Syllabus [EuroHist-HHS123-F09]

For 11/30-12/2

Assignment 13

Old Sciences, Arts, Architectures, Printing, Contact, and Vampires


The Santa Maria (a modern replica).  This boat is a carrack, considered a good design for the open ocean and for hauling cargo, but not particularly fast or agile. This was the biggest and slowest of the three boats.  The front two masts had standard quadrilateral-shaped (square-rigged) sails, the mizzenmast (the rear mast) had a lateen sail, which is triangular and allows for a bit more variability in getting power from wind that isn't directly at your back.  It sort of allows the boat to tack, but that might be exaggerating what it could do.  The angled spar of the lateen sail is clearly visible at the stern.  The Santa Maria ran aground on the first voyage (off the coast of Haiti) and was taken apart and used for lumber to build a fort.  Columbus left about 40 men in this makeshift settlement.  When he returned about a year later he found the settlement in ruins and all the men dead.  In Columbus' absence, they had apparently raped the local women and been terrible neighbors. As a result the locals killed them and looted the fort.  This sort of behavior didn't bode well for the colonization of the Americas. 

:Pinta.jpg  :Nina.jpg

The Pinta (left) and the Ni–a (right)  [Both replicas.]

The Ni–a was Columbus' favorite ship.  She was originally set up with lateen sails, typical of the carvel type that she was, but Columbus re-rigged her with square sails on the front two masts, making her a bit like a carrack, like the Santa Maria. This set-up is apparently better for open-ocean sailing.  I'm guessing this was because he knew that there would be good running winds for the trip west and that he could catch another set of running winds for the trip back east. Big square sails offer the most square footage to the wind for running. [Running is when the wind is to your back, the most obvious way to sail.]  Columbus was an expert sailor and knew his winds and rigging. 


Here is a typical caravel rigged with lateen sails. 


Here is a very simplified chart of the winds that sailors used. 

Obviously Columbus didn't know much about the left side of this map,

but he had a good idea about the winds he might encounter.



Notice how Columbus more or less went to the Americas using the Trade Winds (yellow arrows)

and returned to Europe using the Westerlies (blue arrows).


Here is a good map of his voyages: ColumbusVoyagesMap.jpg [879KB]

You'll notice on this map that there are also ocean currents working to Columbus' advantage.



Read: Davies: pp. 435-457 and 469-474



Read: Davies: pp. 474-482

Read from this PDF: Mann-1491-excerpts-diseases [Mann-1491-Diseases-2.8MB.pdf] - pp54-67, 102-107, 119-124, chart p144, pp147-148, pp156-160, and the last section on syphilis. Please feel free to read the rest of what is posted as well. It's all quite interesting.



Essay: Remember, you need to have 5 essays and the bigger one done soon.



Witchcraft Today


Albinos in Tanzania Killed for Body Parts – This article from Nov. 28 relates to our discussion of monsters a few weeks ago.  Here is a video clip from the BBC: Witch Doctors and Albinos.  This sort of thinking is still with us.  Here is an opinion piece that also discusses this issue: Opinion.  Here is a news story on the conviction of some of the perpetrators: Tanzania Convictions.


If you thought witchcraft was just a problem for 16th and 17th-century women. Think againÉ

Penis Theft Panic in Congo - 2008 


Child Witches in Congo:  child witches


Witch Sentenced to Death in Saudi Arabia: Witch Execution:

This story is very similar to cases from the 16th century.


Questions to consider:

How are these stories similar to the witch hunts in 16th-century Europe and how are they different.

Can you come up with an argument explaining why this seems to be happening in Tanzania, and/or the Congo, and/or Saudi Arabia?

            ... an economic argument?

            ... an educational argument?

            ... a religious argument?

            ... a psychological argument?

            ... a gender-based argument?

            ... some other argument?

Can you then take these arguments and look at witchcraft in the 16th century?



Davies, Norman. Europe: A History. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.


Mann, Charles C. 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus. New York: Vintage Books, 2006.


You will have to figure out the citations for the optional materials if you use them.

Back to Syllabus [EuroHist-HHS123-F09]                My email –

Resource Packages for Presenters


Mon: Eric Smith [Research package posted previously.]


Wed: Michael Smith: Biringuccio's Pirotechnia and other fire-related things:  Biringuccio-fire-metal-Bibliography.htm


Wed: Dylan Abel: For catapult and trebuchet designs, I suggest you look through this bibliography [Medieval_Weapons_Sources/Medieval-Weaponry.htm] and corresponding resource package [Medieval_Weapons_Sources].  Here are a couple of articles that mention that battle, but it's not very detailed: Caffa-Plague/Caffa-plague_source.htm.




Wife of Bath by Chaucer: Chaucer-Wife of Bath - modern translation