Christopher Columbus and his Discovery of the New World

CultureGrid. Columbus presenting an account of his voyage to the King and Queen of Spain. Engraved for Drake's Voyages, 23 July 2014. Royal Museums Greenwich, United Kingdom. http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/137434 ,PAG7486 , D5315. Copyright National Maritime Museum, London (creative commons licence), Not on display. Accessed 17 November 2017.
CultureGrid. Columbus presenting an account of his voyage to the King and Queen of Spain. Engraved for Drake's Voyages, 23 July 2014. Royal Museums Greenwich, United Kingdom. http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/137434 ,PAG7486 , D5315. Copyright National Maritime Museum, London (creative commons licence), Not on display. Accessed 17 November 2017.

The voyage and expedition that changed the world forever was captained by the adventurous Christopher Columbus. Our story begins with him as a young lad, who had a heart for adventure and an extensive imagination.

Christopher Columbus had an obsession with trade at a very young age. This was because his father was in debt “and only by trade can money be quickly got to pay debts.”1 Christopher Columbus had little education, having been an apprentice to a trader when he was young.2 Even though he did not grow rich through trade, he was satisfied with his life as a trader. Columbus gained confidence and skill navigating and trading on the Mediterranean sea.3 He also learned physical and commercial geography while trading. After learning many of these things, he became an excellent tradesman and in his adulthood excelled at his craft.

Christophorus Columbus Liguriensis Indiarum Primus Inventor Anno MCCCCXCII, 23 July 2014 | Royal Museums Greenwich, United Kingdom | Courtesy of National Maritime Museum, London

In adulthood, Columbus continued to trade, though he now became infatuated with discovering new trade routes. Through this infatuation, he began to seek a trade route by sea to India. To start such an expedition, he would need money and approval, which he sought from many royal families. Columbus originally went to seek approval from Portugal’s king, John II. After being shut down by King John II, he went to Spain’s Ferdinand and Isabelle, who also told him no. After that, he went to the first Duke of Medina Sidonia, who yet again told him no. Finally, Columbus went to talk to the Duke of Medina Coeli. While Columbus was talking with the Duke, Queen Isabelle sent a message saying she wanted to meet with Columbus. The Queen had become interested in his expedition, but she left the judgement of it up to the King. The King, seeing Columbus’ importance, had a committee created so it could decide whether or not to allow the expedition, and he kept Columbus at court while the committee decided.

In 1488, Columbus went to Portugal only to find that “a Portuguese navigator Bartholomew Dias… had at least succeeded in rounding the southern tip of Africa…”4 This made him aware that he could have found a route to India if he had not been held at court these many years. Columbus finally received approval in Castile with the Custodian, Friar Juan Perez. Perez had friends in high places and when the Reconquista finally ended in Spain between Christians and Muslims, the King and Queen said, “Let this man be employed.”5 With the King and Queen of Spain providing support for his voyage, Christopher Columbus set off in the year 1492.

From the start of Columbus’s voyage problems arouse. One of these problems was that their ship Pinta had a rudder that came loose and could not be fixed until many days later.6 More problems arose when they discovered that the curvature of the Earth was affecting the compasses, which affected their navigation. At dawn, after a night of navigating by stars, their compass told them that they were many degrees off course. They didn’t start seeing signs of land until the fourth of October. On October 13, they finally reached land.7 On this land, they met the native people who inhabited the land.

Christopher Columbus landing in 1492 Bahamas (Watling Island), 23 July 2014 | Royal Museums Greenwich, United Kingdom | Courtesy of National Maritime Museum, London

“Christopher Columbus became one of the most important figures in western civilization by changing the very thrust of European expansion for the next five hundred years.”8 New industries, such as the sugar cane industry, started to open through his arrival in the New World. The founding of the New World also expanded the power of many imperial lands. The kings and queens of the lands of Europe sent people to the “New World” for colonization and to use its resources.

Christopher Columbus endured many struggles during his quest in trying to find a route to India. He impacted the world politically, economically, and culturally. Christopher Columbus was persistent and did everything he could to achieve his goals. Even though he did not reach the goal he wanted, he did make one of the greatest discoveries in history.

