Title: The World of Columbus and Sons
Author: Genevieve Foster
Major Themes: Christopher Columbus, Exploration
Synopsis: The history of Europe from 1451 to 1522, both political and religious, is woven around the story of Christopher Columbus and his sons.
I really enjoyed reading The World of Columbus and Sons to my boys recently. Genevieve Foster has done an excellent job of telling world history from 1451 to 1522. She has woven the stories of many kings and queens, popes and scientists, as well as explorers and reformers around the lives of Christopher Columbus and his sons. As well, she has made this an interesting story! Sonlight Curriculum used to use this book for their Level F, but the latest edition, which we are using, has dropped it. I used it anyway—this is too good a book to leave out! Unfortunately, my boys thought it was boring.
The World of Columbus and Sons is divided into four parts. The first part begins with Columbus as a boy in Genoa, and describes the problem the kings of Spain and Portugal were facing with no easy sea route to India. The printing press was invented, Lorenzo de Medici was learning statecraft in Florence, the Wars of the Roses began, and Ivan became the first Tsar of Russia. Part 2 details Columbus’s life in Portugal and Spain, when he came up with the idea to reach India by sailing west and tried to find a monarch to back him. It also paints a pretty interesting picture of the politics in Europe at the time, when 2- and 3-year-olds were often married to each other in order to form alliances between countries. Bartholomew Dias made it to the tip of Africa, and Michelangelo began to study sculpture. In Part 3, Columbus finally got the backing he needed to make a voyage across the Atlantic and Martin Luther struggled to learn Latin. Explorers from many European countries were searching frantically for a sea route through the new lands to India and Copernicus began studying astronomy. Part 4 describes Columbus’s fourth and final voyage and why the New World was named “America”. Henry VIII became king of England and Magellan started on a voyage around the world; Martin Luther inadvertently sparked the Reformation.
If you are at all interested in the events surrounding the discovery of America and the beginning of the Reformation, this is a great book. It explains the politics that drove events in Europe and ties a lot of diverse events and people together, making history make a lot of sense. This is a great resource for studying the early years of the Reformation.
WARNING: Page 328 mentions the Spaniards treating the Indians horribly, believing they were worth less than their dogs. You may want to proofread the second-to-last paragraph on the page.
Listening Level—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12
Reading Independently—Ages 10 – 12, 12 – 15