Introduction - Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus is one of the most famous explorers in history. Kids learn in their history books how this famous Italian explorer sailed to America in 1492 from Spain with the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria; discovering the "New World". He is so famous that the United States has created a national holiday, "Columbus Day" honoring him and his voyage to America. This holiday falls on the second Monday in October. Many other countries also have official holidays honoring his voyage to America.
Although Christopher Columbus is famous and honored his legacy is mixed leading many people to question why he is honored at all. The list of facts below provides information on what we really know about who this great man was and hopefully sheds light on where his proper place in history is.
Christopher Columbus General Facts
- He was born in 1451 in Italy (Republic of Genoa).
- As a teenager he went on several trade voyages in the Aegean Sea and Mediterranean Sea.
- In 1476 on his first voyage into the Atlantic Ocean Christopher Columbus was almost killed. The ship he was on was attacked and burned by French privateers near the coast of Portugal. He managed to swim to the shore.
Christopher Columbus Facts - Discovers the New World
- Columbus was not actually the first European to set foot in the "New World". For centuries it was believed that he discovered America. In the 1960s remains of an ancient Viking settlement in North America was unearthed. This proved the famed Viking explorer Leif Ericson had sailed to the "New World" almost five hundred years earlier than Christopher Columbus.
- The motivation for his famous voyage to the "New World" was to find a safer and quicker route to India and China.
- Columbus had a lot of difficulty getting financing for his voyage to find a westward route to India and China. For several years he tried to get money for the voyage from the rulers of Portugal and Spain. Although initially turned down in 1486 by Queen Isabella I of Spain he was successful in getting her and her husband King Ferdinand V to pay for a crew and three ships in 1492.
- In 1492 he sailed from Spain. Approximately 40 days later, a lot longer than he anticipated, he landed on an island in the present day Bahamas. On this voyage (he would make three others to America) he visited the Bahamas, Cuba, and Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic). He thought he was exploring China and Japan.
- Columbus's flag ship, the Santa Maria, hit a reef and ran aground near the coast of Hispaniola (modern day Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and was wrecked. The wood from the ship was used to build a settlement. Several sailors remained at the settlement while the two remaining boats in the fleet headed back to Spain. The sailors left behind would all be killed by natives.
- During his four voyages to the Americas Columbus was responsible for the enslavement and deaths of numerous Native Americans. On his very first voyage he took six natives captive and brought them back to Spain. Many others would be enslaved and forced to work for the Spanish.
- Although this great Italian explorers landing in the "New World" was a great event and earned him great fame he failed in his objective of finding a westward route to the East Indies.
- His landing in the "New World" opened the way for an incredible period of European exploration and conquest in the Americas.
- Christopher Columbus would make a total of four trips to the "New World". It was not until his third trip, in 1498, that he actually set foot on the mainland (South America).