  1. Daniel Sargent, Christopher Columbus (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1941), 4.
  2. Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, January 2016, s.v. “Christopher Columbus 1451- 1506,” by Daniel C. Scavone.
  3. Daniel Sargent, Christopher Columbus (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1941), 9.
  4. Daniel Sargent, Christopher Columbus (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1941), 83.
  5. Daniel Sargent, Christopher Columbus (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1941), 89.
  6. Oliver Dunn and James E. Kelley Jr., The Dario of Christopher Columbus’s first Voyage to America (United States of America: University of Oklahoma Press,  1989), 25.
  7. Oliver Dunn and James E. Kelley Jr., The Dario of Christopher Columbus’s first Voyage to America (United States of America: University of Oklahoma Press, 1989), 51-69.
  8. James Cortada, “Who was Christopher Columbus,” Renaissance and Reformation 10, no. 2 (1974): 99.

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This Post Has 26 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Greyson Addicott

    We can only imagine how the world would look without the birth of one Christopher Columbus. All warm-blooded Americans alive today owe their entire lives to the very man. Indeed, millions of us would never have been born without his (then accidental) discovery! It was very interesting to read about the Earth naturally resisting the exploration, and I am so glad that Columbus pushed onward instead of returning to Spain empty-handed. I can only imagine his joy when he finally touched land, rather than slipping off the side of the Earth itself!

  2. Avatar
    Luis Morales

    Everyone knows the story about Christopher Columbus and his journey that lead him to the discovery on the new world. However, what I did not know was that this discovery would not have happen if it were not for Columbus’ fascination with trade. Even though Columbus was told know many times, he was persistence in what he wanted and finally was able to achieve his goal in life to find an new route to India. Great article!

  3. Avatar
    Tyler Thompson

    Columbus indeed changed the world with his accidental discovery of the route to the Americas. Despite the many reasons Columbus’ name is hated on, the author was able to write a very good and unbiased article on the struggles of Christopher Columbus, especially in the beginning with financing the boat, as he navigated his ship to what we know as North and South America.

  4. Avatar
    Anais Del Rio

    When I first clicked the article, I was expecting to read how Christopher Columbus ended up finding modern day North America which is how we were first taught, but this later changed to Amerigo Vespucci (hence America). This was a great memory jogger about the history of Columbus and the process he had to go through to get to his destination. It was actually new to learn that the Earth was giving them a hard time to navigate because of the compasses messing up.

  5. Avatar
    Anna Guaderrama

    I seriously cannot imagine having something that impactful just be something that happened by accident, but with my luck, sounds pretty plausible. I thought it was interesting that he was poor and in debt, I never knew that before. I had always learned about Christopher Columbus as being a ‘great expeditor’, but no one ever really talked about details of his life like that. Overall, I enjoyed reading this short article, it was very informative.

  6. Avatar
    Austin Pena

    Great article! Even though it was short the amount of detail in it made it very educational. I think it is interesting that he found the “new world” by accident. And along with that i was unaware of his early days, i also though of him as a sailor but learning that he was a tradesman is a surprise. To think that the governing crown would allow for a tradesman to set out on an adventure to find a new route is shocking.

  7. Avatar
    Andrew Dominguez

    It is funny to think he discovered America on accident, i wonder if his investors were frustrated since he didn’t do the job he was supposed to complete. Its also cool to see how far technology has come, since his compass didn’t work, while today we rely on gps. I like how he wasn’t very smart in education, but would have knowledge on the seas. We should take note of this, not everyone may be smart in school, but maybe smart in blue collar work.

  8. Avatar
    Kayla Lopez

    This was a very short and sweet article that was jam packed with information. It was nice to be reminded about Christopher Columbus and there was some information that I actually did not know prior to reading this. I did not know that Christopher Columbus had an obsession with trade from a very young age. I always thought it was something he became passionate about at an older age.

  9. Avatar
    Jose Figueroa

    When learning about people in a classic history class, we usually just learn who a person is and not how they got there. I had always assumed that Columbus was a born and raised sailor not a trader. My favorite part was how he continued to seek out support for his voyage to India despite being rejected by various Kings. It just goes to show how much persistence can pay off!

  10. Avatar
    Julian Aguero

    I found it interesting that Columbus was not a rich person and was a apprentice to tradesman. Knowing this information makes it obvious what his intention were. It amazing that he was actually able to have someone finance his voyage. I like article that depict Columbus in a true manner. Its amazing that someone’s accidents and miscalculations could not impact the entire word and have a impression on all of us to this day. I enjoyed the information in this article great work.

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