Oct 30, 2016 04:15 am | email@example.com (Michelle Miller)
Some years ago, I was sitting in my law office in Washington, D.C. when a businessman with a love of sailing, who had constructed a replica of Columbus' flagship, the Santa Maria, walked in. He had exhibited the boat at the World's Fair but when the Fair was over he owed a lot of money to his bank and brought the Santa Maria to Washington to exhibit it there. Only just then, the Martin Luther King riots devastated the city, tourism ceased and he needed help. I did some research, discovered a little known Admiralty Law and I arranged an auction of the Santa Maria to the highest bidder. The City of St. Louis and one of the Rockefellers were the two bidders. The City outbid Rockefeller and the winning g big paid all my happy client's debts, The next morning he came into my office with a check plus a present, a two-volume work on the litigation of the Columbus family to collect what he was owed by the Crown, including one-eighth of the land he discovered and the profits from the resulting trade.
About that time, I decided to take my wife and two children, retire from the 16-man-and-woman law firm I helped to found and become a writer. I had just published a book on negotiating a divorce. Now I wanted to write historical novels and we went off to the South of France, and Israel where I browsed the two-volumes and discovered that at the very time Columbus signed his contract with Ferdinand and Isabella, they expelled all Jews from Spain. The combination of events intrigued me and I began research under the guidance of an expert on the Spanish Inquisition. The result is 1492, the story behind the discovery of America.
The story begins long before 1492 does, when Rome ruled the world and many Jews went to the western reaches of the Empire we now call Spain. They helped to build the cities, and traded. Over the next three hundred years their population was buttressed by an influx of Moslems from the Arab world and, together, this tripod of Jews, Moslems and Christians lived in Spain, prospering, trading and farming in what many call a Golden Age. Then, a priest decided that Jews must convert to Christianity and if they didn't they should be killed.
Many Jews converted -- they were called Conversos -- but many did not and either remained in Spain or migrated to other parts of Europe or went back to Israel. But now the tripod was shaky and the instability continued until Isabella and Fernando, the Queen and King of Spain, decided it would be better if all Jews and Moslems were evicted. In the process, they confiscated their property to finance their war against the Moslems. The method they chose to accomplish all this was the Inquisition, a largely unused procedure whereby the Catholic Church investigated how authentic a conversation was The investigation was conducted by torture -- mostly water boarding -- and culminated in burning at the stake.
Into this nightmare stepped Christopher Columbus whose family fled Spain about 50 years before the Inquisition. He was living in Genoa, Italy, loved the sea, and had sailed down the coast of Africa and discovered that if a sailor then sailed due West he could reach land somewhere out there. Then, after he reached land, he could sail north, pick up the "trade winds" that blew due East and sail back to Europe. His only mistake was he thought the voyage would be shorter than it was and the mathematicians who advised the King of Portugal advised against backing him. So, of all places, Columbus turned to Spain to gain royal backing. His wife dead from childbirth, he took their son, Diego, with him.
Now, you know the story behind the story. The rest is in my book, a labor of love that took eight years to research and write, has been translated into Dutch and Spanish and now, appears in a new edition prompted by the recent decision of the governments of Spain and Portugal to right the wrongs they did 525 years ago.
So, no, Queen Isabella did not pawn her jewels to pay for Columbus' voyage. But yes, Columbus did discover America though as a result of a far different process than the fairy tale you heard as a child. We seem to need myths to get through life, but I hope you will agree that truth is better. Besides, as a priest told me when I went to Columbus' library in the Cathedral of Seville when he brought me the workbooks Columbus studied to prepare for his voyage, " Young man, I'm so glad you know who Columbus was. As the great philosopher Santayana once wrote, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
I hope you enjoy 1492 as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you want to know more about it, and other novels I've written or am writing, please browse my website, newtonfrohlich.com.
About the book 1492 opens in fifteenth-century Spain, which was, by any standard, a terrifying place. Throughout the Inquisition, torture, betrayal, and unexpected courage were expected elements of day-to-day life. The Muslim world struggled to keep the West in an economic vise, the Christian world fought back against their control of its trade routes, and Jews were caught in the middle: tortured if they assimilated, expelled or killed if they clung to their heritage.
1492 centers on a man who had one foot in the Jewish world, the other in the Christian world, and the radical idea that he could sail West to reach the East: Cristoforo Colombo. But contrary to what history books have led us to believe, Queen Isabella did not sell her jewels to fund Cristoforo's voyage. The truth involves the Jewish investor, Luis de Santangel; Columbus's Christian wife, Filipa, who gave him social acceptance and valuable contacts; and the beautiful and talented Jewish woman, Beatriz, who entered his life several years after the death of his wife.
About the author
Newton Frohlich is the award-winning author of The Shakespeare Mask: A Novel, as well as 1492: A Novel of Christopher Columbus, the Spanish Inquisition & a World at the Turning Point and Making the Best of It: A Common-Sense Guide to Negotiating a Divorce. A former lawyer in Washington, D.C., he devoted eight years to the research and writing of 1492. He has lived in Washington, D.C., the south of France, and Israel and now makes his home on Cape Cod with his wife, Martha, a musicologist.
1492: A Novel of Christopher Columbus, the Spanish Inquisition & a World at the Turning Point is currently available on Amazon, and is available in paperback and e-book formats wherever books are sold.
"Captivating, extraordinarily vivid first novel. . . . This is a convincing, detailed re-creation of the Old World on the brink of discovery." — Publishers Weekly
"Frohlich shows a fine gift for storytelling… The sheer power of the historical events is likely to keep the reader engaged." — Booklist
"A rollicking, readable and fascinating story… For a grand, sweeping tale of the history of Spain at the end of the 15thcentury, 1492 is hard to beat." — St. Louis Post Dispatch
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