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Amerigo's First Voyage to the New World *

Amerigo Vespucci [ah-MAIR-ih-go vez-POO-chee] is a man from Florence who moved to Spain and took part in the financing and refitting of Columbus's ships. This experience has inspired him to make a journey of his own. Christopher Columbus has been exploring all through the Caribbean still believing (or feverishly hoping) that he is in the East Indies. Columbus has been a poor and often absent administrator, leaving the Spanish colonies to fall into lawlessness and chaos. King Ferdinand breaks his exclusivity agreement with Columbus and sends Amerigo with three ships to find out what Columbus has REALLY found. On this first voyage Amerigo will enter the Gulf of Mexico and explore the coast of what will be the United States of... America. After his third voyage in 1502 his published reports will mesmerize the public and Columbus will be sidelined. [1] [2] [3]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
The reports on the voyages of Amerigo are difficult for historians to credit fully. It is clear that he was a superstar after he returned from his 3rd voyage and he may have gone back a 4th time. His travelogues got wide distribution and spurred the imagination of the public. This is probably why the first cartographers named the new continents "America" after Amerigo and not "Columbia" after Columbus. Later they regretted the initial naming and wanted to use "Vespucci" for the continental names but the first name stuck so they went with it. (Really. I'm not kidding.) Later examination of the reports show that some of them were fabrications made by others. Sorting out what is true and what is not during this time period is difficult, but Amerigo's reports drove the public perception and they perceived that whatever Columbus found it sure wasn't China. [4]

Mardi Gras and the Bonfire of the Vanities

After the army of France's King Charles the Affable burned through Italy like a wildfire, the nations of Italy and Spain must reassess all that they once knew of warfare. Spain (which controls Naples) is going through a complete military reorganization. Some Italians believe that this is God's punishment for their laxness, self-indulgence and vanities. Friar Savonarola [sah-von-ah-ROW-lah] has created a new movement, burning everything that serves one's vanity. This movement culminates in Florence. Beginning on Mardi Gras, thirteen hundred children march from door-to-door, collecting objects of vanity for the bonfire. Paintings of pagan scenes, nudity and sensual books are given over to the flames. Decks of cards, cosmetics and even mirrors join them. Accounts of the event make it sound as if the crowds were massive, but paintings of the event years later show only a few people gathered around this Bonfire of the Vanities. The Friar will become much less popular after trying to depose the Pope. By next year the Friar will be tortured, tried and hung from a cross. His body will go up in his own bonfire and be reduced to the ashes. [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Although the discovery of the New World looms large in our minds today, at the time it was not that big a deal to the world. To Spain? Yes. Everyone else? Not so much. The First Italian War had more impact. For many historians this war marks the beginning of the Modern Age. But even with the French "shock and awe" of their cannons, they will not maintain their technological advantage for long. Defeat brings more change than success. In this case, the defeated learn the value of handheld weapons (meaning muskets) and military discipline. [11] [12] [13]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1497, Wikipedia.

See Also


* The asterisk in the section header indicates that it was read on the podcast.
  1. Vespucci, Amerigo (1497). Amerigo Vespucci: Account of His First Voyage (1497). Internet History Sourcebooks. Retrieved on 15 November 2014.
  2. Amerigo Vespucci - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 11 January 2015.
  3. Alex Shrugged notes: Columbus had conflicting goals. He wanted to find China but he had the duty to govern the colonies. It is clear the Spanish colonists do not respect him and the colonists don't respect the Indians either. Actual civil law breaks down. When Columbus returns he must reestablish order by the sword, mostly at the expense of the Indians. Punishment at this time is brutal (such as the hacking off of body parts) and mercy consists of a quick death.
  4. (1912) "Amerigo Vespucci", The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. “It may be remarked that, at the time of the discovery of America, as is now clearly proven, the narratives of the voyages of Vespucci were more widely disseminated, by far, than were those of the voyages of Columbus, and that Florence was the chief centre for the diffusion of news on the discovery of the New World.” 
  5. The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990). IMDb.com (1990). Retrieved on 11 January 2015. “After his mistress runs over a young teen, a Wall Street hotshot sees his life unravel in the spotlight, and attracting the interest of a down and out reporter.”
  6. Bonfire of the Vanities - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 11 January 2015.
  7. Mardi Gras - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 11 January 2015.
  8. This Day in History - February 07, 1497 - Bonfire of the Vanities. History Channel (Australia and New Zealand) (2015). Retrieved on 11 January 2015. “The Bonfire of the Vanities was orchestrated by the charismatic, passionate Savonarola, who was known for his apocalyptic sermons. After the ruling Medici dynasty was overthrown in 1494, he was effectively the political—as well as spiritual—leader of the city of Florence, and his great bonfire was the high point of his career. However, his popularity fell away at an astounding rate afterwards, and the following year he was excommunicated and executed.”
  9. Origins and history of the infamous Bonfire of the Vanities. historyofpainters.com (2011). Retrieved on 11 January 2015. “Thirteen hundred children, marching from house to house, demanded and collected the luxuries of the world. Silken clothes and musical instruments, carpets and editions of the Decamerone (a 14th century book filled with lewd tales of love), sweet cakes and painting with partly nude figures, all were piled on to a huge pyramid and set alight.”
  10. February 7 1497 - The Largest Bonfire of the Vanities Occurs in Florence, Italy - On this day in History. MapsofWorld.com (2015). Retrieved on 11 January 2015. “When King Charles VIII of France attacked Italy in 1494, many of his followers took it as confirmation the end was truly at hand. Buoyed by growing support, Savonarola gained wider political influence as the decade moved on. New statutes defining appropriate clothing for men and women were created, as well as prohibitions against homosexuality, drunkenness and &lquot;moral transgressions&rquot; as determined by him and his supporters. Bonfires of the vanities became more common, usually after a procession through the city during which the crowd would sing righteous hymns composed as a counterbalance to the scandalous tunes sung when the now-dead Lorenzo ruled the city.”
  11. Boot, Max. War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History. Gotham. ISBN 9781592402229. 
  12. Alex Shrugged notes: I suggest reading the Safehold series beginning with "Off Armageddon Reef" by David Weber. It is a Scifi novel about Earth destroyed and colonists rebuilding civilization from scratch on the planet Safehold. The problem is that their memories have been wiped so they must be gently guided into developing more modern methods of manufacturing. By necessity this means a technological development of weapons. It is a great lesson in comparative weapons development.
  13. Off Armageddon Reef. Tor Books. ISBN 9780765315007. 

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