Christopher Columbus

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Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus (1451–1506) was a Genoese trader, explorer, and navigator. He was born in Genoa, Italy, in the year 1451. "Christopher Columbus" is the English version of Columbus's name. His real name in Italian was Cristoforo Colombo; his name in Spanish was Cristóbal Colón.[1]

In 1492, Columbus was trying to sail to Asia. Instead he landed in the Bahamas. Because of this, many people thought that Columbus discovered America. Historians know that Leif Erikson sailed to the New World in 999 AD.

When the Spanish learned that Columbus had found a "New World," many other people, called conquistadors, went there too. This led to the Spanish colonization of the Americas.

Columbus died on May 20, 1506, in Valladolid, Spain.

"Discovery" of America[change | change source]

Columbus is considered the first European person to have discovered the Americas. The Caribbean is not on the American mainland. The first European to find America was the Viking Leif Erikson, around 1000 AD.[2][3] Neither Erikson or Columbus were the first to inhabit America. Native Americans had been living there for thousands of years before them.[4][5]

Voyage in 1492[change | change source]

Columbus wanted to find a shorter way to get to Asia. He thought he could get to Asia by sailing west from Europe. He did not know about the countries in the Western Hemisphere, so he did not realize they would block him from getting to Asia.[1]

Columbus did not have enough money to pay for this voyage on his own. He was able to get the King and Queen of Spain, Ferdinand II and Isabella I of Castile, to pay for the voyage. He promised to bring back gold and spices for them.[1]

Ships[change | change source]

This is a 60-foot-long ship – the same size as Columbus's largest ship

In August of 1492, Columbus and his sailors left Spain in three ships: the Santa María (the Holy Mary), the Pinta (the Painted), and the Santa Clara (nicknamed the Niña: the Little Girl).[6]

the Santa María, was about 60 feet (18 metres) long, and about 16 to 19 feet (4.8 to 5.8 metres) wide.[7][8]

Columbus's other ships were about 50–60 feet (15–18 metres) long.[8]

Voyage[change | change source]

On October 12, 1492, after sailing for about four months, Columbus landed on a small island in the Bahamas. The natives called it Guanahani; Columbus renamed it San Salvador Island ("Holy Savior"). He met Arawak and Taíno Native Americans who lived on the island. They were friendly and peaceful towards Columbus and his crew. Not knowing where he was, and thinking that he had reached Asia, the "Indies," he called them "Indians." He claimed their land as Spain's.[9]

Columbus sailed to the island of Cuba, then to Hispaniola. On Hispaniola, Columbus built a fort. This was one of the first European military bases in the Western Hemisphere. He called it Navidad (Spanish for "Christmas"). He left thirty-nine crew members there, and ordered them to find and store the gold.[10]

Treatment of native people[change | change source]

On the day he landed in the Bahamas, Columbus wrote about the Arawaks and Taíno:

They ought to make good and skilled servants, [since] they repeat very quickly whatever we say to them. I think they can very easily be made Christians, for they seem to have no religion ... I will take six of them ... when I [leave, so] they may learn our language ... With 50 men you could subject everyone and make them do what you wished.[11]

Columbus noticed that some of the Arawaks had gold earrings. He took some of them as prisoners and ordered them to lead him to the gold. However, they could not.[12]

According to Encyclopædia Britannica:

Columbus was determined to take back both material and human cargo to his sovereigns [Ferdinand and Isabella] and for himself, and this could be accomplished only if his sailors carried on looting, kidnapping, and other violent acts, especially on Hispaniola.[1]

Second voyage[change | change source]

On September 24, 1493, Columbus left Spain with enough ships, supplies, and men to invade and make Spanish colonies in the New World. He had 17 ships and 1,200 men. These men included soldiers and farmers. There were also priests, whose job was to convert the natives to Christianity.[13]

On this voyage, Columbus explored some of the islands of the Lesser Antilles. He also sailed around most of Hispaniola and explored the sides of Jamaica and Cuba he had not seen on his first voyage.

Then he went back to the Navidad fort. He found the fort burned down. Eleven of the 37 soldiers Columbus left at the fort were buried there. The rest had disappeared. Historians think this happened because of disease and fights with the Arawak people.[14]

Treatment of native people[change | change source]

While Columbus was away from Navidad exploring Jamaica and Cuba, his soldiers stopped working on building a new fort and farms. They made the Arawaks give them food. They also stole things from the Arawaks and raped Arawak women. This made the Arawaks decide to fight back against the Spaniards. Spain had many weapons that the Arawaks had never seen, including steel swords, pikes, crossbows, dogs, and horses. This made it much easier for Spain to win fights against the Arawaks.[15]

Columbus also took revenge against the Arawaks for killing his soldiers at Navidad. He made every native older than 14 give him a certain amount of gold every three months. If a person did not do this, Columbus's men would cut off their hands, and they would bleed to death. Historian Carl Lehrburger says that about 10,000 natives died this way.[16] Columbus also led his soldiers to many different villages in Hispaniola to take them over and make them pay him gold also. If they could not pay the gold, people would be made into slaves or killed.[17]

there was not that much gold on the parts of the island Columbus took over. To avoid getting their hands cut off, many Arawaks tried to run away from Columbus and his men. Columbus's soldiers used dogs to hunt them down and kill them.[12] Bartolomé de las Casas said that the Spanish killed two out of every three native people in the area (though he may have been exaggerating).[17]

