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Old January 7th, 2009, 11:31 AM   #1
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Why was it called the West Indies?


Why was the Caribbean called the West Indies considering that Columbus expected to arrive at the eastern shore of India? West India is the area of India in the direction of the middle east and Europe, so why didn't the European settlers and explorers call the Caribbean "East Indies"?
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Old January 7th, 2009, 12:06 PM   #2

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Re: Why was it called the West Indies?


I imagine the answer is that when Columbus landed on the islands he believed that they were the out islands of India. Since India was still to the west, to his mind, the islands lay east of India. At least considering to the direction he was heading. A great example of someone being right when they were wrong.
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Old January 7th, 2009, 12:23 PM   #3
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Re: Why was it called the West Indies?


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Since India was still to the west, to his mind, the islands lay east of India.
And that's why I don't understand why he called these islands west indies when they should be called east indies. Wouldn't it make more sense to call the islands to the west of America (which Columbus thought was India) the west indies and the islands to the east of America, "east indies"?

Last edited by historyleech; January 7th, 2009 at 12:28 PM.
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Old January 7th, 2009, 01:36 PM   #4

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Re: Why was it called the West Indies?


That's the thing. He didn't know it was America. Therefore, when he sailed west from Europe, he came across what is now known as the West Indies. The East Indies (i.e. India) are east of Europe. Think more Europe-centric and it'll make sense.
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Old January 7th, 2009, 03:10 PM   #5

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Re: Why was it called the West Indies?


He thought he was in the islands east of India--the Indies.

When it was realized he and reached America, the Europeans distinguished between the West Indies to their West and the East Indies to their East.
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Old January 13th, 2009, 07:04 AM   #6

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Re: Why was it called the West Indies?


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Originally Posted by historyleech View Post
Why was the Caribbean called the West Indies considering that Columbus expected to arrive at the eastern shore of India? West India is the area of India in the direction of the middle east and Europe, so why didn't the European settlers and explorers call the Caribbean "East Indies"?
I can't go through this thread without getting thoroughly confused. East, west, east, west, god!

Anyway, here's what I think. Maybe the name West Indies was given to that cluster of islands later on? Much later, after Columbus's error was rectified and it was established that what he had "discovered" was actually far from India (no pun intended!)?

So, initially probably that area was called just India? And then, after the cat was out of the bag, it became West Indies? As opposed to east indies.
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Old January 13th, 2009, 07:15 AM   #7
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Re: Why was it called the West Indies?


For my own peace of mind, I look at it in the from a Eurocentric point of view-what islands do you reach sailing west from Europe? The West Indies. Same for the East Indies.
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Old January 13th, 2009, 07:42 AM   #8

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Re: Why was it called the West Indies?


You've got to think of this in terms of the world in 1492.

Columbus was patronised by Ferdinand and Isabella of Castille & Aragon to find a quicker route to India so that the unified provinces could benefit from speedier trade. Therefore, Columbus sailed west in the hope that he'd find India without having to sail around the Cape of Good Hope, which took a very long time and was fraught with danger.

However, he did not find India, he found the islands of the Caribbean. But due to the fact that he was looking for a route to India yet found the Caribbean by sailing west from Europe, these islands were names the West Indies.
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Old January 13th, 2009, 08:06 AM   #9

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Re: Why was it called the West Indies?


Quote:
Originally Posted by naylor182 View Post
You've got to think of this in terms of the world in 1492.

Columbus was patronised by Ferdinand and Isabella of Castille & Aragon to find a quicker route to India so that the unified provinces could benefit from speedier trade. Therefore, Columbus sailed west in the hope that he'd find India without having to sail around the Cape of Good Hope, which took a very long time and was fraught with danger.

However, he did not find India, he found the islands of the Caribbean. But due to the fact that he was looking for a route to India yet found the Caribbean by sailing west from Europe, these islands were names the West Indies.
After reading your post and then reviewing mine I have decided that yours makes sense.
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Old January 13th, 2009, 08:31 AM   #10
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Re: Why was it called the West Indies?


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Originally Posted by Pedro View Post
After reading your post and then reviewing mine I have decided that yours makes sense.

Didn't I say basically the same thing? I want sense too.
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