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Christopher Columbus

History | 9-14 yrs | Animation, Video

Christopher Columbus was born on 31 October 1451 in Genoa, northwestern Italy. He was an explorer, colonizer and navigator. His father Domenico Colombo was a wool weaver who worked both in Genoa and Savona.

His mother was Susanna Fontanarossa who belonged to a very noble family in Lisbon, Portugal. Domenico taught Christopher the skills necessary to follow him into the import and exporting of woven textiles as well as the wine trade.

With his father’s help, Columbus though not scholarly, read books which would serve him well later in life on astronomy, geography and navigation. As a young man, Columbus sailed the Mediterranean, looking after the family business.

In 1476, after six years of being in the trade, Columbus was in the quest to lead a more adventurous life. He travelled to Lisbon and started working for Genoese companies trading with northern Europe. Two years later, he fell in love and married Felipa who gave him his first son, Diego. It is said that Felipa died tragically after giving birth to Diego. Columbus grieved over the passing of his wife, and gave her the best possible funeral he could afford.

In 1484, Columbus approached the Portuguese king, Joao II to help fund an exploration. King Joao’s experts however disagreed with Columbus and denied him his request. The following year, Columbus left Portugal and decided to ask for support from the Spanish King and Queen, Ferdinand and Isabella.

Columbus convinced Queen Isabella that he would find gold that could pay for a crusade to free Jerusalem from the Sacrens (name given to Arabs or Muslims then). Through the funding from the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, he completed four successful voyages across the Atlantic Ocean.

During his first voyage in 1492, instead of reaching Japan as intended, Columbus landed in the Bahamas, at a locale he named San Salvador. Columbus through his voyages visited the Greater and Lesser Antilles, as well as the Caribbean coast of Venezuela and Central America, claiming them for the Spanish Empire.

Columbus was not the first explorer to reach the Americas but his voyages certainly led to the first lasting European contact with America. This initiated a period of European exploration and colonization of foreign lands that lasted for several centuries. The Spaniards therefore had a great impact in the historical development of the modern Western world.

Columbus saw his accomplishments primarily in the light of spreading the Christian religion, though it is also said that he had a hunger for amassing wealth.

Columbus’ strained ties with the Spanish crown led to his arrest and dismissal. Columbus died on 20 May, 1506 fighting with the Spaniards over the benefits which Columbus and his heirs claimed were owed to them by the crown.

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