Start of the transatlantic slave trade[change | change source]

In February 1495, Columbus started the transatlantic slave trade. He and his soldiers captured about 1,500 Taíno. Only 500 could fit on Columbus's ships, so Columbus told his men they could take any of the rest as slaves. They took 600 and let 400 go. Of the 500 natives that Columbus shipped to Spain as slaves, about 200 died on the trip. Half of the rest were very sick when they arrived. This was the first time people had ever been shipped across the Atlantic Ocean to be sold as slaves.[18]

Michele da Cuneo, a friend of Columbus's, helped capture natives as slaves. In a letter, da Cuneo later wrote that Columbus gave him a captured native woman to rape:[source?]

"... I captured a very beautiful Carib woman, whom the said Lord Admiral [Columbus] gave to me. ... She was unwilling, and [so badly scratched] me with her nails that I wished I had never begun. But ... I then took a piece of rope and whipped her soundly, and she let forth such incredible screams that you would not have believed your ears. Eventually we came to such terms, I assure you, that you would have thought that she had been brought up in a school for whores.[19]

Third voyage[change | change source]

Columbus made another voyage in 1498. King John II of Portugal had said there was a continent to the southwest of the Cape Verde islands. On his third voyage, Columbus wanted to find this continent.[20] Before the voyage, Queen Isabella reminded Columbus that he should treat all of the native people well and make them into Christians.[17]

On that voyage, Columbus sent three ships straight to the West Indies (the Caribbean). He led another three ships: first to two Portuguese islands, then to the Canary Islands, then Cape Verde. From Cape Verde, they sailed to the northern coast of South America and landed in Trinidad. He also explored part of South America and the islands now called Tobago and Grenada.[21]

On August 19, 1498, Columbus returned to Hispaniola. He found that many of the Spanish settlers there were unhappy. They thought there would be more gold in the New World. Some of them had rebelled while he was gone. Columbus had five of the rebellion's leaders hanged. He also tried to make the rest of the settlers happy by giving them land in Hispaniola. The settlers kept sending complaints to Spain. In 1499, Queen Isabella sent a man named Francisco de Bobadilla to Hispaniola. She gave him the power to do whatever he thought he should do. When he arrived in 1500, the first thing he did was to have Columbus arrested and sent back to Spain in chains.[17]

Treatment of native people[change | change source]

When he was trying to make Spanish settlers happy, Columbus started the Encomienda system in Hispaniola. Under this system, Columbus would give a piece of land in Hispaniola to an individual Spanish settler. Sometimes, he would give away a whole native village. Any natives that lived in that area had to work for that Spanish settler. Natives had lived on this land for centuries. Columbus was giving their land away, and then forcing them to work on that land.[17]

Later life[change | change source]

Columbus was arrested in Hispañola, now called Santo Domingo, on August 23, 1500. He was sent to Spain in chains in October 1500. He was released on December 12, 1500, and taken to court.

Luckily, Columbus had important friends, like Dukes, other noblemen, and powerful Italian merchants. These friendships helped him get out of trouble.

Columbus died of heart failure and arthritis in Valladolid, Spain, at the possible age of 54.

Personal life[change | change source]

Columbus's relatives said that Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy. Some think he was originally a Jew who converted to Christianity.[1]

Columbus wrote that he first went to sea when he was 14 years old.[22]

In 1477, Columbus married Felipa Moniz Perestrelo. She was from a semi-noble family with connections to sailing. She died around 1479 or 1480 while giving birth to their son, Diego.[23]

In 1485, while in Córdoba, Spain, Columbus met Beatriz Enríquez de Trasierra. They lived together for a while. They had one child named Fernando.[24]

Columbus's goals[change | change source]

Columbus had a few different goals for his journeys to the New World. He believed he could find a shorter and easier route to Asia, which made things Europe did not. He believed he could find a shorter route to China. Other people had called this belief absurd. Columbus wanted to prove these people wrong.[25]

Columbus wanted to find gold. Gold was the main kind of money used in Columbus's times. In his letter to Spain's King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, Columbus wrote: “Gold is most excellent; gold is treasure, and [the person] who [has] it does all he wishes to in this world."[26] This means that someone with gold can do anything he wants to do. Many historians believe that Columbus wanted to become a powerful person – and to become powerful, he needed to find gold.[source?]

After Columbus[change | change source]

When the Spanish learned about the New World, many conquistadors, or conquerors, went there. This led to the Spanish colonization of the Americas.

The Spanish conquistadors settled on the islands of Hispaniola; the Dominican Republic, Haiti), Cuba, and Puerto Rico. They grabbed as much gold as they could. The Spanish also brought priests and forced the Native Americans to convert to Christianity.

