Columbus’s Outpost among the Taínos


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Spain and America at La Isabela, 1493-1498

Kathleen Deagan and José María Cruxent

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In 1493 Christopher Columbus led a fleet of seventeen ships and more than twelve hundred men to found a royal trading colony in America. Columbus had high hopes for his settlement, which he named La Isabela after the queen of Spain, but just five years later it was in ruins. It remains important, however, as the first site of European settlement in America and the first place of sustained interaction between Europeans and the indigenous Taínos.

Kathleen Deagan and José María Cruxent now tell the story of this historic enterprise. Drawing on their ten-year archaeological investigation of the site of La Isabela, along with research into Columbus-era documents, they contrast Spanish expectations of America with the actual events and living conditions at America’s first European town. Deagan and Cruxent argue that La Isabela failed not because Columbus was a poor planner but because his vision of America was grounded in European experience and could not be sustained in the face of the realities of American life. Explaining that the original Spanish economic and social frameworks for colonization had to be altered in America in response to the American landscape and the non-elite Spanish and Taíno people who occupied it, they shed light on larger questions of American colonialism and the development of Euro-American cultural identity.

Kathleen Deagan is Distinguished Research Curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida. José María Cruxent is professor emeritus at Universidad Nacional y Experimental Francisco de Miranda in Coro, Venezuela. They are also the coauthors of Archaeology at La Isabela: America’s First European Town.

“An insightful account of the historical archaeology of an important European town, and an investigation into the interaction between the Spanish and the indigenous Taino peoples. . . . This impressive book is well illustrated and informative. It lays bare a town that briefly stood at the crossroads of history.”—Nicholas Saunders, Times Higher Educational Supplement

"Thanks to the superlative efforts of Kathleen Deagan and José Maria Cruxent, the archaeology of La Isabela—one of America’s most important sites—is now accessible to the world. Columbus’s Outpost among the Taínos is destined to become a classic in the field of historical archaeology."—David Hurst Thomas, American Museum of Natural History

“La Isabela, founded by Columbus during his second voyage, was the first Spanish settlement in the New World. Kathleen Deagan and J.M. Cruxent are uniquely qualified to discuss this important event. Their book is based on sound scholarship and its style is clear and readable.”—Irving Rouse, author of The Tainos: Rise and Decline of the People Who Greeted Columbus

"An excellent springboard for intensive research into one of the more important geographical locales in the Western Hemisphere. . . . Recommended for general readers."—Choice

"Columbus’s Outpost among the Taínos is an outstanding account of the first Spanish colony in the New World that clearly illustrates the importance of historical archaeology and how it expands the historical record to give a more comprehensive view of what happened."—Mark Michel, American Archaeology

“[An] accessible, interdisciplinary examination of the life of this short-lived European town in the Americas. . . . At every point, this is a thoughtful book. . . . This is an excellent example of how interdisciplinary research can bring forgotten aspects of the past to life.”—Allyson M. Poska, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

“This volume is a cogently written historical archaeological account of Isabela, the first European town in the Americas, Deagan and Cruxent synthesize a tremendous array of documentary and material data, provide an overview of the historical and social context in which this fifteenth-century town was established, and interpret the lives of Hispaniola’s first European settlers and the Taíno who greeted them. . . . It provides an excellent and very readable introduction to the history and archaeology of the very first stages of Iberian colonization of the New World.”—James A. Delle, Caribbean and Latin America

ISBN: 9780300090406
Publication Date: April 10, 2002
304 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
102 b/w illus.