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Christopher Columbus


Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer who became famous for discovering The New World. He was born before the 31st of October 1451 in the Republic of Genoa to Susanna Fontannarosa and Domenico Colombo . His father was a wool weaver. He had three brothers and a sister named Bartolomeo, Giovanni Pellegrino, Giacomo and Bianchinetta. Columbus started his apprenticeship as a business agent for Di Negro, an important Centurione in 1473 as well as the Spinola families of Genoa. In 1476 he was part of an armed convoy that escorted a cargo ship that carried valuables to Northern Europe, docking in Bristol (England) and Galway (Ireland). The following year, he sailed on a Portuguese ship to Lisbon where he found his brother, Bartolomeo and they both continued trading for the Centurione family. For the next eight years he was based in Lisbon and married Filipa Moniz Perestrelo, the daughter of a Portuguese nobleman, Bartolomeu Persetrello, from Lombardy. At around 1480, his son Diego Columbus was born. From 1482 to 1485, Columbus engaged in trading along the West Coasts of Africa. Columbus relocated from Lisbon to Castile in 1485 and two years later started a relationship with Beatriz Enriquez de Arana who was said to be an orphan.

Christopher Columbus and His Ambition

As a man, Columbus was very ambitious though not scholarly yet he read widely on Astronomy, Geography and History and was able to learn three languages (Portuguese, Latin and Castilian) thereby forming his own perceptions about the world. Columbus was also noted to be an avid student of the Bible and of Biblical prophecy. Columbus based many of his voyages on his interpretation of Biblical prophecy. For many centuries when the Mongols ruled over Asia, Europeans enjoyed a safe land passage to India and China to source for valuable goods but when Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks, the roads became very precarious. Europeans then focused their efforts to finding sea routes to the Far East. The first person to suggest sailing west rather than through Africa to reach Cathay, The Spice Islands, by sea was the Florentine astronomer, Paolo dal Pozzo Toscanelli who made his suggestion to Alfonso the fifth king of Portugal but his suggestion was rejected. In the 1880s Columbus and his brothers adopted Toscanelli’s suggestions hoping to reach what they presumed to be Southeast Asia by sailing through the Atlantic. But the attention of the Portuguese had shifted to the route round Africa by reason of Bartolomeu Dias reachin

For a long time, Columbus did not receive any support or approval for his proposal to journey to Asia by sailing westward. One of the major reasons for the skepticism which met Columbus’s proposals was that there was considerable confusion as to nautical units and longitudinal and latitudinal estimates among the astronomers and navigators of the period and so his proposal to journey west to Japan was considered unfeasible. Although Columbus’ calculations concerning the longitudinal separation between Europe and Asia as well as the linear distance each longitude represented were incorrect, his knowledge of trade winds was valid. He did eventually secure support from the Catholics and The Spanish Crown and made four voyages in his lifetime. In his first voyage in 1492 he succeeded in journey through The Canary Islands to Bahamas. He successfully returned to Spain by following the trade winds. Twice Columbus presented his proposals for a westward sea journey to Asia to King John II of Portugal in 1485 and twice he was invited but rejected after consultations. The king’s counselors considered his distance estimates to be too short. When Dias came back with the news that he had successfully rounded the tip of Africa at the Cape of Good Hope, Columbus’s apparently unfeasible plan was abandoned. Columbus presented his proposals to Queen Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, who after consultations also came to the conclusion that he had under estimated the distance to Asia. However, he was given an advance payment and the privilege of free lodging and food in all domains under their control, in a bid to prevent him from peddling his proposals elsewhere. Finally in 1492 the Spanish monarchy eventually gave in to Columbus and promised him governorship of the discovered lands and a percentage of the revenue and lands if he was successful. The crown later reneged in these agreements which led to a series of litigations between the Columbus family and The Spanish Crown. From 1492 to 1503, Christopher Columbus carried out four voyages between Spain and The Americas and each voyage was sponsored by The Crown of Castile. However, Columbus never accepted the fact that the places he had discovered were not part of Asia despite increasingly contrary evidence.

It is worth noting that Columbus was not the first European to journey to The Americas; that honor belongs to the Norse men of the 11th century but his sojourn opened up the way for the sustained interaction and eventual colonization of The Americas by the Europeans - particularly Spain. For this reason, Christopher Columbus was accorded a special place in the history of The West as regards the colonization of the Americas.