The World of Columbus and Sons

The World of Columbus and Sons , by Genevieve Foster
(1965; reprint, Beautiful Feet Books), pb., 406 pp.

This is a fascinating book! Rather than simply telling about Columbus’ travels, Mrs. Foster portrays Columbus against the backdrop of the political, cultural and social setting of his world. Thus the story covers not simply 1492 but begins in 1451 and goes through 1537. Similarly, the book addresses not simply Spain and the New World, but also the royal families, wars and politics of practically all of Europe as well as the East. This is a large task- hence the 400 pages.

I was skeptical about whether this would be a book to read aloud, doubting that it would hold my boys attention and that they would be able to keep up as the narrative shifted from country to country with all the interconnections between royal families. In fact, less than a quarter of the way through I decided to shift to another book. However, to my surprise, my boys were very disappointed and pleaded for us to continue reading this book! They admitted it was sometimes difficult to keep some of the connections between royal families straight (as it was for me!); nevertheless, they said it was fun to listen to and to see how all these things connected and set the stage for Columbus’ life.

I, personally, found this book to be very informative particularly in the development of Europe in this period. Nowhere else have I seen a book that relates, for example, DaVinci, Michelangelo, Erasmus and Luther to the work of Columbus! If you can’t read this to your kids, but are studying this period read it yourself. Mrs. Foster writes well so it is an enjoyable read.

I don’t know the theological orientation of Mrs. Foster but she is fair in her portrayal of Christianity, willing to point out the glaring errors of Medieval Catholicism but also praising faithful people in the time. She is basically favorable towards Luther. At one point she says that Moses was a priest and warrior and as a result he was denied entrance into the Holy Land. This is not the reason he was denied entry! I was pleased that my sons noticed the error and my oldest suggested (as I was thinking) she may have been thinking of David who was not allowed to build the Temple.

In summary, we strongly recommend this book. Though it is long it provides an overall view of this entire period covering various countries, wars, art and all the key explorations in this era. The integrated view that results is very helpful.

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