Talk:Christopher Columbus

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Former good article nomineeChristopher Columbus was a History good articles nominee, but did not meet the good article criteria at the time. There may be suggestions below for improving the article. Once these issues have been addressed, the article can be renominated. Editors may also seek a reassessment of the decision if they believe there was a mistake.
Article milestones
October 21, 2006Peer reviewReviewed
October 29, 2014Good article nomineeNot listed
On this day...Facts from this article were featured on Wikipedia's Main Page in the "On this day..." column on March 15, 2004, August 3, 2004, January 4, 2005, March 15, 2005, January 4, 2006, October 12, 2006, October 12, 2007, October 12, 2011, October 12, 2013, and October 12, 2022.
Current status: Former good article nominee

Tribute system punishment: hands being cut off by Columbus's men (FALSE)[edit]

The claim that Columbus cut off the hands of natives who didn't pay the gold tribute is not supported by the historical record. This article states that it was written by Bartolome De Las Casas, but then cites Howard Zinn and Hans Koning (who Howard Zinn took his chapter on Columbus from). In fact, I can find no mention of this claim prior to Koning's book, and it does NOT exist in Las Casas's book. It is true that there was a tribute system implemented in order to suppress a rebellion and pacify the island, and it is true that Ferdinand Columbus (in his biography of his father, based on primary sources available to him) says there was punishment for failure to comply, but there is no mention as to what that punishment was. (The Life, p. 150)

Furthermore, the first mention of hands being cut off by Las Casas in History of the Indies comes on page 117-118, in the aftermath of a 1504 battle when Nicolas Ovando was the governor. Columbus was shipwrecked on Jamaica at the time in the midst of his last voyage. Here's the passage: “After the arbalast attack, Indians could only try to run back to their . . . villages, but . . . the Spaniards overcame them in no time. . . . some Indians were caught alive and were tortured incredibly to find out where people were hidden . . . The Spanish squadrons arrived in this way . . . and you should have seen how they worked their swords on those naked bodies, sparing no one! After such devastation, they set out to catch the fugitives and, catching them, had them place their hand on a board and slashed it off with the sword, and on to the other hand, which they butchered, sometimes leaving the skin dangling; . . . And the poor Indians howling and crying and bleeding to death, not knowing where to find their people, their wounds untended, fell shortly thereafter and died abandoned.” (History, Book II, Ch. 15, p. 117-8)

This claim being attributed to Columbus has spread far and wide, but when you do the digging, it all originates with Zinn/Koning. Bill Bigelow, co-director of Zinn Ed Project, actually uses pieces of the above passage to claim that this was the work of Columbus as punishment for failure to pay tribute. Both claims are false.

At the very least, we need to acknowledge that this idea of Columbus cutting hands off as punishment for not paying tribute is NOT supported by evidence from the primary source historical record, and therefore should be taken out of the article.

Here is an article that takes a deep dive into the primary source record of Columbus and his voyages, along with shedding light on some of the egregious errors of some of his proponents and detractors, including just how far Zinn goes to distort the primary sources to get his point across:

Edit Request: Change Attribution of Columbus' Nationality from Italian to Genoese[edit]

Both in the article, and in the search thumbnail description for "Christopher Columbus" he is described as an "Italian explorer and navigator." This is justified by a note that cites Pliny the Elder to say that a Latin equivalent of the word Italian was used since "antiquity," which I assume means since the Roman Empire. Meanwhile, numerous sources also referenced on the same page establish that his nationality was having been born in the Republic of Genoa.

I would like to appeal to the principle that the purpose of this encyclopedia entry should be to inform and educate, and that referring to Columbus' nationality as Italian is more likely to lead the reader to misunderstand the history of the region that is now part of the modern Republic of Italy, by causing an uninformed reader to project their current understanding about Italy as a state, political entity, nationality, language and ethnicity onto the historical period that was contemporary to Columbus.

Around 1451, the Republic of Genoa was its own distinct political entity, conferring a Genoese nationality its citizens, and there was a distinct Ligurian language that had aspects of cultural and ethnic identity that are different from a modern Italian cultural, linguistic and ethnic identity.

The existing citations around Columbus being born in Genoa and speaking Ligurian should be sufficient to establish this change. The reference to Pliny the Elder may establish that there was terminology around a concept of a region of the Roman Empire that was grouped together and referred to as Italian, but it does not establish that Columbus or other contemporaries in the Republic of Genoa would have an Italian identity that was primary, superseding and more salient to them than their Genoese identities and nationality. Furthermore, even if there was an Italian designation during the Roman Empire at the time of Pliny the Elder, that does not establish that this was a meaningful distinction over a millennium later in the Republic of Genoa.

To be clear: referring to Columbus as "Italian" does more to confuse and misinform the reader by appealing to a concept that they are familiar with that is out of context, rather than referring to him as "Genoese," which gives the reader more information about Columbus' actual nationality, which has the capacity to cause further curiosity and learning on the part of the reader, as they learn more about the Republic of Genoa, the Ligurian language, and the history of the region known today as Italy, which was not unified as a political entity until the mid to late 1800's (400 years after Columbus' birth) and has only been in it's current form that readers are familiar with as the Republic of Italy since 1946 (500 years after Columbus' birth). SiciliaOliva (talk) 23:18, 6 December 2022 (UTC)SiciliaOliva (talkcontribs) has made few or no other edits outside this topic. Reply[reply]

