Comparing and Contrasting Two Analyses of Indian-European Interactions

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When the people of Europe first realized that there was an entire new continent across the Atlantic that it hadn’t previously realized existed, everyone was eager to explore and make use of a brand-new opportunity. Conquistadores, Puritans, entrepreneurs—everyone saw something in the Americas to make the long voyage worth their while. So when Europeans arrived in this “New World,” they were coming from all sorts of different places, religious backgrounds, and social statuses. And of course, the Americas are huge continents. The new arrivals encountered all sorts of different geographies and Native American societies, which they had to adapt to. So as they settled, the ways that everyone found to survive and cope in the new environment were just as varied as the environments. All this variety makes for an incredible amount of information. It’s no wonder, then, that when looking back on this period of history, people can have entirely different views, based on the information that they are working with and the perspectives they bring with them. The articles “Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress” and “Life and Industry” are a rather extreme example of how different two conclusions about the same period can be. “Columbus, The Indians, and Human Progress,” was written in 1999 by Howard Zinn, and it discusses some of the early interactions between Europeans arriving and colonizing the Americas and the Native Americans who lived there. Zinn quite clearly states the viewpoint of this article, saying he tries, in telling history, “not to be on the side of the executioners.” In other words, Zinn’s article focuses primarily on the effects of the Europeans on the Native Americans, highlighting specific cruelties committed intentionally by the Europeans more than the effects of disease. As far as historical context goes, Zinn covers a wide range of areas, from Peru to the Eastern Coast of North America, and a relatively large range of dates, from Columbus' original...
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