Who was Christopher Columbus and what did he do?

Christopher Columbus

(31 October 1451 - 20 May 1506) was an explorer, colonizer, and navigator, born in the Republic of Genoa, in northwestern Italy. Under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, he completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean that led to general European awareness of the American continents in the Western Hemisphere. Those voyages and his efforts to establish permanent settlements in the island of Hispaniola initiated the process of Spanish colonization, which foreshadowed the general European colonization of the "New World."

In the context of emerging western imperialism and economic competition between European kingdoms seeking wealth through the establishment of trade routes and colonies, Columbus' far-fetched proposal to reach the East Indies by sailing westward received the support of the Spanish crown, which saw in it a promise, however remote, of gaining the upper hand over rival powers 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 a locale 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 Erickson,) Columbus's voyages led to the first lasting European contact with America, inaugurating a period of European exploration and colonization of foreign lands 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 the spreading of the Christian religion.

The name Christopher Columbus is the Anglicization of the Latin Christophorus Columbus. His name in Italian is Kristoforo Colombo, and in Spanish it is Cristobal Colon. Columbus was born between 25 August and 31 October 1451 in Genoa, part of modern Italy. His father was Domenico Colombo, a middle-classed wool weaver who worked both in Genoa and Savina and who also owned a cheese stand at which young Christopher worked as a helper. Christopher's mother was Susanna Fontanels. Bartolomeo, Giovanni Peregrine and Giacomo were his brothers. Bartolomeo worked in a cartography workshop in Lisbon for at least part of his adulthood.

Columbus never wrote in his native language, which is presumed to have been a Genie's variety of Liberian. In one of his writings, Columbus claims to have gone to the sea at the age of 10. In 1470, the Columbus family moved to Savina, where Domenico took over a tavern. In the same year, Columbus was on a Genoese ship hired in the service of Renie I of Anjou to support his attempt to conquer the Kingdom of Naples. Some modern historians have argued that Columbus was not from Genoa, but instead, from Catalonia, Portugal, or Spain. These competing hypotheses have generally been discounted by mainstream scholars.

In May 1476, he took part in an armed convoy sent by Genoa to carry a valuable cargo to northern Europe. He docked in Bristol, England; Gala, Ireland and was possibly in Iceland in 1477. In 1479 Columbus reached his brother Bartolomeo in Lisbon, while continuing trading for the Centurion's family. He married Felipa Monies Priestley, daughter of the Porto Santogovernor and Portuguese nobleman of Genoese origin Bartolomeo Peristyle. In 1479 or 1480, his son Diego Columbus was born. Between 1482 and 1485 Columbus traded along the coasts of West Africa, reaching the Portuguese trading post of Alumina at the Guinea coast. Some records report that Filippa died in 1485. It is also speculated that Columbus may have simply left his first wife. In either case Columbus found a mistress in Spain in 1487, a 20-year-old orphan named Beatriz Enrique DE Adriana.

Columbus was not a scholarly man. Yet he studied these books, made hundreds of marginal notations in them and came out with ideas about the world that were characteristically simple and strong and sometimes wrong kind of ideas that the self-educated person gains from independent reading and clings to in defiance of what anyone else tries to tell him.

Ambitious, Columbus eventually learned Latin, as well as Portuguese and Castilian and read widely about astronomy, geography, and history, including the works of Ptolemy, Cardinal Pierre Dilly'sImago Mind, the travels of Marco Polo and Sir John Mandeville, Pliny's Natural History, and Pope Pius II's Historia Rerum Ubique Gestarum. According to historian Edmund Morgan,

Columbus sailed for King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella of Spain. On his first trip, Columbus led an expedition with three ships, the Nina, the Pinta , and the Santa Maria (captained by Columbus), and about 90 crew members. They set sail on Aug. 3, 1492 from Palls, Spain, and on October 11, 1492, spotted the Caribbean islands off southeastern North America. They landed on an island they called Guantanamo, but Columbus later renamed it San Salvador. They were met by the local Taine Indians, many of whom were captured by Columbus' men and later sold into slavery. Columbus thought he had made it to Asia, and called this area the Indies, and called its inhabitants Indians.

Throughout his life, Columbus also showed a keen interest in the Bible and in biblical prophecies and would often quote biblical texts in his letters and logs. For example, part of the argument that he submitted to the Spanish Catholic Monarchs when he sought their support for his proposed expedition to reach the Indies by sailing west was based on his reading of the Second Book of Esdras (see 2 Esdras 6:42), which Columbus took to mean that the Earth is made of six parts of land to one of the water). Towards the end of life, Columbus produced a Book of Prophecies in which his career as an explorer is interpreted in the light of Christian eschatology and apocalyptic.

While exploring the islands in the area and looking for gold to loot, Columbus' men traveled to the islands of Hispaniola (now divided into Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Cuba, and many other smaller islands. On the return trip, the Santa Maria was wrecked, and the captain of the Pinta sailed off on his own to try to beat Columbus back. Columbus returned to Spain in the Nina, arriving on March 15, 1493. Christopher Columbus also took the Native Americans back to Europe, and they became slaves even thought the Native Americans were nice and respectfully to Columbus and his people. But Columbus didn't care how the Native Americans acted to him and his group. All Columbus cared was how wealthy their mother country was. There was also two people who joined Christopher's voyage. They were the Pinzon Brothers. These brothers were Spanish sailors, explorers and fishermen, natives of Palos de la Frontera, Huelva, Spain. All three, Martin Alonso, Francisco Martin and Vicente participated in Christopher Columbus's first expedition to the New World (generally considered constituting the discovery of the Americas by Europeans) and in other voyages of discovery and exploration in the late 15th and early 16th centuries.

The brothers were sailors of great prestige along the coast of Huelva, and thanks to their many commercial voyages and voyages along the coast, they were famous and well off, respected along the entire coast. The strategic position offered by the historic Atlantic port of Palos, from which expeditions had set forth to the African coasts as well as to the war against Portugal, for which most of the armadas set forth from this town, organized, on many occasions, by this family.

Martin Alonso and Vicente , captains of the caravels La Pinta and La Nina, respectively on Columbus's first voyage, are the best known of the brothers, but the third brother, the lesser-known Francisco Martin, was aboard the Pinta as its master.

It was thanks to Martin Alonso that the seamen of the Tinto-Odiel were motivated to participate in Columbus's undertaking. He also supported the project economically, supplying money from his personal fortune.

Francisco, master of the Pinta, appears to have participated in Columbus's third and fourth voyages of discovery as well as in the first, but because his name was a common one, the facts of his life cannot be easily sorted out from those of contemporaries with the same name.

Vicente the youngest of the three brothers, besides participating in Columbus's first voyage, once Columbus's monopoly on transatlantic trade was ended, made several voyages to the Americas on his own account and is generally credited with the discovery of Brazil.

Although they sometimes quarreled with Columbus, on several occasions the Pinzin brothers were instrumental in preventing mutiny against him, particularly during the first voyage. On 6 October, Martin intervened in a dispute between Columbus and the crew by proposing an altered course (which Columbus eventually accepted) and thus calmed simmering unrest. A few days later, on the night of 9 October 1492, the brothers were forced to intercede once again, and this time they proposed the compromise that if no land was sighted during the next three days, the expedition would return to Spain. On the morning of the 12th (there is some question of the location): see Guanahani) was in fact sighted by Juan Rodriguez Bermejo (also known as Rodrigo de Triana).