We've had this discussion many times before, found above on the talk page and numerous times in the talk page archives. The result has always been to leave it at "Italian", which is considered a superset of "Genoese", both currently and historically. Tarl N. (discuss) 23:47, 6 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I would like to revisit and continue this discussion.
I don't feel the reference to Pliny the Elder is sufficient to establish the claim of "Italian" as a "superset" related to the historical Republic of Genoa, which would be the political entity referring nationality to Columbus.
The other referrences already establish Genoese nationality, and because the term "Italian" has current associations with nationality, the term "Italian" is actually misleading as related to nationality.
Changing it to "Genoese" gives more information to the reader. Adding associations of "Italian" actually leads to the reader being more confused about Columbus' nationality, and misunderstanding the history of Italy. SiciliaOliva (talk) 23:59, 6 December 2022 (UTC)SiciliaOliva (talkcontribs) has made few or no other edits outside this topic. Reply[reply]
I think it should stay as "Italian", but agree we need to find a better source - one that actually mentions Columbus for a start, and describes him as Italian. ITBF (talk) 08:14, 7 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I agree that the Pliny the Elder citation is insufficient to establish "Italian" as a meaningful disctinction related to Columbus, as it is over a milennia removed from Columbus' period, and was referring to a different political order, the Roman Empire, and the Republic of Genoa did not exist during that time. However, you are also asserting that you have a kind of opinion or "gut feeling" that it should be
"Italian," but no strong evidence. SiciliaOliva (talk) 21:49, 7 December 2022 (UTC)SiciliaOliva (talkcontribs) has made few or no other edits outside this topic. Reply[reply]
I agree with ITBF: I don't think the article says that his nationality was Italian, and the note makes it clear that Italy did not exist. Therefore, it seems to me that it must be an ethnic designation. As far as confusion about his roots, the article is very clear that most believe he was born in Genoa. I don't think this is confusing at all. Anyways, the question really is whether or not it is accurate and cited. I ask which of the current references explicitly refer to him as a Genoese citizen or state that he held Genoese citizenship? I checked several which agree that he was likely born there, but I do not think that is the same thing and making that jump may violate WP:NOR. Thank you. A15730 (talk) 16:46, 7 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
An important point is that the labels that are typically affixed to how individuals are identified in their articles and search thumbnails are typically their nationality, not their ethnicity. Case in point: Stanley Kubrick is identified as "an American film director, producer, screenwriter, and photographer." The formula here is: nationality + occupation. Ethnically, he was from a Jewish family, and the article mentions that, but does not give him that label. Also, he lived most of his life in England and was married to a British woman, but he is still identified as American for being born and raised in the USA and having significant professional ties to the USA.
SiciliaOliva (talk) 01:04, 8 December 2022 (UTC)SiciliaOliva (talkcontribs) has made few or no other edits outside this topic. Reply[reply]
Not only is your comment a lot of information, it won't persuade anyone to your point of view because it's far too long—no one's going to read it. Carlstak (talk) 02:14, 8 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
If a decision is going to be made based on the most accurate information, it's important for the community to be able to consider the information.
I don't see what your comment adds to the discussion of whether Genoese is a more accurate label for Columbus' nationality, and whether Italian is inaccurate and misleading. SiciliaOliva (talk) 02:57, 8 December 2022 (UTC)SiciliaOliva (talkcontribs) has made few or no other edits outside this topic. Reply[reply]
TLDR: I have elided the main points of above comment, other than the discussion of ethnicity and language above, and reiterated a summary here:
1. The template for the first label used to identify people on Wikipedia is: nationality + occupation. Example: Stanley Kubrick = American filmmaker.
2. Sources establish Columbus' birth in the Republic of Genoa, identify Columbus' father as "Domenico Colombo, a Genoese wool worker and merchant" and describe the Republic of Genoa as being an independent city-state that included popular representation and popular assembly for its citizens.
3. Columbus had well established ties to the Bank of Saint George in Genoa throughout his life.
4. Rebutting the claim that labeling Columbus as "Italian" for ethnic reasons is justified. This entails examining the definition of ethnicity and refuting that on a nationality or cultural level he would be more Italian than Genoese. Relevant to this is the existence of both a state related to Genoa, but also a unique language in Genoa: Ligurian. Discussion of language and ethnicity is further discussed to establish that no official national language for Italy was recognized until 1925, and the modern republic only made it an official language in 1999, but also recognized a number of obscure languages that are specific to regions of Italy. SiciliaOliva (talk) 03:15, 8 December 2022 (UTC)SiciliaOliva (talkcontribs) has made few or no other edits outside this topic. Reply[reply]
At this point you are bludgeoning the page, which "is undesirable and considered a form of disruptive editing". Carlstak (talk) 03:49, 8 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The page you linked to about bludgeoning says at the top: "This page is not one of Wikipedia's policies or guidelines, as it has not been thoroughly vetted by the community."
There is a guideline on the landing page for this talk page that says "be welcoming to newcomers" and it links to this page:
That page says in bold: "We must treat newcomers with kindness and patience." That page also says at the top: "This page documents an English Wikipedia behavioral guideline."
I am new to attempting to edit semi-protected articles. I was attempting to follow the guidelines that I found around requesting an edit on the talk page. Maybe it was an assumption that because I am requesting the edit, that it is my responsibility to substantiate the case for why this edit is necessary, and support it with valid information. I gave you those 4 TLDR points because it sounded like you were asking for a shorter summary of my points.
In discussion with another user, through civil dialogue, I did realize that even "de-listing" Columbus as "Italian" that is to describe him in the beginning of the article and thumbnail by his occupation, but avoiding a nationality label, if that is controversial or susceptible to bias, that would address some of my core critiques, such as the insufficiency of the single source for the "Italian" label, and would provide a more neutral point of view (which is a Wikipedia guideline) that would let the rest of the information on that page speak for itself. SiciliaOliva (talk) 07:46, 8 December 2022 (UTC)SiciliaOliva (talkcontribs) has made few or no other edits outside this topic. Reply[reply]
I applaud your obvious passion for the subject, but you need to understand how wikipedia works. The purpose of wikipedia is to report cited, reliable information. I noted that I agree with ITBF, specifically the statement that there is a "need to find a better source - one that actually mentions Columbus for a start, and describes him as Italian." This is with regards to listing him as Italian. If the request is to de-list him as Italian, I don't have an immediate objection to that as I didn't see that specific claim in the sources cited. As far as listing him as Genoese, I also don't see that cited. You are presenting a lot of information, but it is not our job to look at that and draw conclusions. That is the definition of original research which is against wikipedia policy. Rather than all that info, you need to compile reliable sources which say something very close to "Columbus was a Genoese explorer". The argument that these other things clearly indicate that he was a citizen of Genoa are not convincing to me and not acceptable per wikipedia policies as far as I understand them-- This is just my opinion. A15730 (talk) 04:03, 8 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thanks for the acknowledgement and engagement. At this point, the core of my critique would be satisfied by, as you say "to de-list him as Italian," as in just remove the word "Italian" in immediately identifying him in the article and search thumbnail. The beginning of the article and thumnail would then just identify him by his occupation, and then the article itself would describe his connections to Genoa, as it already does.
This solution also would meet the guideline of neutral point of view for now:
This would be a simple fix that would not require establishing him as "Italian," would not take more evidence, and it is actionable now, whereas it might take me more time to review sources that refer to Columbus with the direct nationality of Genoese. I feel that even the fact that he was born in Genoa, and Italy as a state was not in existence, to be sufficient alone, but if it's controversial, I feel that removing the word "Italian" from identifying him addresses both my critique of the Pliny the Elder source, as well as my concerns about how bias is a large part of why Columbus has been given an unquestioned "everyone knows" assumption of Italian nationality or ethnicity (for the previously stated reasons of USA propaganda around Columbus Day and ethnic pride / nationalistic propaganda related to the rise of European ethnic nation states).SiciliaOliva (talk) 07:28, 8 December 2022 (UTC)SiciliaOliva (talkcontribs) has made few or no other edits outside this topic. Reply[reply]
You are bludgeoning the page, trying to dominate the conversation, and it is disruptive. Carlstak (talk) 12:26, 8 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Three points:
1. Encyclopediae are tertiary sources and are not favored for wikipedia. See: wikipedia:reliable sources
2. I am intrigued enough to review the archive pages and see why he was listed as "Italian". If I find that it is truly just a case of "Everyone knows", I will be inclined to change it and re-open a discussion. I doubt that is the case, but assuming things is not good form.
3. Please do read the link given by Carlstak. It is not a personal attack on you, but good advice on how to proceed within the wikipedia framework. A15730 (talk) 14:15, 8 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Alright. I spent some time looking into this. Ignoring minority theories that Columbus was Portuguese, Greek, Spanish, Polish, etc. I learned two things. First, as suspected, the "Italian" designation is meant as a regional designation which includes Genoa. Second, with regards to its actual application to Columbus, the most on point discussion is found on page 7 of the archived talk:
{Nonetheless, to solve every doubt you may have about, I'll show you some passage from important chroniclers and scholars who were coeval of Columbus and who named him "Italian":
The Portuguese Rui de Pina wrote two works, Chronica d'El Rey, don Alfonso and Chronica d'El Rey, don Juan II. It has been ascertained that the manuscripts had been completed before 1504, although they were published in the Eighteenth century. Chapter 66 in the second manuscript, "Descubrimiento das Ilhas de Castella per Collombo," explicitly states, "Christovan Colombo italiano."
