Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem

Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem Cover

Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem

By Carol Delaney

Free Press, Hardcover, 9781439102329, 336pp.

Publication Date: September 20, 2011


An extraordinary new examination of Christopher Columbus that shows him to have been a man of deep passion, patience, and religious conviction—a man determined to save Jerusalem from Islam.

Five hundred years after Columbus set off on his remarkable journey, debates about his legacy still rage. Once revered, he’s now frequently held to have been destructive, reckless, and responsible for everything that went wrong in the New World. But scholar Carol Delaney offers a profoundly new evaluation of Columbus and the motivation for his famous voyages.

Putting the man back into the context of his times, Delaney shows that it was his abiding religious passion that drove him to petition the Spanish monarchy to support his journey. He and much of society believed that the end of the world was imminent and believed that Jerusalem needed to be back under Christian control before the end of days. Delaney asserts that—contrary to the belief that he sought personal wealth and advancement—Columbus’s mission was to obtain enough gold for the Spanish crown to finance a new crusade to Jerusalem that could regain control of the holy city from the Muslims. Delaney recounts the drama of the four voyages, bringing the challenges vividly to life. She depicts Columbus as a thoughtful interpreter of the native cultures that he and his men encountered, explaining the tragic story of how his initial attempts to establish good relations turned badly sour.

Filled with illuminating research (informed by a fascinating stint Delaney spent as a sailor on a tall ship), Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem offers not an apologist’s take, but a clear-eyed, thought-provoking, and timely reappraisal of the man and his mission.

About the Author

Carol Delaney received an MTS from Harvard Divinity School and a PhD in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Chicago and is a graduate of Boston University. She was the assistant director of the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard, and a visiting professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Brown University. She is now a professor emerita at Stanford University and a research scholar at Brown University.  Delaney is the author of several books, including The Seed and the Soil: Gender and Cosmology in Turkish Village Society, Abraham on Trial: The Social Legacy of Biblical MythNaturalizing Power: Essays in Feminist Cultural Criticism, and Investigating Culture: An Experiential Introduction to Anthropology.