                      The few aristocratic survivors are described by the Spaniards as being able to learn extremely quickly Spanish, Latin, reading and writing, painting, etc,

                      India cannot be compared with the Americas, because it was in Eurasia, so it was exposed to the diseases and to the knwoledge from China, Egypt, Europe, etc, so they had had horses, cattle, rice, wheat, shipbuilding, medicine, magnets, cast iron and steel for a long time and paper, gun powder, compass, etc, for centuries.
                      In contrast the Americans had to develop everything in a shorter time and with fewer nations with smaller populations and without horses, cattle, etc,
                      The Inca were more advanced in the sense that they had beasts of burden (LLamas, etc,), but the Aztec and Maya relied on men to carry all the goods on their backs on land, which greatly limited trade by increasing costs enormously.

                      Had not Columbus provided Spain with access to extremely rich colonies, European history would have been quite different. Spain wasted huge fortunes and most of its men fighting the French, Dutch, Turks, etc, but invested very little in industry, science, etc,
                      Last edited by Draco; 11 Oct 12, 11:54.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Draco View Post
                        until the 18th century cast iron and steel was not produced using coal but charcoal, which has much less sulfur and burns hotter. England, France and Spain were rapidly running out of forests to make steel, glass, lime, gun powder, etc, and to build ships, houses, etc,
                        This is why the immense forests in America were invaluable to Europe and why developing the technique to make coke out of high grade coal boosted British industry.

                        Non ferrous metallurgy was quite developed in the Americas, which were still in the copper age and well acquainted with lost wax casting, etc, They could smelt copper and worked gold and silver exquisitely.
                        The Purepecha or Tarasco Indians who inhabited the region where I live were never defeated by the Aztecs and used hardened copper arrow and spear heads.
                        Although by far most Indians died in large numbers after the Spaniards arrived, many archeological epidemiologists claim that the symptoms described in most cases do not coincide with smallpox and other Eurasian diseases but with a hemorrhagic fever virus that mutated from being trasmitted strictly by mice (like the Hanta virus in the 4 Corners area) to being transmitted in air between humans.
                        It was probably the mixture of smallpox and a hemorrhagic fever virus that caused 80 to 90% of the population to die, causing cultural collapse.
                        The few aristocratic survivors are described by the Spaniards as being able to learn extremely quickly Spanish, Latin, reading and writing, painting, etc,

                        India cannot be compared with the Americas, because it was in Eurasia, so it was exposed to the diseases and to the knwoledge from China, Egypt, Europe, etc, so they had had horses, cattle, rice, wheat, shipbuilding, medicine, magnets, cast iron and steel for a long time and paper, gun powder, compass, etc, for centuries.
                        In contrast the Americans had to develop everything in a shorter time and with fewer nations with smaller populations and without horses, cattle, etc,
                        The Inca were more advanced in the sense that they had beasts of burden (LLamas, etc,), but the Aztec and Maya relied on men to carry all the goods on their backs on land, which greatly limited trade by increasing costs enormously.

                        Had not Columbus provided Spain with access to extremely rich colonies, European history would have been quite different. Spain wasted huge fortunes and most of its men fighting the French, Dutch, Turks, etc, but invested very little in industry, science, etc,
                        While I agree with most of what you have written here, England simply did not possess the population or naval strength to take New Spain from the Spanish.

                        Even after the loss by the Armada, some 80 ship made it back to Spain which was nearly as many as the English started off with.

                        Historian Victor Davis Hanson noted that the Spanish were sending ships out once a month even at the time Cortez defeated the Aztecs, so by the time of the Armada defeat they were wellentrenched in the Americas. The English Navy was defeated at Cartagena in the 1640s so I am doubtful that they were yet capable of defeating Spain in the Americas.

                        On a side note, a plague in Castille, which supplied most of the troops and money to the New World expeditions, in the early 1600s wiped out 25% or their popualtion so the natives in the Americas were not the only ones damaged by disease.

                        Interesting thread, though.
                        "I ask, Sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them."
                        George Mason
                        Co-author of the Second Amendment
                        during Virginia’s Convention to Ratify the Constitution, 1788

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                        • #13
                          Cyberknight,
                          You seem to be mixing up 2 threads. In this one a smarter Columbus figures out the correct distance from Spain to India and rules out a voyage. The Spaniards do not get to settle America, perhaps the Portuguese, French or British do in the Atlantic and eventually the Russians in the North Pacific.

                          Without the resources from Mexico, Peru, Philippines, etc, Spain becomes much less influential in Europe (as it became when it lost most of its colonies) and southern Spain and its mediterranean coast may even be taken back by the Moors, with Turkish support.
                          With such a huge territory, the king of Portugal may move to America long before it did, when Napoleon invaded Portugal and avoid wasting huge fortunes and men in European wars.
                          The distance to Cuba and Mexico and the weather is far more suitable for colonization and trade in the 16th century than Brazil.

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                          • #14
                            Recent discoveries in Canada would suggest that it's possible the native peoples (at least in the north east) may have been better organized to resist the incursion from Europe.

                            On the site of present day Toronto, Canada the remains of a settlement that existed from about 1500 through 1530 have been discovered. It had a population of about 2000 people and had an agricultural area equal to Manhattan island.

                            Further, although settled by Hurons, the site shows evidence of extensive trade with the Iroquois. It would seem that this large, well defended town was a nexus of a growing trading empire that extended all the way to Labrador (as evidenced by European implements found on site!)

                            Had the incursion of Europeans been delayed even a couple of decades, it's possible settlements like this may have brought peace to the region. Enabling the peoples there to benefit from better agriculture and cultural organization.

                            http://news.yahoo.com/ancient-york-c...141209740.html
                            Amateurs study tactics, Professionals study logistics.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Cyberknight View Post
                              On a side note, a plague in Castille, which supplied most of the troops and money to the New World expeditions, in the early 1600s wiped out 25% or their popualtion so the natives in the Americas were not the only ones damaged by disease.
                              The Black Plague several centuries earlier is the most famous example of a European & Old World epidemic. The syphillis epidemic that swept Europ in the 16th Century is much more obscure event & understudied in its social effect in Europe. Rather than rapidly killing the population Syphillis debilitated & mentaly incapacitated its victims over a extended period. The effects on the many adult males & females in leadership positions high & low deserves a close look in terms of European history in the 16th & 17th Centuries. Perhaps even later.

                              However my take is the New World population suffered far worse from rapidly fatal epidemics that crisscrossed the two continents in multiple waves from the 16th Century.

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