The Portuguese Garcia de Resende writes the Cronic de don Joao II between 1530 and 1533, and it was published in 1544. In chapter 165, "De como se descubriram per Colombo as Antilhas de Castella," he writes, "Christouao Colombo, italiano."
The Flemish Theodore De Bry published the HistoriaeAmericanae Secunda Pars conscripta a Jacobo Le Moyne dicto De Morgues in Frankfurt in 1591. In it is written, "Christopher Columbus the Italian Genoese (p. 4)".}
Some online research convinces me that this is true, and that there are actually more references than this. I understand the concern that, as written, readers may conflate their current political understanding of Italy with the historical reality. I don't find it confusing, however, and I can't think of a better way to write it off-hand. If someone else can succinctly address the concerns raised, please do so. A15730 (talk) 21:53, 8 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
This is helpful, A15730. I personally would call Columbus Genoese, but as these sources demonstrate, it is not incorrect or anachronistic to call him Italian. I bow to the community.;-) Carlstak (talk) 02:01, 9 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thank you for providing more information about how this topic has been discussed and more resources. I find this a productive discussion that is leading me to do more in-depth reading of books on the topic.
As a result of your request for a certain kind of source or documentation I have actually found a published source that contains full text and references to primary documents that are contemporary to Columbus' life, were written in Genoa, and refer to Columbus' as a "citizen of Genoa":
The book quotes "the deed drawn up in Genoa on 25 August 1479 by the notary Girolamo Ventimiglia" which documents a mercantile agreement of money exchanged for a merchant trip to the island of Madeira to procure sugar, and names Columbus as a witness on the document, where he attests to his age as well. I am quoting directly the primary source, a document in Latin contained in this book, when I say Ventimiglia refers to Columbus as: "Cristoforus Columbus civis Janue." That means literally "Christopher Columbus, Genoese citizen."
One thing that I notice about the sources you provide that were previously part of the discussion is that they come from sources outside of Genoa and the historical territories that became Italy, therefore they are referring to a regional label given by outsiders, not identities, nationalities or ethnicities related to people within those territories. An analogue here is that during the Roman Empire, Rome was a city-state that accrued large territories within its empire and colonies, but the designation of a portion of those territories as "Italia" does not mean that that the people of those territories didn't have their own ethnicities and identities or that the state entity wasn't the city-state of Rome and its empire, or that there was any state called "Italia" at the time with a single ethnicity, nationality and identity. This is an objection to the validity of the label "Italian" in those sources, and whether that's the most relevant label for use on Wikipedia. As to whether its confusing, I think both of us were confused as to whether "Italian" was referring to nationality or ethnicity, and the answer from those sources is: neither. From what you are reporting, it sounds like "Italian" in the existing article it is referring to how outsiders referred to the general geographic region of the former Roman Italia.
I feel the source I provided is a more direct source contemporaneous to Columbus' lifetime, state and culture, to establish his nationality than the ones previously discussed in the Wikipedia discussion that were provided, and I ask that it be considered.
The same document that I quoted from above is one of the documents that is used to establish the approxiamate year of birth for Columbus that is contained already in the Wikipedia article. The book that I found contains more primary documents establishing Columbus' residence as a youth in Genoa, alongside his father and brothers, his father's landholding and role in Genoa government and politics, and links between the Columbus of Genoa documented in records there and the historical Columbus (Crisóbal Colón) who was an Admiral who served the Catholic Monarchs from the Iberian Peninsula.
This source also contains direct quotes and references to early historians of Columbus, such as Bartolomeo de Las Casas, a clergy member from Seville, whose father Diego was part of Columbus' second expedition, who crossed paths with Columbus and Columbus' son Diego, and is an important documentarian of the early history of colonization in the Carribean. In the Historia de las Indias, de Las Casas writes about Columbus in chapter 11: "this illustrious man was of Genoese nation, from somewhere in the province of Genoa."
More can be provided, as well as the published source containing these documents:
Taviani, Paolo Emilio. Cristoforo Colombo : Genio Del Mare. Roma: Ministero per i beni culturali e ambientali, Comitato nazionale per le celebrazioni del V centenario della scoperta dell’America, 1990. Print. SiciliaOliva (talk) 04:14, 9 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
No thanks to your overly long posts. You just added 5,025 bytes in a wall of text in one edit, plus some, and you've added 28,412 bytes to this page already. Your edits to this page are the only edits you've made to English Wikipedia, so you don't appear to be here to help build an encyclopedia, apart from changing the origin name of Columbus, and you are still trying to dominate the conversation. I'm certainly not reading your unnecessarily long comments, which demonstrate that you don't care at all about input from other editors. Carlstak (talk) 04:44, 9 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
This source: Taviani, Paolo Emilio. Cristoforo Colombo : Genio Del Mare. Roma: Ministero per i beni culturali e ambientali, Comitato nazionale per le celebrazioni del V centenario della scoperta dell’America, 1990. Print.
Includes a direct quote from a primary document, "the deed drawn up in Genoa on 25 August 1479 by the notary Girolamo Ventimiglia" an official in Genoa, documenting a proceeding with Columbus testifying as a witness and identifies him with this direct quote: "Cristoforus Columbus civis Janue." That means literally "Christopher Columbus, Genoese citizen."
This source is a more direct source than was previously discussed in the talk about whether Columbus should be referred to as Genoese and Italian, and is the kind of source that A15730 was asking for. SiciliaOliva (talk) 05:37, 9 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I hate to have to repeat points, but you are saying my posts are too long and that you don't want to read them, so I am giving you a shorter version. If you are concerned about data, I can shorten the previous posts as the information has evolved. This is the process of collaboration to find a better source between myself and A15730. Ignoring or disregarding information doesn't help the encyclopedia have better information. I have experience with research, so I could potentially be an asset to Wikipedia. I have to start somewhere and this looked like an oversight. I get that you don't like to read long posts, but please don't discourage my participation when I am contributing. ("This page documents an English Wikipedia behavioral guideline.")SiciliaOliva (talk) 05:38, 9 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It's not an oversight. It's a tired old argument which we have been through several times before. It's entirely possible that every previous time we had this argument we were wrong, and your insight will suddenly correct that great wrong, but the odds are against it. A15730 listed several cases where contemporary accounts described him as Italian, which establishes the description is not outlandish. At some point, you have to know when to drop the stick and do something else. Tarl N. (discuss) 06:53, 9 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I just found this prexisting Wikipedia page that lists a preponderance of evidence that has already been vetted and cited, that even links to some of the same sources that I found through reading books off of Wikipedia. This preponderance of evidence likely outweighs the 3 references which were considered decisive in the previous discussion. Please review the information here that has already made it through a Wikipedia review: SiciliaOliva (talk) 09:26, 9 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Enough. That he’s from Genoa isn’t disputed. The issue is how he’s described. Tarl N. (discuss) 09:34, 9 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Given that there is early primary documentation from Genoa where he is described as a Genoese citizen, and there are contemporary documentarians who knew him that call him "of Genoese nation,' why is precedence given to "Italian," rather than "Genoese"?
As I am starting to look through the talk archive, I am actually seeing that this is a controversial topic, and I am not seeing a clean decision making process around dismissing requests for his nationality to be listed as "Genoese."
It may adhere to a neutral point of view best not to list a nationality, only an occupation in the thumbnail and introduction to the article, and then readers can draw their own conclusion based on the information provided in the rest of the article about his biography. It doesn't seem neutral to assert that "Italian" is not a controversial or problematic label when there are valid, including primary sources and contemporary that use the "Genoese" label, even and especially if there is a mix. It takes one side of the controversy to assert "Italian" on behalf of the readerSiciliaOliva (talk) 09:50, 9 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
As I am looking at the talk page on this issue, I am noticing that the discussion that was referrenced above about what referrences justify the label "Italian," which are on talk archive Page 7, that discussion happened in 2009.
Five years later, on talk archive page 12, someone complains because the page at the time listed Columbus as "Genoese" and not "Italian," which indicates that that previous discussion did not lead to a firm settled decision in 2009 to choose "Italian" as most appropriate description of Columbus, because 5 years later someone is complaining that the page says "Genoese" and not "Italian"
Some time in more recent years, someone must have edited the page to say "Italian" because I see a similar issue being raised in more recent talks without much discussion or any group decision making evident. This reinforces that this is a contraversial issue that requires a more neutral point of view. SiciliaOliva (talk) 10:10, 9 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I am also looking at the edit history, and this has been a contentious issue throughout the history of the article and the public facing article has changed many times between saying "Italian," "Genoese" and variations of neutral language not having a nationality label and sometimes appending language like "born in the Republic of Genoa, which is now part of Italy," or even just identifying him as "European."
The article used language other than "Italian" for long periods up until around April 2021, when it was changed without discussion. The footnote citing Pliny the Elder for why "Italian" is a label valid since "antiquity" was added in July 2021. There has been significant controversy on talk page since. This does not appear to be a long settled discussion with firm and extensive sources and references. SiciliaOliva (talk) 10:54, 9 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

