Today is Columbus Day.
You may have noticed that Christopher Columbus wasn’t on your list of Texas explorers. That’s because Columbus never set foot in Texas. In fact, he never reached the American mainland. But Columbus Day is a good opportunity to put history in context by looking at the world-shaping events that took place in a very short period of time.
- Gutenburg invents the printing press (1441) – Moveable type made printing far less laborious, resulting in cheaper means of communication. News of adventurers, journeys of exploration, recent discoveries, and abundant land traveled quickly. Side note: When Martin Luther made the Bible available in the language of the common man following the Reformation (31 October 1517), Gutenburg’s printing press helped the Word of God travel quickly, too.
- Constantinople falls to the Ottoman Turks (1453) – The “Silk Road” trade route to India and China becomes much more dangerous for European travelers. The kingdom that discovers a faster, safer trade route will be able to obtain silks and spices more cheaply and gain the upper hand in economic markets.
- The Spanish Inquisition (1 Nov 1478) – Established by Ferdinand II and Isabella I, the Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition was intended to restore Christian orthodoxy after the Islamic Moors were driven out of Spain along with the Jews who had supported them. An interesting side note: the Spanish Inquisition did not officially end until 15 July 1834.
- Spanish Reconquista (2 January 1492) – The Muslims invaded Europe in 711. The Crusades were part of the attempt to drive them back. With the conquest of the last Moorish stronghold in Spain at Granada, King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella I were able to fund Columbus’ first voyage.
- Alhambra Decree (31 March 1492) – an edict orders the expulsion of as many as 800,000 Jews from the Kingdom of Spain by 31 July 1492.
- Christopher Columbus set sail (3 August 1492) – Some theorize that so many ships crowded the harbors as Jewish residents fled Spain that Columbus could not sail until the evacuation was complete. This pushed his sail date much later in the season when autumn storms would become a threat to the safety of his journey.
Please comment. Do you believe that there are certain times when world events present a greater opportunity to shape history? Are we living in such a time? Does it matter?