Christopher Columbus: Discoverer of the New World

There is much controversy over Christopher Columbus. Modern historians endlessly debate his merits, morality, and shortcoming. Yet he was a man at the cutting edge of exploration at a time when mankind was swiftly pushing against the boundaries of geography, science, and philosophy. By any reckoning he was an earnest, determined, and resourceful individual who accomplished much with the limited resources he had at hand.

The Voyages of Columbus

The First Voyage of Columbus The Second Voyage of Columbus The Third Voyage of Columbus The Fourth Voyage of Columbus Placenames of the Islands on the Routes Columbus Explored

(Hover over a voyage button to see the route Columbus took.
The routes are approximations.)

Born in 1451, in Genoa (a city state in what is now Italy), Columbus was fairly well educated. His father was a weaver. During the early life of Columbus he was registered as a member of the weaver's guild. In spite of these antecedents, he went to sea at a young age and was shipwrecked off the coast of Portugal.

He stayed in Portugal for several years. This was where all the action in world exploration was taking place. The Portuguese were sailing the coast of Africa, looking for a way around the continent for the lucrative markets of China. Columbus developed a plan to reach these markets by sailing west, and he made this proposal to the King of Portugal. But the Portuguese were committed to the Africa plan. When he was not granted the resources for his venture, Columbus moved on to Spain. With much work and a certain amount of convincing, Columbus talked Ferdinand and Isabella, the King and Queen of Spain, into outfitting his expedition to find a route to China over the Atlantic.

The voyage was taken in three relatively small craft, now famously remembered as the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria in the year 1492. It was a long voyage fraught with perils, not the least of which was the unrest of his own crew.

On this first voyage of Columbus relations with the Indians he found were, for the most part, peaceful. He had been seeking gold and spices, but had not found them in the quantity he had expected. When he returned to Spain, he left behind a fort built from the beams of the Santa Maria. While he was gone, his crew fought a pitched battle with the Indians.

He made three subsequent voyages. On the second voyage of Columbus 17 ships were sent. As many as 1800 people travelled to Hispañola, and a colony was founded. Columbus was Viceroy of the new colony. On his third voyage the people of the colony rebelled against him. A commissioner was sent to investigate and Columbus was arrested and sent back to Spain in chains. On his fourth and final voyage, he was not allowed to visit his own Colony. He did, however, set foot in central America and on the continent of South America. The only time in his sailing that he actually touched an unexplored mainland.

After an eventful life and career, Christopher Columbus died in relative obscurity in Spain. Although history would shun him for a time, eventually he would be rediscovered and the legacy of Columbus would grow. Cities would be named for him, biographies written, he would even have his own holiday. In the United States it is the second Monday in October.

Above is a brief account of the life and career of Christopher Columbus. For more in-depth information simply click on a link in the contents above or use the navbar at the top of this page. To read through his folio in the manner it was intended, use the "next page" links at the bottom of each page.

The Early Life of Christopher Columbus >>

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