You're wasting your time, SiciliaOliva, and everyone else's with your quixotic crusade. This is not how you effect change in an article. You will not succeed this way—you refuse to listen to what other editors are telling you, but expect them to read and respond to your ridiculously verbose posts. Some editors never learn and eventually are blocked or banned. You should be spending your time more productively. Over and out. Carlstak (talk) 13:23, 9 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I would just like to chip in and say that the original poster is probably right, but they definitely need to keep it short, not wind people up and bring sources. So, yeah, probably Genoese is better?Boynamedsue (talk) 19:04, 12 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
There isn’t a “right”. This is an editorial decision. Marco Polo editors chose “Venetian” instead of “Italian”, even though every consideration in play is the same. I think casual readers have a better sense for what “Italian” means than what “Genoese” (or is it “Genoan” or “Genovese”?) means. Meanwhile, it seems to me that the purpose of transmitting information is to be understood, not to be pedantic beyond use. Also meanwhile, reading beyond just the introductory paragraph, including the info box, makes it plain what his nationality was.
My take on this is that there are three levels of understanding that we are trying to write text for: (A) “I know what ‘Italian’ means; what the hell is ‘Genoese’”? vs (B) “There was no ‘Italy’ in Columbus’s time, you idiot!” vs (C) “Italy is an ethnographic distinction that persists through time, regardless of politics.” I think we address (A) and (C) by introducing Columbus as Italian, while, unfortunately, really irritating the (B) faction. Maybe it would suffice to say “ethnic Italian” rather than just “Italian”. I’m also fine with “ethnic Italian of Genoese nationality”, which, hopefully, addresses everybody except the conspiracy theorists. I’m probably not fine abandoning “Italian”, for the reasons I just gave. Strebe (talk) 21:55, 12 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
We have no evidence of Genoese nationality, just that he was born there. They are different. Some references specify his family ethnicity was likely of Spanish-Jewish origin (Britannica 15th edition, vol. 3, p. 476). Trying to solve (B) is a non-starter, it’s established he was referred to as Italian by roughly contemporaneous sources. Tarl N. (discuss) 22:47, 12 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
We have no evidence of Genoese nationality, just that he was born there. I’m confused about this claim. There isn’t anything wrong with SiciliaOliva’s sources (and all the other sources trotted out over the years) calling Columbus a “citizen of Genoa”. Strebe (talk) 22:55, 12 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Retract that comment then. Had seen an argument that he left Genoa before adulthood, so he never was a formal citizen. Cloud have been dubious, was a long time ago. But the term Italian was in use at the time, so argument (B) seems flat false. Maybe blow it all away and say European? Tarl N. (discuss) 23:26, 12 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I'll add further - my main concern on this issue is to avoid setting a precedent. If we can use these arguments to change Columbus from "Italian" to an obscure city's possessive, how long before Martin Luther becomes an Eiselebener and Johan Sebastian Bach becomes an Eisenacher? Because the German Empire didn't exist back then, so clearly "German" is just as bad as "Italian". Wikipedia doesn't need those battles. Tarl N. (discuss) 00:19, 13 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
"European" is so general a descriptor as to be unhelpful. As I said above, I personally would call him "Genoese" (in my own writing), but "Italian" is certainly serviceable here. Just for comparison's sake, the Encyclopedia Britannica titles its article on him as "Christopher Columbus | Italian explorer".
I would just say that a past consensus does not bind us at this point. A new discussion can be started at any time, and any present consensus would supersede past consensuses. Genoese is well sourced and seems more logical to me. The vague geographical designation "Italian" is analogous to calling Lionel Messi a "South-American footballer". Genoese is much more accurate and avoids anachronism. Boynamedsue (talk) 17:31, 13 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It's really interesting that you use the example of Martin Luther as an Eiselebener, because Eiseleben was not an independent republic or city-state when Martin Luther was born. The issue of his nationality is actually interesting, and for those interested, it actually could be more helpful for Wikipedia to have more information.
When he was born, Eiseleben was the territory of the Counts of Mansfeld within the Holy Roman Empire. This is referenced on the Wikipedia page, but the page could offer a deeper exploration of where he was situated in terms of what language he spoke or what kind of ethnic identity he had within that region that was and still is very diverse in regions that had their own languages and separate nations and political entities.
For instance, the bible he wrote played a major role in defining what later became the German national language (similar to the role of Dante for Italian), and he has said that the language he translated the bible into was language was that of the "chancery of Saxony." But the article doesn't allude to what language he spoke growing up, or what language and ethnic group his parents and ancestors were from, or anything to help us understand the differences in culture, language and ethnicity betweeen Mansfeld County and Saxony, let alone the rest of the region of central Europe at the time. This is information that I would be thankful for Wikipedia to cover more. European history can be confusing and complicated, and having a better resource would help.
Because Martin Luther was a key figure in what later became German identity, it confuses the matter to paper over what the complex languages and identities were before. I think the article on Ferdinand II does a good job by naming all of the places he was king or sovereign of without calling him Spanish at the outset, because he was a key figure in what later became Spain, and later in the article they refer to that people later called him "King of Spain" without introducing him as Spanish or glossing over the complicated political circumstances that led to that. SiciliaOliva (talk) 09:13, 21 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
As I said above, I see the concern, but I don't know how to improve upon the current description other than having a better note to keep this from coming up again in a year or so. The down side of using "Italian explorer from Genoa" is that it may introduce confusion to some readers. It is not inaccurate, however, and it is not an anachronism as demonstrated by the references from the 1500's. The down side of omitting "Italian" is that it derogates the description and does put it at odds with a great volume of sources including a number of those listed as reliable at WP:RSP. I'm not weighing in "precedent" as noted by Tarl, but, if I did, I think the Greeks are also a similar situation e.g. Plato is a "Greek philosopher born in Athens". A15730 (talk) 18:28, 13 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Boynamedsue writes: The vague geographical designation "Italian" and Genoese… avoids anachronism These points have been addressed. Italian is ethnographic, not just geographical. (I will also point out that nobody bothers with “Genoese” today international news; they say “Italian”, yet for some reason, nobody thinks of that as “vague”.) As far as anachronism goes, there is none: Italy was well recognized as both a region and an ethnicity in Columbus’s time. While it’s true that an old consensus is not binding, reaching a new consensus would depend on those participating to keep track of and understand the arguments in play. Strebe (talk) 18:19, 13 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Just to clarify, I have read those points and disagree with them. Boynamedsue (talk) 18:27, 13 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Could you explain why you disagree so that we have something to go on? Strebe (talk) 19:04, 13 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
So far, despite the enormous volume of words expended, nothing new has been said yet in this new flare-up. It just goes round and round, year after year. Strebe (talk) 19:04, 13 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
My earlier comment about "European" was semi-serious. By the time 1492 rolled around, Columbus had been around the block so many times, nobody particularly cared where he had started. Citizenship back then was more a matter of how you appeared, how you behaved, and what your neighbors thought of you, rather than strict birth location or ethnic heritage. At the end of his life, he was a Spanish Don (aristocrat), albeit in bad odor for incompetence/malfeasance. That he'd been born in Genoa or originally spoke Ligurian was irrelevant. It's only now, centuries later, that we really care - and we care for reasons involved in many mutually exclusive private agendas. Those agendas are never going away, so the arguments on the subject will never go away. Tarl N. (discuss) 19:33, 13 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Ok, since you asked nicely this time rather than implying I can only be rejecting your arguments through ignorance, I will, on a single occasion, expand on my reasoning. I do not think that the fact a geographical label existed means it should be used over the more specific term employed by contemporaries which relates to Columbus's origin. I find your argument that Italian is an "ethnic" term in that period to be unconvincing, the concepts of ethnicity and nationhood existing in that period were not really comparable to those which exist today. But even if it was true, I disagree that an ethnic term is better here than one which relates to citizenship. I don't feel that an encyclopaedia should simplify facts unnecessarily, if a reader does not understand what Genoese means, they can click on the hyperlink. So, I've said my piece, am I allowed to disagree with you now? Boynamedsue (talk) 20:19, 13 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I want to add another source to the discussion about whether Italian was an "ethnic" identity at the time of Columbus:
Tufi, S., & Blackwood, R. J. (2016). The linguistic landscape of the Mediterranean: French and Italian coastal cities. Springer.
This book has a section on the history and present of Liguria, Genoa, the Ligurian language, and the Genoese variation of the Ligurian language.
"Genoa (archaic Genua) was founded by the Ligures, who were Romanized after 205 BC (Voltaggio, 2010). It was a prosperous city until the fall of the Roman Empire, and was subsequently controlled by the Ostrogoths, the Byzantines and the Longobards until 774 AD. It acquired an important political role in the western Mediterranean under Carolingian rule in the fight against the Moors, and by the twelfth century it had accumulated enough wealth and power to emerge as an independent city-state, a maritime republic with one of the largest navies in the Mediterranean. Participation in the Crusades allowed Genoa to extend its influence and colonial power to the Orient. Genoa was the first city-state of Italy to become a regional state and the Genoese regarded themselves a nation, and therefore different from the other peoples of Italy, by the middle of the twelfth century. This fostered an early consolidation of its linguistic and cultural identity (Muljačić, 2008)." pg. 59
"...Genoese acquired a hegemonic role as a language of communication, as an identity marker, and in literary production. Its undisputed prestige transformed the ethnonym ‘Genoese’ into a cover term that has been applied to and used instead of the name of the region, Liguria, for centuries (Toso, 2002)." pg 59-60
