between 25 August and 31 October 1451 – 20 May 1506) was an Italian explorer and navigator who completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean, opening the way for European exploration and colonization of the Americas. His expeditions, sponsored by the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, were the first European contact with the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.
Scholars generally agree that Columbus was born in the Republic of Genoa and spoke a dialect of Ligurian as his first language. He went to sea at a young age and travelled widely, as far north as the British Isles and as far south as what is now Ghana. He married Portuguese noblewoman Filipa Moniz Perestrelo and was based in Lisbon for several years, but later took a Castilian mistress; he had one son with each woman. Though largely self-educated, Columbus was widely read in geography, astronomy, and history. He formulated a plan to seek a western sea passage to the East Indies, hoping to profit from the lucrative spice trade. Following Columbus’s persistent lobbying to multiple kingdoms, Catholic monarchs Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand II agreed to sponsor a journey west. Columbus left Castile in August 1492 with three ships, and made landfall in the Americas on 12 October (ending the period of human habitation in the Americas now referred to as the pre-Columbian era). His landing place was an island in the Bahamas, known by its native inhabitants as Guanahani. Columbus subsequently visited the islands now known as Cuba and Hispaniola, establishing a colony in what is now Haiti. This was the first European settlement in the Americas since the Norse colonies begun some 500 years earlier. Columbus returned to Castile in early 1493, bringing a number of captured natives with him. Word of his voyages soon spread throughout Europe.
Columbus made three further voyages to the New World, exploring the Lesser Antilles in 1493, Trinidad and the northern coast of South America in 1498, and the eastern coast of Central America in 1502. Many of the names he gave to geographical features—particularly islands—are still in use. He continued to seek a passage to the East Indies, and the extent to which he was aware that the Americas were a wholly separate landmass is uncertain. He never clearly renounced his belief that he had reached the Far East and gave the name indios (“Indians”) to the indigenous peoples he encountered. As a colonial governor, Columbus was accused by his contemporaries of significant brutality and was soon removed from the post. Columbus’s strained relationship with the Crown of Castile and its appointed colonial administrators in America led to his arrest and removal from Hispaniola in 1500, and later to protracted litigation over the benefits that he and his heirs claimed were owed to them by the crown. Columbus’s expeditions inaugurated a period of exploration, conquest, and colonization that lasted for centuries, helping create the modern Western world. The transfers between the Old World and New World that followed his first voyage are known as the Columbian exchange.
Columbus was widely venerated in the centuries after his death, but public perception has fractured in recent decades as scholars give greater attention to the harm committed under his governance, particularly the near-extermination of Hispaniola’s indigenous Taíno population from mistreatment and European diseases, as well as their enslavement. Proponents of the Black Legend theory of histor claim that Columbus has been unfairly maligned as part of a wider anti-Catholic sentiment. Many landmarks and institutions in the Western Hemisphere bear his name, including the country of Colombia and the District of Columbia.
Further information on Columbus’s birthplace and family background: Origin theories of Christopher Columbus
The name Christopher Columbus is the Anglicisation of the Latin Cristophorus Columbus. His name in Ligurian is Cristoffa Corombo, in Italian Cristoforo Colombo, and in Spanish Cristóbal Colón. He was born between 25 August and 31 October 1451 in the territory of the Republic of Genoa (now part of modern Italy), though the exact location remains disputed. His father was Domenico Colombo,a wool weaver who worked both in Genoa and Savona and who also owned a cheese stand at which young Christopher worked as a helper. His mother was Susanna Fontanarossa.He had three brothers—Bartolomeo, Giovanni Pellegrino, and Giacomo (also called Diego), as well as a sister named Bianchinetta His brother Bartolomeo worked in a cartography workshop in Lisbon for at least part of his adulthood.
Columbus never wrote in his native language, which is presumed to have been a Genoese variety of Ligurian: his name in the 16th-century Genoese language would have been Cristoffa Corombo (Ligurian pronunciation: . In one of his writings, he says he went to sea at the age of 10. In 1470, the Columbus family moved to Savona, where Domenico took over a tavern. In the same year, Christopher was on a Genoese ship hired in the service of René of Anjou to support his attempt to conquer the Kingdom of Naples. Some modern authors have argued that he was not from Genoa but, instead, from the Aragon region of Spain or from Portugal. These competing hypotheses have generally been discounted by mainstream scholars.
In 1473, Columbus began his apprenticeship as business agent for the important Centurione, Di Negro and Spinola families of Genoa. Later, he allegedly made a trip to Chios, an Aegean island then ruled by Genoa. In May 1476, he took part in an armed convoy sent by Genoa to carry valuable cargo to northern Europe. He probably docked in Bristol, England, and Galway, Ireland. He may have also gone to Iceland in 1477. It is known that in the autumn of 1477, he sailed on a Portuguese ship from Galway to Lisbon, where he found his brother Bartolomeo, and they continued trading for the Centurione family. Columbus based himself in Lisbon from 1477 to 1485. He married Filipa Moniz Perestrelo, daughter of the Porto Santo governor and Portuguese nobleman of Lombard origin Bartolomeu Perestrello.
In 1479 or 1480, his son Diego Columbus was born. Between 1482 and 1485, Columbus traded along the coasts of West Africa, reaching the Portuguese trading post of Elmina at the Guinea coast (in present-day Ghana). Before 1484, Columbus returned to Porto Santo to find that his wife had died. He returned to Portugal to settle her estate and take his son Diego with him. He left Portugal for Castile in 1485, where he found a mistress in 1487, a 20-year-old orphan named Beatriz Enríquez de Arana. It is likely that Beatriz met Columbus when he was in Córdoba, a gathering site of many Genoese merchants and where the court of the Catholic Monarchs was located at intervals. Beatriz, unmarried at the time, gave birth to Columbus’s natural son Fernando Columbus in July 1488, named for the monarch of Aragon. Columbus recognized the boy as his offspring. Columbus entrusted his older, legitimate son Diego to take care of Beatriz and pay the pension set aside for her following his death, but Diego was negligent in his duties. Columbus’s copy of The Travels of Marco Polo, with his handwritten notes in Latin written on the margins
Ambitious, