Christopher Columbus (Italian: Cristoforo Colombo; Spanish: Cristóbal Colón; Portuguese: Cristóvão Colombo; born between 31 October 1450 and 30 October 1451, died 20 May 1506) was a Genoese explorer, navigator, and colonizer, born in the Republic of Genoa (today part of Italy). Under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, he completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean. Those voyages, and his efforts to establish permanent settlements on the island of Hispaniola, initiated the Spanish colonization of the New World.
In the context of emerging western imperialism and economic competition between European kingdoms through the establishment of trade routes and colonies, Columbus' proposal to reach the East Indies by sailing westward, eventually received the support of the Spanish Crown, which saw in it a chance to enter the spice trade with Asia through a new westward route. During his first voyage in 1492, instead of reaching Japan as he had intended, Columbus landed in a New World, landing in the Bahamas archipelago, on an island he named San Salvador. Over the course of three more voyages, Columbus visited the Greater and Lesser Antilles, as well as the Caribbean coast of Venezuela and Central America, claiming them for the Spanish Empire.
Though Columbus was not the first European explorer to reach the Americas (having been preceded by the Norse expedition led by Leif Ericson in the 11th century), his voyages led to the first lasting European contact with the Americas, inaugurating a period of European exploration, conquest, and colonization that lasted for several centuries. They had, therefore, an enormous impact in the historical development of the modern Western world. Columbus himself saw his accomplishments primarily in the light of spreading the Christian religion.
Never admitting that he had reached a continent previously unknown to Europeans, rather than the East Indies he had set out for, Columbus called the inhabitants of the lands he visited indios (Spanish for "Indians"). Columbus' strained relationship with the Spanish crown and its appointed colonial administrators in America led to his arrest and dismissal as governor of the settlements on the island of Hispaniola in 1500, and later to protracted litigation over the benefits which Columbus and his heirs claimed were owed to them by the crown.
Columbus's Early Life
The best available evidence suggests that Christopher Columbus (Cristoforo Colombo in Italian; Cristóbal Colón in Spanish) was born in Genoa in 1451. His father was a weaver. Christopher had at least two brothers. The boy had little education; he learned to read and write only as an adult. He went to sea, as did many Genoese boys, and voyaged in the Mediterranean. In 1476 he was shipwrecked off Portugal, found his way ashore, and went to Lisbon. He apparently traveled to Ireland and England and later claimed to have gone as far as Iceland. Columbus was in Genoa in 1479. Returning to Portugal, he got married; however, he soon lost his wife, Dona Felipa, shortly after his son, Diego, was born (c.1480).
By this time Columbus had become interested in westward voyages. He had learned of the legendary Atlantic Ocean voyages and sailors' reports of land to the west of the Madeira Islands and the Azores. Acquiring books and maps, Columbus accepted Marco Polo's erroneous location for Japan — 2,400 km (1,500 mi) east of China. In addition, he accepted Ptolemy's underestimation of the circumference of the Earth and overestimation of the size of the Eurasian landmass. He came to believe that Japan was about 4,800 km (3,000 mi) to the west of Portugal — a distance that could be sailed in existing vessels. His idea was furthered by the suggestions of the Florentine cosmographer Paolo dal Pozzo Toscanelli. In 1484, Columbus sought support for an exploratory voyage from King John II of Portugal, but he was refused. The Portuguese also underestimated the distance but believed it to be beyond the capabilities of existing ships.
In 1485, Columbus took his son and went to Spain; there he spent almost seven years trying to get support from Isabella I of Castile. He was received at court, given a small annuity, and quickly gained both friends and enemies. An apparently final refusal in 1492 made Columbus prepare to go to France, but a final appeal to Isabella proved successful. An agreement between the crown and Columbus set the terms for the expedition.
The First Voyage
The Pinta, the Niña, and the Santa María were outfitted in the minor port of Palos. Columbus was aided in recruiting a crew by two brothers — Martín Alonso Pinzón, who received command of the Pinta, and his younger brother Vicente Yáñez Pinzón, who commanded the Niña. They left Palos on Aug. 3, 1492; re rigged the Niña in the Canary Islands; and sailed to the west. Landfall was made on the morning of Oct. 12, 1492; it was an island in the Bahamas that Columbus named San Salvador and historians later identified as Watling Island. (Watling was subsequently renamed San Salvador.) In 1986 a group of scholars claimed that the true landfall was Samana Cay, 105 km (65 mi) to the south.
The landing was met by Arawak, a friendly local population that Columbus called Indians. Some days later the expedition sailed on to Cuba; there delegations were landed to seek the court of the Mongol emperor of China and gold. In December they sailed east to Hispaniola, where, at Christmas, the Santa María was wrecked near Cap-Haïtien. Columbus got his men ashore. The Indians seemed friendly; therefore 39 men were left on the island at the settlement of Navidad while Columbus returned to Spain on the Niña. He had sailed due west from the Canaries with favorable winds; now he sailed north before heading east and so again found favorable winds. Martín Alonso Pinzón, who had explored on his own with the Pinta, rejoined Columbus, but the ships were separated at sea. Columbus finally landed (March 1493) in Lisbon and was interviewed by John II. Then he went to Palos and across Spain to Barcelona; there he was welcomed by Isabella and her husband, Ferdinand II of Aragon. Columbus claimed to have reached islands just off the coast of Asia and brought with him artifacts, Indians, and some gold.