"It was, according to Forner (1997, p. 246) ‘the language of political debate (through the despatch of officials of the Genoese Republic to the new provinces); the language of the nobility (through the granting of feudal properties to the Genoese aristocracy); and the language of commerce (through the establishment of Genoese trading posts)’. Before the establishment of scientific dialectology in the nineteenth century, Ligurian varieties had been set aside from other northern varieties within the context of a ripudio della settentrionalità (‘rejection of northern-ness’; Toso, 2010, p. 413). This tradition was instrumental for the consolidation of a perception of alterity with respect to the rest of northern Italy and as such it reinforced feelings of an alternative and unique identity."
The book explains how after the Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Genoa was subsumed to the Piedmont/Savoy/Sardinia political empire that eventually annexed the rest of Italy that century, and that it was only then that they let in more of the standardizing Florintine Italian dialect through trade, in part as resistance to using the Piedmontese language for trade, which continued with industrialization but that Genoese Ligurian language was prevalent into the 20th Century (pg. 59-61). Interestingly, the book also describes how Facist Italy both took measures against the multiplicity of languages in Italy, and also used Columbus' Italianness as part of their propaganda and ideology (pg. 62).
The book goes into detail about how many households in Genoa still speak Genoese Ligurian and the prevalence of that written language on signs and in shops across the city, reinforcing a Genoese Ligurian identity that persists to this day.
I really recommend that folks seek out books like this. Also, if anyone has seen the docuseries Stanley Tucci: In Search of Italy, in the episode "Liguria," he talks with many Genoese Ligurians who refer to themselves as Ligurian, the cultural/ethnic character that makes them Ligurian and they drop words of Ligurian in their cooking terminology.
Having given this substantive source establishing a Genoese ethnic idenity, I can elide some of my earlier discussion of ethnicity to save space on the page other than this criteria of ethnicity that this information meets: The Oxford English Dictionary defines "ethnicity" as "belonging to a social group that has a common national or cultural tradition." SiciliaOliva (talk) 07:06, 21 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@SiciliaOliva, you created your account 15 days ago, and since then you have done nothing but post WP:WALLSOFTEXT on this talk page about one topic that happens to be a topic that's been litigated over and over and over again and is well-represented in the archives. (In fact it's been a point of controversy for decades if not centuries.)
  • Don't you have anything better to do on Wikipedia?
  • Why are you here? You've never made a single edit to mainspace.
Elizium23 (talk) 07:39, 21 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I got interested in this topic recently and I have been doing research and reading books on the topic. As someone who has done university level seeking out of sources and reviewing literature, there tend to be waves of interest and curiosity, and I ride that wave. I have made minor edits to Wikipedia as far back as 14 years ago, with edits that still stand. This is a semi-protected article that requires a user account, rather than an IP address, and posting to the talk page. I had expected more discussion with people who were interested in the topic, rather than pushback on sharing too much information. But I get that Columbus is a controversial topic and I do see there are reasons why there is a bias toward calling Columbus "Italian."
I also looked through the archives of this talk page, and I actually see constant changes in the edit for many years, showing that this is a controversial topic that has never reached consensus. I see the archives invoked, but looking at them, it's clearly not a settled matter.
Also, I can see there is something about Wikipedia talk page culture that I am bothering, so I apologize that has been difficult. I would have guessed that people who weren't interested just wouldn't haunt the talk page. I am also noticing that some of the links that are giving imperatives about not writing to much are not actually Wikipedia guidelines and I find that interesting. Like the "Wall of Text" page, says: "This page is not an encyclopedia article, nor is it one of Wikipedia's policies or guidelines, as it has not been thoroughly vetted by the community."
I think that "neutral point of view" which is a guideline should hold more sway on this topic, and the fact that "Italian" is contentious and has contradicting sources, should show it's not a neutral term.
I can go elsewhere for a while again, but I do feel that those passages from that book are a valid contribution to the scholarship for those interested. SiciliaOliva (talk) 08:41, 21 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
While I think Elizium23's comment is unnecessarily combative, I agree with their point about walls of text. I actually agree with you about the Genoese question, but even I didn't read that. Posting a screed of that length on a talkpage is self-indulgent and completely impractical. Nobody reads it. Boynamedsue (talk) 07:52, 21 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Sorry, I am just very surprised at the lack of interest and curiosity around historical matters here. I removed myself from the conversation for 10 days, there has been no movement on this thread for a week. I went a found a book with great information about Genoese identity, language and ethnicity. Isn't it reasonable that editors would want to read full books on historical topics, in order to get to better scholarship, let alone 3 paragraphs of excerpts? SiciliaOliva (talk) 08:11, 21 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It isn’t about lack of interest and curiosity. It’s about lack of consensus among reliable sources about how to best present this material. Nobody participating in this discussion contests that Columbus was Genoan and had a more specific identity than “Italian”. The points you’ve made apply to Venetians, Florentians, Neopolitans, and many others to large degree. For me the case rests on what conveys the most meaningful information to the most people most efficiently. I doubt many people outside of Liguria, and especially outside of Italy, know what it means to be “Genoese”, but most of them have some sense, however vague, about what it means to be “Italian”. Given that it’s possible in the same phrase to also indicate that his citizenship was Genoan, I find myself baffled that the endless debates around this topic expend thousands of words debating a false dichotomy. Is this really worth a chunk of our lives? Strebe (talk) 21:39, 22 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Self-indulgent is right—SiciliaOliva still refuses to listen to what multiple editors are telling her, and prefers to continue bludgeoning the page to no effect under the deluded conviction that others will read her ridiculous walls of text, apparently thinking she will eventually get her way if she keeps doing so. It's very tiresome. She obviously doesn't care what other editors think, so her crusade is simply an exercise in futility. Carlstak (talk) 22:09, 22 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
This is my first talk page experience, so I am learning more about the guidelines, I just read this one today, and I am asking for this to be respected:
"Comment on content, not on the contributor or It's the edits that matter, not the editor: Keep the discussions focused on the topic of the talk page, rather than on the editors participating."
That's here on this page:
That talk page guidelines page says "This page documents an English Wikipedia behavioral guideline," I am reading it now and I think the one I am highlighting will help evolve the information. SiciliaOliva (talk) 09:32, 27 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Here is another reliable source, a Washington Post article, by Dr. Kris Lane, a history professor at Tulane University:
In this article, Professor Lane succinctly states:
1. That "Columbus was Italian" is a myth.
2. "when Columbus lived, there was no such thing as an Italian"
3."To his deathbed, he proudly claimed Genoa as home."
4. "In Columbus’s lifetime, Genoa was a fiercely independent republic with its own language, currency and overseas colonies."
5. "Most historians believe that Columbus was Genoese, but they hesitate to call him “Italian”
The Washington Post has the highest rating as a reliable source for Wikipedia, and this is a doctorate level historian discussing the academic consensus in his field. This speaks directly to the historical facts and whether it is appropriate to call him "Italian."
Add this to the record of supporting sources. SiciliaOliva (talk) 11:53, 27 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
To me there is sufficient doubt over the balance of sources that we should definitely not be saying Columbus is Italian in wikivoice. If we have a historian writing in the Washington Post "he was not Italian" we really need to look at this, despite the fact the person proposing it has been quite annoying. Perhaps the best way would be to leave out the nationality in the introduction and merely state "born in the Republic of Genoa." Leaving the question of his ethnicity/nationality to another section? Boynamedsue (talk) 16:21, 27 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
A reason this discussion keeps popping up is because somebody comes along with the thought that so-and-so can't be called "Italian" because Italy didn't exist. This is Ian's (sp) point as well as the point in the Washington Post opinion article linked above. Thus, begins the cycle again.
I believe that the purpose of wikipedia is to summarize reliable sources as best as can be done. There are an extremely large number of sources that refer to Columbus as an Italian explorer. In fact, the citation used in the note to claim that most think he was born in Genoa also explicitly labels him an "Italian Explorer". Thus, it is captured in the article by calling him Italian. The article also captures that he was most likely born in the Republic of Genoa and other such information as well.
A reason not to include "Italian" would be if it is clearly factually incorrect, and I was open to this possibility. As I found out, this is not the case. In addition to the three sources cited above, there are a number of others demonstrating that this epithet was used for Columbus around the time he was alive. Additionally, it appears that Columbus himself may have used it to refer to people from the Italian states. (see Kerr, General History of Voyages and Travels vol III, History of the Discovery of America, by Christopher Columbus; written by his son Don Ferdinand Columbus, p. 219) Hence, I think that WP:preserve applies.
I do think the wording of the note could be improved so that this doesn't continually come up from editors' who see it and think that nobody thought of the fact that Italy wasn't a country at the time and, therefore, there is no way "Italian" could apply. A15730 (talk) 21:09, 27 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
With respect A15730, the only reason we need to avoid stating something in wiki voice is that serious disagreement exists on the matter among mainstream scholars. I think enough has been done to show that serious disagreement exists. Boynamedsue (talk) 09:02, 28 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Assuming that he is going to be listed as anything, I really don't see how you draw that conclusion. With all of the effort SiciliaOliva has clearly put into this, they have only cited one source that says Columbus is not Italian. That source is by a historian but is an opinion piece in which point #1 above depends on redefining "Italian" while #2 and #3 are clearly incorrect. I think you know that more reliable sources can be found that state he was Portuguese or Spanish rather than Genoese. Having nothing listed is certain to just start cycles of people re-adding some designation.
That's just my opinion of course. I accept that Carlstak, Strebe, Tarl N., and yourself (i.e. years of editing and thousands of edits) probably have a far better grip on how articles should be written vis-a-vis wiki policies and guidance than I do. Hopefully, you "guys" can reach some consensus. (My apologies that I'm not sure how to do the call-out to notify those mentioned that I have done so.) A15730 (talk) 16:02, 28 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Don't worry, about pinging them, I would imagine they have this page on their watchlists anyway. In any case, at this moment there is no consensus for the change. --Boynamedsue (talk) 16:10, 28 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The Taviani, Paolo Emilio (1990) reference that I gave that includes the full text of the 1479 Genoese document establishing Columbus' age and nationality as a citizen of Genoa, also includes numberous other primary documents establishing Columbus in Genoa and his family, and gives extensive discussion to alternative theories of Columbus not being from Genoa, and shows why certain sources have more weight than others. I recommend that anyone interested seek out Taviani and read it.
Especially given that most people here do not contest Columbus was from Genoa, I think a case needs to be made that the proponderence of evidence favors that Italian was a more meaningful distinction than Genoese. The evidence that I have reviewed so far, in heavily weighted in favor that Genoese was a more meaninful distinction, including the expectation readers would have that the label given corresponds to what country someone is from. SiciliaOliva (talk) 22:55, 28 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
First of all, I want to express my appreciation to you as someone who has been advancing this discussion on the basis of seeking out sources and engaging in inquiry.
I found the book you just cited, and I have been reading it: Kerr, General History of Voyages and Travels vol III, History of the Discovery of America, by Christopher Columbus; written by his son Don Ferdinand Columbus
I have a digital copy that doesn't have the same page numbers. Can you include the full quote you are referring to?
Reading over Ferdinand Columbus' narrative, I couldn't find either Ferdinand referring to his father as "Italian" or him quoting his fathers letters in which he called himself "Italian." I searched all of Ferdinand's narrative for the words "Italian" and "Italy" and it didn't come up.
What I did find is that Ferdinand refers to his father as Genoese, and having Genoese "countrymen," which indicates nationality and what "country" (i.e. the literal state of the Republic of Genoa) he came from, which I would say is the standard for reader expectations of nationality labels.
This is a full quote from Section II of Ferdinand's narrative, the context being that Columbus' ship got into a fire fight with a Venetian ship off the coast of Portugal, and his son says Columbus had to abandon ship and swim to shore: "“Being not far from Lisbon, where he knew that many Genoese, his countrymen, then dwelt, he made all haste to that city; where making himself known, he was courteously received and entertained by the Genoese.”
There is also a part in Section III of the Ferdinand narrative where he quotes from an inscription on a map that Bartholomew Columbus gave to the English when seeking their potential sponsorship for the prospective trans-Atlanic voyages, where Bartolomew Columbus, Christopher Columbus' brother, identifies himself as: “Janua cui patria est nomen, cui Bartholomaeus Columbus de Terra-rubra,” which the book translates as "“Bartholomew Columbus of the red earth, a Genoese.”
Throughout the narrative Ferdinand referrences and identifies numerous people as Genoese or Venetian (including Marco Polo), and there is clearly a distinction that these are two different countries who are rivals on the seas. There is also a section where Columbus' is described as corresponding with a "Florentine" who resides in Lisbon.
Overall, I would say the Ferdinand narrative actually supports that for people in that era, Genoese, Venetian and Florentine were all more meaningful distinctions that directly indicated nationality, language, ethnicity and identity, than "Italian". There is no sense that people from those republics were "countrymen" with each other, and quite the opposite. It's also notable that the English translation in the book is from 1704 in England, and the authors had English words for Genoese, Venetian and Florentine, and didn't see fit to translate anything as "Italian" (The Republic of Genoa still existed at that time).
Overall, I would say the Ferdinand narrative is fitting as a supporting source for Genoese, because the labels and terminology used. but I would not use it as a primary source without corroboration of a lot of the facts. For instance, Ferdinand denies cruelty of Columbus' to the indigenous people of the New World, contradicted by most accounts. There is other myth making and religious invocations in there that are about glorifiying Columbus, including denying that Columbus came from a family involved in wool working (contradicting more substantiated accounts), and claiming the family name had been Colombi and they were related to certain admirals and nobility (which I haven't seen confirmed elsewhere), and seems about inflating his standing within the nobility of Castille, while he also admits he never got a story about his family origins from his father.
Again, apologies for the amount of information, but this is from finding your source book and reading it, so it should be helpful to the question of whether your source supports what it is said to support. SiciliaOliva (talk) 22:46, 28 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Also, since the Pliny the Elder referrence has been removed, the only citation in the footnote to "Italian" in the current Wikipedia article is to an Encyclopedia Brittanica article that only refers to him as an "Italian Explorer" under the title of the article, but not in the body of the article.... and you yourself said about encyclopedia entries that they are "tertiary sources and are not favored for wikipedia," after I found an encyclopedia entry that referred to him as a "Genoese explorer" (Kinsbruner, J., & Langer, E. D. (2008)).
All of the other sources that you point to are not currently cited relative to the label of "Italian" and I am pointing to contemporary primary documentation and ethnography and history from within Genoa that I feel outweigh the quality of sources that you have referenced.
I welcome this back and forth because it has led me to read more, find more sources, and become more informed on the topic. I invite those who want to become more informed to read these same sources and we can collaborate. SiciliaOliva (talk) 23:03, 28 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Regarding Dr. Kris Lane’s opinion that “most” historians hesitate to call Columbus “Italian”: I’ve gone over Dr. Lane’s research as far as I have access to it. None of the reported research consists of a survey of historians on any topic, let alone on the ethnicity of Columbus. While Lane is surely better equipped to talk about the norms in the field than someone not in the field, these sorts of anecdotal observations tend to reflect the preferences of the expert. Second, most of the arguments against Columbus being Italian apply to other historical regions and ethnicities. An obvious example is Germany, which did not exist until 1871. Its predecessor, the German Confederation, consisted of no fewer than 39 independent states, some of them involved in rivalries as intense as those between Genoa and Venice, notably Austria versus Prussia. Before that, the Holy Roman Empire spanned nearly a millennium and fluctuated greatly in its boundaries (which for centuries included most of northern Italy!). However, while a titular empire with an emperor, the same sort of regional rivalries and autonomies prevailed. And yet, scientists and artists before 1871 who hailed from the region now known as Germany are practically universally and without controversy referred to as “German”. To wit, Felix Mendelssohn is universally called a “German” composer, yet he was born in independent Hamburg and lived most of his life in the Brandenburg province of independent Prussia. Richard Wagner was a “German” composer, but was subject to the sovereign state of Saxony. Contrast those two with Johann Strauss I, a contemporary, who is called an “Austrian” composer, despite that Prussia, Saxony, and Austria were peers. Why? Because modern Austria is an independent nation, whereas modern Prussia and Saxony are not. Meanwhile, the linguistic differences between Prussia and Saxony were roughly as great as between Liguria and, for example, Venice. There’s just very little special about Genoa vs the rest of Italy as compared to other pre-modern city-state systems. Meanwhile, using these ago-old regional and ethnic terms as identity and linguistic markers is nowhere else controversial as far as I can tell. These terms helps the modern reader quickly assimilate knowledge. Much ado about nothing. Strebe (talk) 22:12, 6 January 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Well said, Strebe. This is the common sense answer to all the "ado". Let's be done with this. Carlstak (talk) 01:12, 7 January 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It’s simply anachronistic to refer to someone born in the 15th century as “Italian.” While the Italian peninsula existed, the state of Italy did not and therefore “Italian” is not an available nationality to describe people of the 15th century. إيان (talk) 20:11, 27 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Well it's good that you know the Italian peninsula existed in the 15th Century. What you don't know is how nation-states came to be, and why applying any modern concept of "nationality" to the 15th Century is flawed and pseudo-historical. The whole idea of linking an ethnicity to a national identity was an emerging concept in the 15th Century but not one that was commonly applied.
Italian regional identity had existed since Roman Empire times, when for most of the period Roman citizenship was restricted to those inhabitants of the Italian peninsula. That means "Italian" as a regional, ethnic and even political identity is the oldest in Western Europe, predating "French" or "English" by many centuries. Western Europeans were aware of this.
This quibble over the different dialects of the Italian language is tantamount to differences between American and British English -most of these languages were mutually intelligible and were merely regional identifiers within Italy. An exception would be the Piedmontese dialect, which really isn't a dialect of Italian (and doesn't even apply to this subject anyway).
And yes, the same case could be made for the German states pre-1971. German ethnicity (language/culture) existed long before Germany did, and was used more frequently (by non-Germans) than distinctions like 'Hessian' or 'Bavarian'. What is crucial to consider about Columbus is the fact that he was not sailing for Genoa, but for Spain. And Spain (and Portugal) was already home to communities and networks of Italian merchants and bankers, mostly Genoese, Florentines and Venetians in Seville (and Lisbon), who provided the financial capital and maritime expertise during the Age of Discovery. And the most commonly used designator for these communities, whose members came from several states across Northern Italy, was "Italian".
On the question of what came first, ethnicity or nationality, the answer is ethnicity. The process of organizing ethnicities, or absorbing ethnicities, into common polities and linking that to 'nationality' had only just begun in the 15th C. Jonathan f1 (talk) 01:37, 21 February 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Pliny in intro[edit]

