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Christopher Columbus
 

Christopher Columbus

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    Christopher Columbus Christopher Columbus Document Transcript

    • Christopher Columbus was an explorer, colonizer, and navigator, born in the Republic of Genoa(northwestern Italy today). Under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, hecompleted four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean that led to general European awareness ofthe American continents. Those voyages, and his efforts to establish permanent settlements inthe island of Hispaniola and also the Cuban islands, initiated the process of Spanishcolonization, which foreshadowed the general European colonization of what became known asthe "New World".In the context of emerging western imperialism and economic competition between Europeankingdoms seeking wealth through the establishment of trade routes and colonies, Columbussspeculative proposal to reach the East Indies by sailing westward received the support of theSpanish crown, which saw in it a promise, however remote, of gaining the upper hand over rivalpowers in the contest for the lucrative spice trade with Asia. During his first voyage in 1492,instead of reaching Japan as he had intended, Columbus landed in the Bahamas archipelago, at alocale he named San Salvador. Over the course of three more voyages, Columbus visitedthe Greater and Lesser Antilles, as well as the Caribbean coast of Venezuela and CentralAmerica, claiming them for the Spanish Empire.(Though Columbus was not the first European explorer to reach the Americas Columbussvoyages led to the first lasting European contact with America, inaugurating a period ofEuropean exploration and colonization of foreign lands that lasted for several centuries. Theyhad, therefore, an enormous impact in the historical development of the modern Westernworld. Columbus himself saw his accomplishments primarily in the light of the spreading ofthe Christian religion.Never admitting that he had reached a continent previously unknown to Europeans, rather thanthe East Indies he had set out for, Columbus called the inhabitants of the lands he visitedindios (Spanish for "Indians"). Columbuss strained relationship with the Spanish crown and itsappointed colonial administrators in America led to his arrest and dismissal as governor of thesettlements in Hispaniola in 1500, and later to protracted litigation over the benefits whichColumbus and his heirs claimed were owed to them by the crown.)Between 1492 and 1503, Columbus completed four round-trip voyages between Spain and theAmericas, all of them under the sponsorship of the Crown. These voyages marked the beginningof the European exploration and colonization of the American continents, and are thus ofenormous significance in Western history. Columbus himself always insisted, in the face ofmounting evidence to the contrary, that the lands that he visited during those voyages werepart of the Asian continent, as previously described by Marco Polo and other Europeantravelers. Columbuss refusal to accept that the lands he had visited and claimed for Spainwere not part of Asia might explain, in part, why the American continent was named afterthe Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci and not after Columbus.