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No Africans, No Jews, and No Orthodox Christians

Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain fear that too many heretics are escaping to the New World, so last year they changed their policy to allow only slaves from CHRISTIAN countries to be sent to the New World colonies. (See 1501, "Italian Slave Girls for Sale") Even so, slavers are circumventing the policy by marking their slaves as coming from Spain and Portugal. These slaves are quickly disappearing into the jungle, joining the Indians. By the 1600s they and their descendants will be identified as a distinct group called "Maroons." In French the word "marron" means "runaway slave." This is a great monetary loss to the colonies and a loss of valuable skills. (Africans are known for their blacksmithing at this time.) Also, Jews and Orthodox Christian converts need not apply. Orthodox Christianity is seen as incorrect Christian observance to the Spaniards and while they might tolerate those who were born as Orthodox Christians, anyone actually converting is seen as wrong-minded and therefore blocked from entering the New World. [1] [2] [3]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
The Spaniards classified Indians as pure, having not willfully rejected Christianity... yet. Queen Isabella and much of the Christian clergy looked upon the New World as a chance to Christianize an entire continent. Thus it made no sense to them to fill it up with people who did not represent Christianity in a good light. The reality will be that Christians of the time will abandon their ideals as long as the silver, tobacco and especially the sugar keeps coming. (Europeans will discover a sweet tooth they didn't know they had.) The clergy will complain bitterly that the Spaniard's atrocities made Christianity look bad to the Indians. Yes, it will. Before this is all over, Christopher Columbus is going to look like a sweet heart in comparison. FYI, Columbus was no sweetheart but he was about average in terms of the brutality of the time... which was horrifying in any modern context. [4]

The Pope Orders a Book... Burning *

Any books which threaten the legitimacy and power of Pope Alexander the 6th are to be cast to the flames and new books must obtain a license to print by order of the Pope. Usually this means having the book's content reviewed prior to printing. However, the number of printing presses to monitor (over a thousand), the number of books they produce (and thus review) and the speed of the printing press compared to copying books by hand is overwhelming the system. This order will fail and the Church will have to use other means to stop these dangerous ideas from spreading. If that sounds ominous... it is. And in case anyone was wondering... Martin Luther is currently 20 years old and attending college at the University of Erfurt. Hang in there. [5] [6] [7] [8]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
We are seeing how the Gutenberg press is changing the course of history. When books were hand-copied and took months or years to complete, very few were produced. This imposed a practical self-censorship. You only copied books that others were guaranteed to buy such as religious works or scientific research. The printing press changed the strategy of book printing. It took a lot of effort to produce one page but very little effort to produce 99 pages just like it. Compared to modern printing, it was like a trickle in a rain storm but compared to hand-copying, it looked like Noah's Flood. Collecting them all required a lot more effort and there will always be a few they will miss. [9]

Rio de Janeiro (January's River) is not a River

Rio de Janeiro is located on what is Guanabara Bay in present day Brazil. The Portuguese explorer, Pedro Álvares Cabral, has led his ships west to find China, but finds Brazil instead. If you ever wanted to know why Brazilians speak Portuguese. Now you know. One of his supply ships wanders into the enormous bay but mistakes it as the mouth of a river. The day is the 1st of January so they name the river (which does not exist) Rio de Janeiro... January's River. In fact it is the second largest bay in that region, eclipsed by their previous discovery of All Saints Bay.[10] [11] [12]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Even though the King of Portugal thinks that Christopher Columbus has not found China, he still thinks it is worth trying to find. He has already cut a deal with the Pope and thought he was shrewdly selling the Spaniards the rights to a few worthless islands in the Atlantic and kept his African routes and islands. But what he has given away is North America and Central America. This deal will become an albatross around his neck which keeps him from making claims on lands that are rich beyond anyone's reckoning... but Brazil is still a pretty good deal. [13] [14]

This Year on Wikipedia

Year 1502, Wikipedia.

See Also


* The asterisk in the section header indicates that it was read on the podcast.
  1. 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created (BOOK), Knopf. ISBN 9780307265722. “By 1501, seven years after La Isabela's founding, so many Africans had come to Hispaniola that the alarmed Spanish king and queen instructed the island's governor not to allow any more to land. (Also on the no-entry list: Jews and Jews who had converted to Christianity, "heretics" and heretics who had converted to orthodox Christianity.) The instructions made an exception for people of African descent born in Christendom. [...] Within a few months the governor was begging the king and queen to ban all Africans of any sort from Hispaniola. "They flee to the Indians, and they learn bad customs from them, and they cannot be captured."” 
  2. maroon -- definition of maroon. The Free Dictionary (2015). Retrieved on 18 January 2015. “From French marron, fugitive slave, from American Spanish cimarrón, wild, runaway, perhaps from cima, summit (from runaways' fleeing to the mountains), from Latin cyma, sprout; see cyma.”
  3. Maroon (people) - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 18 January 2015.
  4. Alex Shrugged notes:I'm giving you my best opinion on this subject which is supported by my reading of Charles Mann's book "1493". It is an excellent read especially regarding disease aspects of the New World and general problems encountered with seed propagation and insect control. It's a real eye-opener.
  5. A World Lit Only by Fire. Hachette Book Group. ISBN 9780316082792. “In 1502 the Holy See had ordered the burning of all books questioning papal authority. It was a futile bull -- the velocity of new ideas continued to pick up momentum -- and the Church decided to adopt stronger measures.” 
  6. (1910) "Pope Alexander VI", The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved on January 18, 2015. “Alexander issued a wise decree concerning the censorship of books, and sent the first missionaries to the New World.” 
  7. Pope Alexander VI - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 18 January 2015.
  8. Freedom of speech: History of dissent and truth - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 18 January 2015.
  9. Alex Shrugged notes: It became cheaper to print one hundred books that it did to print one. That meant that if you are going to produce a book for officials to review, you had better produce the other 99 books at the same time (or at least the pages) or you will be doing all the work twice. If the censors have objection with a page or two you can go back and fix that but if they reject the whole book do you throw it out, or do you sell it anyway on the sly?. And in case anyone is wondering what I think of this Pope Alexander the 6th, I think he is a dangerous man. These were dangerous times so perhaps he was needed, but he was no saint. Not even close. Historian John Norwich lists him under the chapter "Monsters" in his book "Absolute Monarchs".
  10. Baía de Todos os Santos - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 18 January 2015.
  11. Rio de Janeiro - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 18 January 2015.
  12. Guanabara Bay - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 18 January 2015.
  13. Albatross (metaphor) - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 18 January 2015.
  14. Alex Shrugged notes: The phrase "Albatross around the neck" refers to the custom of sailors never killing their lucky bird, the albatross, and if any sailor does, the dead bird is hung around his neck to rot in order to teach him how wrong he was to do such a foolish thing as that.

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