Born at Milan about 1519. He went to America in 1541 and successively visited the Antilles and the Isthmus, Guatemala, and the west coast of South America. He returned to Spain and thence to Italy, in 1556. Of his subsequent life nothing is known. Some hints in his book suggest that his main purpose in the New World was commerce, which he often had to carry on with difficulty as trading by foreigners in the Spanish colonies was not looked upon with favor by the Spaniards. Benzoni, while not unsuccessful in what he undertook, conceived an inveterate hatred of the Spanish people and Government and in return for the protection given him and for favors which he was compelled reluctantly to acknowledge, wrote and published a book of diatribes and accusations against Spain in America. It contains interesting details about the countries he visited, but abounds in errors and often in intentional misstatements. What Benzoni states about the Antilles is a clumsy rehash of Las Casas. His reports on the conquests of Mexico, and Peru bristle with errors.
The book of Benzoni "Historia del Mondo Nuovo" was published at Venice in 1565. He dedicated it to Pope Pius IV. It was at the time when the controversy concerning the treatment of the Indians was hottest, and a work, written by one who had just returned from the New World after a stay of fifteen years could not fail to attract attention. In writing it, no standard of criticism was applied; this was not in the spirit of the times. The ultra-philanthropists found Benzoni a welcome auxiliary, and foreign nations, all more or less leagued against Spain for the sake of supplanting its mastery of the Indies, eagerly adopted his extreme statements and sweeping accusations. Several editions were published in rapid succession; translations were made into English as well as into several other languages. Intrinsically, the book has small merit, except in as far as it presents and describes facts witnessed by the author. Even these are not always faithfully reported. It might be called a controversial document because of its violent partiality and hostility. It does not notice mitigating circumstances, and ignores what is good when it does not suit the author. Benzoni writes sometimes like a disappointed trader, and always as a man of limited education and very narrow views. His "Historia del Mondo Nuovo" (Venice, 1565) was reprinted in 1572, and translated into French by Eustace Vignon, 1579. Aside from the annotations which are often trivial and as partial as the book itself, the English translation, "History of the New World by Girolamo Benzoni" (London, 1857), by the Hakluyt Society, is certainly the best.
The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed between 1907 and 1912 in fifteen hard copy volumes.
Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.
No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.
Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912
Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online