HIST 4800 Early America in the Atlantic World (Herndon)


In this paper I argue that the master narrative of the origin of syphilis in Europe, known as the Columbian Theory does not hold up to historical review since it does not contain enough concrete evidence for we as historians to be comfortable with as the master narrative. To form my argument I use the writings of Girolamo Fracastoro, an Italian physician known for coining the term “syphilis,” as the basis when I review the journal of Christopher Columbus. I review his journal, which chronicles the first voyage to the Americas, to see if there is any connection between the syphilis disease and him or his crew. After reviewing this evidence I turn to the secondary source literature referring to historians who support the Columbian Theory on syphilis and those who criticize it. I use the lack of evidence to connect Columbus to the syphilis disease to counter what supporters of the Columbian Theory argue and explain that the Columbian Theory can’t be used for the master narrative as the origin of syphilis in Europe.

Publication Date

Summer 6-11-2014