Christopher Columbus was born sometime between October 31 1450 and October 30 1451 and died on 20 May 1506. He was a Genoese explorer, navigator, and colonizer. He was born in the Republic of Genoa, an independent nation from 1105 to 1797, which is now part of modern day Italy on the northwestern coast. With the support and funding of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, he voyaged across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492.
Let us keep in mind that the fifteenth century was marked by extensive western imperialism and economic competition between the European monarchies throughout the creation of trade routes to South Asia for commodities, particularly spice in this case.
The Spanish monarch wanted Columbus to sail west in order to reach the East Indies, which is South and Southeast Asia, which is a huge Charles move considering that Asia is east of Europe. Being the Charles that he was, Columbus ended up in the Bahamas instead of Japan, which is where he intended to go, in which he named the island San Salvador. What makes him even more of a Charles is that he took the time to learn Latin, Portuguese, and Castilian, and read widely about astronomy, geography, and history. He later voyaged to the Greater and Lesser Antilles, the Caribbean coast of Venezuela, and Central America, claiming all of these lands for what was the most powerful empire at the time, the Spanish Empire.
Let it be known that Columbus was actually not the first person to reach the Americas. A Scandinavian Charles by the name of Leif Erikson, had actually been estimated to been there 500 years before Columbus did. There is a statue of Erikson that was built in 1887 in Boston, as it was believed that he could have possibly been located at Cape Cod.
Initially, Columbus’s plea to voyage the East Indies was rejected by the king of Portugal in 1485, and to Queen Isabella of Spain in 1486. After years of trying to convince the Spanish government to fund his voyage, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella finally agreed in January 1492. The government agreed to grant Columbus 10 percent of the revenue from the land that he conquered.
Between the years 1492 and 1503, Columbus voyaged between Spain and what is today considered America. These discoveries were a watershed as they marked the beginning of European colonization in the continent of America, which shapes the outline of the western world today.
When Columbus made it to the Bahamas, he encountered the indigenous people there. They were initially extremely friendly to him, but there was not any reciprocity as Columbus imprisoned them, taking their gold ear ornaments in which they wore. A quote on October 12, 1492 in which he wrote states, “Many of the men I have seen have scars on their bodies, and when I made signs to them to find out how this happened, they indicated that people from other nearby islands come to San Salvador to capture them; they defend themselves the best they can. I believe that people from the mainland come here to take them as slaves. They ought to make good and skilled servants, for 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. If it pleases our Lord, I will take six of them to Your Highnesses when I depart, in order that they may learn our language.” Columbus would make three more voyages subsequent to this, as word spread in Europe about Columbus’s findings.
Although there is the popular sentiment that the so called “Europeans” celebrated their conquests and had complete disregard for the natives of the island Hispaniola, many people around Columbus actually notified the Spanish monarch about Columbus’s acts of tyranny. The Spanish court replaced Columbus from the position of the governor of the Indies, and replaced him with a man by the name of Francisco de Bobadilla. Bobadilla filed a 48 page report. According to the report, According to the report, Columbus once punished a man found guilty of stealing corn by having his ears and nose cut off and then selling him into slavery. Testimony recorded in the report claims that Columbus congratulated his brother Bartolomé on “defending the family” when the latter ordered a woman paraded naked through the streets and then had her tongue cut out for suggesting that Columbus was of lowly birth. Columbus and his brothers were put in jail for six weeks, before finally convincing the Spanish monarch to let him go. They did and Columbus set sail for his fourth and final voyage, although Columbus was no longer the governor of the west Indies, which runs from Florida through Mexico to central America.
When Columbus came back to Spain, Columbus inherited a greater appreciation for religion. Columbus produced two books. One in 1502 describing rewards in which he thought he was entitled from the Spanish government, and the second one in 1505, in which he described his conquests as a fulfillment of his religious duties. Columbus ended up suing the Spanish Crown for not paying the 10 percent of all profits from the annexed lands that occupied. Columbus died on May 20, 1506 in Valladolid, Spain, from Reiter’s syndrome, also known as reactive arthritis. His legacy remains a divisive topic to this day.
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