1492 Vs. 1892 Vs. 1992

At three imperial moments, three Columbuses reveal something about their different eras

The year 1492 was Spain's annus mirabilis, a year of marvels. A Spanish Pope was elected that year, a Borja from Catalonia. (He was called Borgia in Italy, where the Two Sicilies already had Spanish rulers.) King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, who had just united their kingdoms, drove the Moors from the Spanish peninsula by a military victory at Granada. Spain's Jews were expelled in the same year, solidifying the Inquisition's power.

Columbus was part of all this. He would supply the Spanish Pope with information that led to the partition of the New World into Spanish and Portuguese spheres in...

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