It’s Columbus Day, so the great navigator is in the news. Unfortunately for him, his day is in jeopardy. But when liberals want to use Columbus, they often use him to bash people they claim are “anti-science.”
Fake history has a long history. This is especially true when it comes to Christopher Columbus. For many years, elementary school students were taught that Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 to prove the earth was round because the scientists of the day believed it was flat. This is fake history.The thing of it is, there was almost no one who believed the earth was flat. Washington Irving started the fake flat-earth history story in his three-volume History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus (1828). Samuel Eliot Morison, a noted Columbus biographer, describes the story by Irving as “misleading and mischievous nonsense, . . . one of the most popular Columbian myths.”1
Irving’s fictionalized account of Columbus describes him as being “assailed with citations from the Bible and the Testament: the book of Genesis, the psalms of David, the orations of the Prophets, the epistles of the apostles, and the gospels of the Evangelists. To these were added expositions of various saints and reverend Commentators. . . . Such are specimens of the errors and prejudices, the mingled ignorance and erudition, and the pedantic bigotry, with which Columbus had to contend.”2 These tales of opposition never happened.
The dispute with Columbus in the 15th century was over how big around the earth was not whether the earth was round or flat. Columbus was wrong about the circumference of the earth; the cartographers were right.
For decades, the flat-earth slam has become standard historical mythology that was written into our nation’s textbooks and is pulled out as an ideological hammer every time some liberal lie is questioned.
In the eleven-volume Our Wonder World, first published in 1914, the editors offered the following undocumented claims: “All the ancient peoples thought the earth was flat, or, if not perfectly flat, a great slightly curving surface,” and “Columbus was trying to convince people that the earth was round.”
Even the Encyclopedia Britannica perpetuated the myth of a round-earth solution for Columbus’s voyages as late as 1961: “Before Columbus proved the world was round, people thought the horizon marked its edge. Today we know better.” The people knew better in Columbus’s day.