The Second Voyage
Portuguese claims to Columbus's discoveries led Pope Alexander VI to issue papal bulls in 1493. These bulls divided the world into areas open to colonization by Spain and Portugal. The two nations moved the line of demarcation to 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands by the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494) and undertook colonization.
Funded by Ferdinand and Isabella, Columbus set sail from Cádiz on his second voyage on Sept. 25, 1493. This time he had 17 ships and almost 1,500 men. Again they stopped in the Canaries and then made landfall on Nov. 3, 1493, near Dominica among the Lesser Antilles. The expedition then sailed through the Lesser Antilles; islands were sighted and named, and some were landed on. The explorers went past Puerto Rico and reached the site of Navidad on Nov. 27–28, 1493. The encampment had been destroyed, and the Spaniards, who had seized gold and women, had been killed.
About 113 km (70 mi) to the east of Navidad's site, Columbus set up a new colony, named Isabela. He left in April 1494; explored the southern coast of Cuba, but did not prove it an island; discovered and circumnavigated Jamaica; and returned to Isabela after five months. Columbus tried to govern the colony until he returned to Spain in 1496. He was not a good administrator, however. With instructions to move the settlement to the south coast of Hispaniola, he left his brother Bartolomé in charge. This was done in 1496, and the settlement, named Santo Domingo, became the first permanent European settlement in the New World.
Columbus reached Cádiz in June 1496. He was coolly received at court. He had not found the rich Asian mainland, and his efforts to get gold from the Indians on Hispaniola had been only moderately successful. The Spanish settlers were unruly and would not work, and some had returned to Spain with complaints about Columbus.
The Third Voyage
Columbus was finally authorized to make a third voyage after the Portuguese had sent Vasco da Gama off to India in 1497. Despite difficulties in recruiting a crew, Columbus departed Spain in May 1498. With six ships, he made landfall on Trinidad on July 31, 1498. The next day he reached the mainland and thus encountered South America.
Having found pearls at islands near the coast, the expedition then sailed across the Caribbean to Santo Domingo. The colonists there were in revolt, and Columbus soon had to face a royal commissioner, Francisco de Bobadilla, who arrived from Spain in 1500 with full powers. Bobadilla removed the Columbus brothers from the government and sent them back to Spain in chains. Although the ship's captain was willing to remove the shackles, Christopher insisted on going before Ferdinand and Isabella bound.
Freed by royal command after arrival in Cádiz in November 1500, Columbus soon mounted a fourth expedition. It left Spain in May 1502, made a landfall at Martinique, and sailed to Santo Domingo. There he was denied permission to land, and his warnings about a hurricane were ignored. His ships weathered the storm, sailed west, and reached Guanaja Island, and then Honduras in Central America. Having missed the sites of the Maya, he sailed along the coast past Panama, finally heading again for Santo Domingo. His vessels, rotted by shipworm, were abandoned in Jamaica, where Columbus was marooned for a year. Finally rescued, he reached Spain in November 1504.
Christopher Columbus died in Valladolid on May 20, 1506, while pressing his claims at court. He still believed that he had reached Asia. He no longer had royal support, and the crown had, from 1495 onward, violated its original agreement with Columbus by authorizing others to sail to the Indies. Columbus's real greatness lies in the fact that having found the West Indies — making major errors in his navigational computations and location in doing so — he was able to find his way back to Europe and return to the Indies. It is as a result of Columbus's "discovery" that the New World became part of the European world.
WHEN & WHERE:
The best available evidence suggests that Christopher Columbus (Cristoforo Colombo in Italian; Cristóbal Colón in Spanish) was born in Genoa in 1451. Christopher Columbus died in Valladolid on May 20, 1506, while pressing his claims at court.
Columbus Didn’t Discover America
I mean, can you really “discover” something that is teeming with people? Some estimates have the pre-Columbian indigenous population of the Americas at between 50-100 million. That’s like if I get on a raft from my apartment in Brooklyn and sail to New Jersey and claim it for Tu Vez. What about the poor native guidos, Bon Jovis, and Bruce Springsteen fans?
He Committed Genocide
We all know that genocide came later when boatloads of White dudes came over with smallpox blankets and guns but Columbus personally committed genocide. In Cuba, for example, every Taino male had to pay a huge amount of gold every year or Columbus would have their hands cut off until they bled to death. what a guy! In Cuba alone 500,000 native peoples died within 50 years of his arrival.
Established The African Slave Trade
And what happened when he ran out of Native Americans? Help establish the African Slave Trade, of course! Someone had to work all of those mines and cut that cane and he sure as heck wasn’t going to pay anyone to do it. Columbus helped establish the trading routes between Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean. This means that ultimately he is partly responsible for the MILLIONS of Africans forced into slavery. They didn’t get a three day weekend, I can tell you that!
Columbus’ Crew Spread Syphilis All Over The World
Syphilis comes from the New World like turkeys and free dipping sauce. It existed in a mild form which the sailors caught from all the women they raped. They then sailed all over the world on their next gigs and spread the disease everywhere they…ahem…docked. The disease incubated and changed inside their bodies, since they had no immunity to New World germies. Thanks guys.
Was A Terrible Person To Those Close To Him Too
He treated all of his “loved ones” and employees like crap too. He abused his wives, sons, brothers, and employees. He was so cruel and tyrannical that his crew took him to court for how big of a jerk he was. He was sentenced to ten years in prison for his crimes but king Ferdinand let him go. Think about that. These are the same people who sacked Granada and instituted the Spanish Inquisition and they thought he was barbaric!