Legacy[change | change source]

In the United States, Columbus Day is a holiday that celebrates Columbus's arrival in the New World on October 12, 1492.[27]

The World's Columbian Exposition, which happened in 1893 in Chicago, Illinois, was held to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus visiting the Americas.[28]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Flint, Valerie I.J. (February 11, 2016). "Christopher Columbus". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. http://www.britannica.com/biography/Christopher-Columbus. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  2. Bulygin, Eugenio; Gardies, Jean-Louis; Niiniluoto, I. (June 30, 1985). Man, Law and Modern Forms of Life. Springer Science and Business Media. p. 111. ISBN 978-9027718693.
  3. Russell Freedom. Interview with Eric Weiner. Coming to America: Who Was First?. NPR. October 8, 2007. Assessed on April 20, 2016.
  4. Johansen, Bruce E.; Pritzker, Barry M. (July 23, 2007). Encyclopedia of American Indian History. ABC-CLIO. p. 451. ISBN 978-1851098187. "The term “Paleo-Indians” describes the earliest inhabitants of North America (ca. 10,000–8,000 BCE)."
  5. Ferbel, Peter J. (2000). The Indigenous People of the Caribbean (review). Ethnohistory 47 (3-4): 816-818. "The indigenous people of the Caribbean … migrated from Central America some six thousand years ago."
  6. Columbus Day. The History Channel Website. Retrieved Jan 28, 2013.http://www.history.com/topics/columbus-day
  7. Gould, Richard A. (2000). Archaeology and the Social History of Ships. Cambridge University Press. p. 206. ISBN 978-0521567893.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Phillips, William D.; Phillips, Carla Rahn (1992). The Worlds of Christopher Columbus. Cambridge University Press. pp. 143–145. ISBN 978-0-521-44652-5.
  9. "Christopher Columbus." Explorers & Discoverers of the World. Gale, 1993. Gale Biography In Context. Web. 5 Feb. 2013.
  10. Chacon, Richard J.; Mendoza, Ruben G. (2007). Latin American Indigenous Warfare and Ritual Violence. University of Arizona Press. pp. 95-96. ISBN 978-0816525270.
  11. Tinker, George E. (1993). Missionary Conquest: The Gospel and Native American Cultural Genocide. Fortress Press. p. 8. ISBN 978-1451408409.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Zinn, Howard (2003). A People's History of the United States. New York: HarperCollins. pp. 1–22. ISBN 0-06-052837-0.
  13. Baccus, M. Kazim (2000). Utilization, Misuse, and Development of Human Resources in the Early West Indian Colonies. Wilfrid Laurier University Press. pp. 6-7. ISBN 978-0-88920-982-4
  14. Chacon, Richard J.; Mendoza, Ruben G. (2007). Latin American Indigenous Warfare and Ritual Violence. University of Arizona Press. pp. 95-96. ISBN 978-0816525270.
  15. Lineman, Dana; Ward, Kyle (April 1, 2006). History Lessons: How Textbooks from Around the World Portray U.S. History. The New Press. pp. 10-12. ISBN 978-1595580825.
  16. Lehrburger, Carl (2015). Secrets of Ancient America: Archaeoastronomy and the Legacy of the Phoenicians, Celts, and Other Forgotten Explorers. Inner Traditions International. pp. 19-23. ISBN 978-1591431930.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 17.4 Traboulay, David M. (1994). Columbus and Las Casas: The Conquest and Christianization of America, 1492–1566. University Press of America. pp.26-28. ISBN 978-0819196422.
  18. Meltzer, Milton (1971). Slavery: A World History. Da Capo Press. p. 6. ISBN 978-0306805363.
  19. Cohen, J.M. (1969). The Four Voyages of Christopher Columbus. New York: Penguin. p. 139. ISBN 978-0-14-044217-5.
  20. Morison, Samuel Eliot (1963). Journals & Other Documents on the Life & Voyages of Christopher Columbus. New York: The Heritage Press. p. 262. ASIN B002KR8WPQ.
  21. Joseph, Edward Lanza (1838). History of Trinidad. The British Library. pp.124-126.
  22. Stobaugh, James (2012). World History. Master Books. p.175. ISBN 978-0890516485.
  23. Hume, Robert (1992). Christopher Columbus and the European Discovery of America. Gracewing Publishing. pp. 19-20. ISBN 978-0852442111.
  24. Beding, Silvio A. (2016). The Chrstopher Columbus Encyclopedia. Springer. p.24. ISBN 978-1349125739.
  25. Daniels, Patricia; Hyslop, Stephen Garrison; & Brinkley, Douglas (2011). "Navigating the Globe: 1492 – 1522.". National Geographic Almanac of World History. National Geographic Books. pp. 184-185. ISBN 978-1426208904.
  26. Franzosi, Roberto (2004). From Words to Numbers: Narrative, Data, and Social Science. Cambridge University Press. p. 140. ISBN 978-0521541459.
  27. http://www.history.com/topics/columbus-day
  28. "Bird's-Eye View of the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893". World Digital Library. 1893. http://www.wdl.org/en/item/11369/. Retrieved 2013-07-17.