The note regarding the use of "Italian" cites Pliny as proof that the term Italian had been in use since ancient times. This is pretty obvious OR, as nobody could plausibly argue that Pliny is a reliable source for this claim. The question of whether "Italian" is an appropriate term to use does not need to be justified in any case, so I have removed that as a bold edit. I am sure better sourcing could be found, but is it necessary to include the claim at all? Boynamedsue (talk) 08:40, 18 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The footnote was added in response to the claim that the term Italian didn't exist until Garibaldi. It obviously didn't do anything useful, probably the entire footnote should be removed. Tarl N. (discuss) 00:27, 19 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The footnote us useful, in the sense that it stops people from thinking Columbus was Italian in the sense that we use the word today. Calling Columbus an Italian is a massive anachronism, but if we are going to do it, we do need to specify that he wasn't a citizen of a country called Italy because it didn't exist. --Boynamedsue (talk) 07:02, 19 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Garcia de Resende in 1530 is anachronistic? "Christouao Colombo, italiano", written almost 500 years ago (see above). I think what you are trying to say is that what we mean by "Italian" today and what they meant by "Italian" then are not the same. That's certainly true, but that's also true for every other grouping you can think of. A lot of history since the 1400s. Tarl N. (discuss) 10:20, 19 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I don't disagree that the term was used, but there are far more contemporary references to Columbus as Genoese than as Italian. I think calling him an Italian in this article is a serious mistake, but whatever the case, the mention of Pliny is clearly out of place. Boynamedsue (talk) 10:59, 19 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The Garcia de Resende is in Portugese, so I think it's important to take that quote in context, which is that someone who was foreign to the region of Southern Europe that Genoa was in, and who spoke a language with a heritage in Latin, would have a word for Italia and Italian based on the Roman designation of that region as Italia, but it's a generalization that doesn't have the power to confer identity, nationality or ethnicity. The same is true of the other Portugese quotes. The quote from the Flemish author given appears to come from a document in Latin, so the use of Italia would have a context to the Roman usage, and it also includes a more specific reference to Colombus' Genoese identity.
It's also notable that those quotes from the Portugese and Flemish sources were not the citation for "Italin" but Pliny the Elder was. Those Portugese and Flemish sources came up in a talk discussion from 2009, and the status of "Italian," "Genoese" or neutral language has changed repeatedly in the years since and the issue has been contraversial until the present.
The best scholarship that I can find so far to establish nationality and ethnicity:
1. The 1479 document from the City Archives of Genoa that docuement Columbus as "civis janue," "Genoese citizen." It's the most contemporary document to his life, and an important document already documented elsewhere on Wikipedia and is one of two documents used to establish the birthdate already given in this article.
2. Bartolomeo de Las Casas, whose father Diego was part of Columbus' second expedition, who crossed paths with Columbus and Columbus' son Diego, and is one of the key primary source historians of Columbus. In the Historia de las Indias (1527-1560), de Las Casas writes about Columbus in chapter 11: "this illustrious man was of Genoese nation, from somewhere in the province of Genoa."
3. This book: Tufi, S., & Blackwood, R. J. (2016). The linguistic landscape of the Mediterranean: French and Italian coastal cities. Springer. discusses Genoese Ligurian identity as being distinct from Italian identity (nationally, culturally,linguistically and ethnically), especially during the Republic of Genoa, but also persisting through history to the present.
I see these sources as being much closer to the subject of inquiry, closer to contemporary events, and speaking more to what Columbus' origins of identity in his nationality and ethnicity were.
In terms of the reasoning that that is also true for other groupings, especially related to Europe, that is an issue that different Wikipedia pages have dealt with in different ways, but I find the pages that are more specific to be more informative, and the pages that are more vague and general to lead to needing to seek out books that give more detail of the history in order to understand the complexity of languages and political entities pre-20th century. I think it's better to err on the side of more information, more specificity, because generalization and vagueness is a dead end for curiosity, exploration and deeper understanding. SiciliaOliva (talk) 08:07, 21 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
This relates to the Pliny the Elder source, but is illustrative of the larger issue being discussed as well.
It's interesting, looking comparing the Columbus Wikipedia to the pages of those who lived in independent republics and city-states in the region that is now Italy, in between the fall of the Roman Empire and the unification of the Kingdom of Italy:
Marco Polo is currently referred to as Venetian.
Dante Alighieri: Looking at the edit history, he is referred to as Florentine as recently as October 2021... but what's more, the reference that is currently used to cite that "Dante is an Italian poet..." etc., is Pliny the Elder, using the exact language that was used in the Columbus article that I pointed out to be a weak reference.
The Dante article still says this, word for word the same as the Columbus footnote you changed: "Though the modern Republic of Italy had yet to be established, the Latin equivalent of the term Italian had been in use for natives of the region since antiquity." Then cites Pliny the Elder to establish that.
Looking at the edit history for both pages, this footnote was added to the Columbus page in July 2021, and the Dante page in October 2021, indicating it may have been cut and pasted from one to another.
Let the community keep this in mind when citing the Dante page as precedent for why people who lived in independent republics should be referred to as "Italian"":
- the Columbus page used this questionable citation and reasoning before the Dante page, it may have been cut and pasted from one to the other.
- this has been a contested issue with both pages, the current status is not settled precedent dates to the second half of 2021.
- no consensus appears on the talk pages, Dante's talk page includes period citations where Dante refers to himself as "florentinus natione." SiciliaOliva (talk) 10:13, 27 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
As I explained up page, Columbus was in the service of Spain and would've been most commonly identified as "Italian" by contemporaries in Spain -something linked to his notability. Seville had large communities of Genoese, Florentine and Venetian merchants and financiers who were instrumental in Spain's expansion overseas. They came from states across Northern Italy and were more frequently referred to as simply "Italians", rather than by distinctions in dialect or state of origin, which were not immediately obvious to ethnic Spaniards. The point about Dante or Marco Polo is irrelevant. Jonathan f1 (talk) 01:51, 21 February 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

