Michael Demmons cites a recent book that claims the Chinese “discovered” America 70 years before Columbus ever set sail.

Personally, I think this is probably true. How much ya wanna bet though that our history books will never change – at least not in our lifetimes?

Commentator Alan asks, “Why do the Vikings and Basques get the short end of history’s stick.”

Of course, the American Indians discovered the place long before any of those folks got here. So what?

Columbus’ voyage was significant not because he proved the world was round–everyone knew that already–or because he was the first to reach North America–he wasn’t–but because he set in motion European colonization of the New World. America didn’t become significant in a historical sense until then.

FILED UNDER: Popular Culture
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. …and I’m still trying to figure out who Amerigo Vespucci was, and why we named two continents after him.

  2. Paul says:

    I can’t understand why the Russians didn’t find America first. What are they…30 miles away?

  3. delta dave says:

    For America being named after Amerigo Vespucci, a Spanish explorer of the late 1400s-early 1500s, – credit German mapmakers who supported the contention that Amerigo really discovered America before Columbus. After all, Columbus thought he had discovered India.

    It doesn’t really make much difference who discovered America first….its really what did they do with the discovery. The Vikings (Not the Minnesota Viking who can’t even find the end zone — the real ones) probably discovered America before Columbus also…but as with the Chinese, what did they do with their discovery?

  4. James Joyner says:

    Exactly. It’s like I used to tell my students: The Chinese invented gunpowder, but all they did was make little firecrackers. It took the Europeans to figure out that it could be used to hurl projectiles at people with lethal effect and thus advance civilization!

  5. I like to say Columbus was the LAST person to discover America. There are many claims about this group or that “discovering” America before 1492, but note that no one claims they “discovered” America in 1493 or later.

    Columbus is the only one whose achievement mattered.

  6. Anonymous says:

    James: So the Chinese used an incredibly destructive force as a toy to delight young and old alike, while it took the Western world to use it to slaughter thousands? And we should be proud? 😉

  7. Sam Barnes says:

    Yes! Gunpowder led to guns, and the gun is one of the cornerstones of civilization. Fireworks are pretty, but it’s the gun that removes the heavy advantage in the use of lethal force from the hands of the physically strong and well-trained. The average woman with a knife or bare hands is at the mercy of the average man similarly armed, but if they both have guns, the playing field is leveled.

  8. Sure. God made me; Sam Colt made me equal.

    But what a shame when people don’t get James’ wit. They are missing a lot.