The Legacy of Christopher Columbus in the Americas

COVERThe Legacy of Christopher Columbus in the Americas: New Nations and a Transatlantic Discourse of Empire by Elise Bartosik-Vélez will be published in February of 2014 by Vanderbilt University Press.

In The Legacy of Christopher Columbus in the Americas, Bartosik-Vélez uses a comparative approach to explain the popularity of Christopher Columbus in British and Spanish America during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. She first analyzes the discourse of empire that circulated in the Spanish royal court at the end of the fifteenth century, and she shows how Columbus plugged into this discourse to portray himself as a figure of empire. European historiographers and literati in subsequent generations continued this representation of Columbus as a figure of empire, as they also incorporated him into the humanist tradition. Early settlers of British and Spanish America read these earlier texts about Columbus and produced their own texts about him, thus perpetuating what Bartosik-Vélez calls a “Columbian interpretive tradition.” The Americans who later forged the new nation-states of the continent employed this figure of the imperial Columbus in nationalist discourse as the idea of empire that had been for centuries so closely associated with Columbus was an important part of the intellectual scaffolding of the societies they were constructing.

The Legacy of Christopher Columbus in the Americas, the first comparative analysis of the meaning of Columbus in the Americas, reveals how the figure of Columbus in the Americas was constructed by a transatlantic discourse rooted in the idea of empire.