All of the debate can simply be avoided if people familiarize themsleves with the WP:ETHNICITY guideline, which stipulates that lead header should mention a subject's nationality, and not ethnicity. Thus according to the Wikipedia guidelines it should be stated that he was Genoese, not Italian. However, it also says that "in controversial or unclear cases, nationality is sometimes omitted", which is also an option here. For example, Columbus was an explorer and navigator from the Republic of Genoa. Machinarium (talk) 14:11, 5 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

That guideline makes it pretty clear it applies to ...In most modern-day cases... Tarl N. (discuss) 21:06, 5 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Please scroll down to see examples for how it applies to historic subjects, including someone from Columbus' day and age, because the solutions are uniform. Machinarium (talk) 23:16, 5 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I agree, this is obviously a case where nationality should be omitted because it is "controversial or unclear". Take a look at the Copernicus example cited in WP:ETHNICITY. Glendoremus (talk) 15:20, 6 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I have restored the Italian notation in the lead leaving, as it should be, its Genoese origin. It seems clear to me that we are not discussing here whether Columbus was born and raised in Italy, but whether the label of Italian can be applied to him. So here we have a general problem, about everyone who was born in Italy at that time. When was Italian identity born? There are specialised works on this subject, for example Galli della loggia's book 'L'identità italiana', or the first volume of Einaudi's history of Italy 'I caratteri originali'. A good online source is enciclopedia treccani, and there you will see that the generally accepted thesis in Italian historiography is that the Italian nation began to form between the 11th and 12th centuries. Since Columbus lived between the 15th and 16th centuries, we can call him Italian, just as Michelangelo, Leonardo, Giovanni delle Bande Nere, Savonarola, Antonello can be called Italian. Why then are there at regular intervals these debates on the nationality of Columbus while, to cite another case in point, the Saxon monk Martin Luther, who is in a similar position on wikipedia, is peacefully referred to as 'German'? One of our politicians, Giulio Andreotti used to say that to think evil is a sin, but one often gets it right. My opinion after 17 years spent here on English wikipedia participating in debates like this one above, is that behind so many words there are often two drivers: total ignorance of Italy and its culture, and racism towards us Italians. Alex2006 (talk) 09:25, 23 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Hello Allesandro57. There is no racism involved here, please assume good faith. There is a simple WP:ETHNICITY guideline which states that an article header should not start with someones ethnicity. It should start with someones nationality (i.e. the state of which they were a subject), unless its problematic in which case neither ethnicity nor nationality are mentioned. The guideline should apply to every article. That there are articles where this is ignored is no argument to also ignore it here. Machinarium (talk) 09:34, 23 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Please Read the inscription on the building
OK, in your case I will assume good faith (for now ;-)). Look, I know that guideline perfectly well, and I have discussed it dozens of times. You have to read the whole thing, not the first paragraph. At the end it says "Ethnicity, religion, or sexuality should generally not be in the lead sentence unless relevant to the subject's notability." Clearly it is relevant in the case of Columbus, as it is in the case of all the other Italian navigators (Venetians, Genoese, Tuscans, Anconetans, Amalfitans). The art of sailing at that level was a general characteristic of Italians at that time, and part of the Italian culture. P.S. I don't like the author of the inscription at all, but the sentence renders what I explained. Alex2006 (talk) 10:08, 23 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thank you. Note that I apply WP:ETHNICITY everywhere, not just for Italians. Anyway sailing was not uniquely Italian at the time. I think saying this was some kind of unique Italian quality is in favour of Italian nationalism, and in no way warrants us to ignore the editorial guideline. Machinarium (talk) 10:17, 23 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Not even art is a unique characteristic of Renaissance Italians, but they excelled and it is part of their culture, exactly as sailing. That is why Michelangelo is called Italian, and not Florentine. It's the same with the art of navigation. The definition serves to frame the person in question in a culture, and there is consensus that in 15th-16th century in Italy there was a common culture. Nationalism has nothing to do with it, that Columbus was Italian is a fact, and it depends on the definition of Italian. According to the same definition, Marco Polo cannot be defined as Italian, because at that time the Italian identity was in the making. BTW, using Plinius to define who is Italian is crap: this is an index of nationalism (or worse), and it's another example of how people who don't have the slightest idea of the subject write here.Alex2006 (talk) 11:00, 23 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The guidelines are quite clear on it that the lead should not start with someone's culture or identity, but with someone's nationality or subjecthood. There can be exceptions when a historic figure was a nationalist activist, for example, but Columbus was notable for his sailing and discoveries, not his supposed Italianness. Thus per the guidelines the article should start with him being Genoese, not Italian. But this appears to offend people such as you. The guidelines then state the right thing to do is just leave his nationality out. Hence I came up with a compromise to say he was from the Republic of Genoa on the Italian coast. All further details about culture or Italian context can go somewhere else in the article (maybe), but not in the lead header. Machinarium (talk) 11:11, 23 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I see you still don't understand what I've explained, so I think it's best to wait for someone else's input at this point. In the meantime, since you say you apply this guideline to all articles, I look forward to seeing you do the same in the Johannes Gutenberg or Martin Luther articles, so we can widen the debate to the German nation as well. Alex2006 (talk) 11:31, 23 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I don't think you are open to compromise, and I see that you've now only asked Italian editors to comment on this page, which is not how WP:RFC is supposed to work (see also WP:CAN). And there's plenty of articles where historic figures are called German where they shouldn't, I can't comment on all of them though. Machinarium (talk) 11:42, 23 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I see that you once again don't understand (or pretend not to understand): here there is no compromise to be made, it is only necessary to decide how the guideline should be interpreted. Regarding the people I invited, one is an Italian, and he is a very competent user, the other is not Italian, and is one of the users with the most experience in the field of Italian art, and has already participated in various discussions on this guideline (and I don't know if he will have the will to engage in the same discussion for the hundredth time). Regardless of the outcome of the discussion, I can only explain the situation: on English wikipedia we have several thousands of articles dedicated to Italians who lived before 1861, with the adjective "Italian" in the lead. All these articles are perfectly stable, and although the vast majority of reference works describe these people as Italians, occasionally someone like you comes along (and strangely always on articles about little-known people: Vespucci, Leonardo, etc. and now Columbus. None goes to change the ethnicity of Chiorbone da Frittole) and makes them unstable. Edit wars, noticeboards, or "compromises" which just make the article worse (see above). This will be your only result here. In the meantime, I'm waiting for your edits on Luther and Gutenberg (these two will be enough), so we can start threads there too, hoping to clarify this story once and for all. Alex2006 (talk) 12:22, 23 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I noticed this article where there has been discussion for years about whether Columbus should be introduced as Genoese or Italian, and the guidelines are quite clear on it that in controversial cases both should simply be left out. This is not an interpretation of the guideline, it's as clear as sky. It is exactly meant to introduce stability and stop prolonged discussions. If you want extra input, the WP:MOSBIO is the place to go to. And yes, some people care about anachronisms and primordialism creeping into articles on historical figures. For me that's no different for Germans, and there's plenty of examples where 'German' has been a controversial. When asking others to discuss those instead you're simply trying to change the subject. Machinarium (talk) 12:38, 23 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Semi-protected edit request on 5 February 2023[edit]

Add more detail (talk) 00:03, 5 February 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

 Not done: it's not clear what changes you want to be made. Please mention the specific changes in a "change X to Y" format and provide a reliable source if appropriate. Cannolis (talk) 05:14, 5 February 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The Voyages section should be removed and merged with the Voyages of Christopher Columbus article[edit]

This section duplicates almost all the information from the separate article However the 2 article are not identical and sometimes contradict each other. e.g. in this article it says Columbus used the tables of Abraham Zacuto to predict the lunar eclipse, while the other article says he used the tables of Regiomontanus. Tomrosenfeld (talk) 16:53, 12 February 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]