Many books have been written about the year Christopher Columbus started out to sea to find a quick route to the East Indies and instead found a New World. However, none can compare to the depth and breadth with which Piero Ventura delves in to the subject. The author of 1492: the Year of the New World brings the entire subject under scrutiny in a way that captures the attention of adults and children alike. First, Piero Ventura portrays the condition and situation of many countries in Europe and the Mediterranean at the time of Columbus’ voyage.
He does this through the eyes of young adults and children alike living in those countries. By telling the story through the eyes of these young characters, Ventura relates to the audience the way of life back in the late 15th Century. For example, Jan in Flanders who is the son of a city government official is studying to become an accountant. The reader sees the beauty of Bruges, the major mercantile center in Flanders, through Jan’s eyes. We hear Jan’s thoughts about how his father wants him to be prepared for a move to Antwerp.
Antwerp is a new mercantile center for Flanders that is becoming the major center of trade for Flanders due to natural forces and political forces. Jan resolves that Antwerp is not that far from Bruges and therefore he will always be able to visit his home city of beauty. Ventura handles Germany, Portugal, France, Italy, England, and even the Ottoman Empire with such character insight too. Then he moves on to Christopher Columbus and his first voyage in August of 1492.
But Ventura does not begin at sea. He starts by telling of Columbus’ background. He displays the fact that he was the son of a merchant and then later a cartographer who navigated on voyages from Portugal to England and even to Iceland. This lets the reader understand his drive to prove there is a better way to the Indies than overland, which has been impossible since the Conquests of the Ottoman Empire. Here he explains that others too believed the world to be round.
Christopher Columbus’ drive was not to prove this, but that it was a much smaller sea that could be easily navigated circumferentially to meet the Indies and bring trade between Europe and the Orient once more. Next, Ventura relives Columbus’ voyage through the navigator’s eyes, as well as his next three more unsuccessful voyages. The author finishes with the lonely Christopher Columbus dying as he awaits audience with the rulers of Castile to try and begin yet another voyage to complete his dream of riches and family fame.
But Piero Ventura delves deeper into the meaning of these voyages by Christopher Columbus and other explorers searching for a better way to travel and trade. These travels began a discovery of a New World, according to Ventura, that brought on a lust for conquering and “owning” the lands out there across the sea. Because Ventura explained the situation in Europe and the Mediterranean so well, the reader can understand how this might happen. Still Ventura presses on to describe the lives of the people living in the lands Christopher Columbus discovered, and even in North America where he never set foot.
In the same manner, through the eyes of a young adult or child, Ventura describes the lifestyles, fears, and hopes of the Mayans, Aztecs, Tainos, Incas, and several Native North American tribes from all parts of the land. With his great talent for reaching young minds and sweeping a subject thoroughly, Piero Ventura has written an account of the New World that is both interesting and in-depth. It is not the usual account of the fever of conquerism in 1492. No, 1492: The Year of the New World is a refreshing and worthwhile read for all ages.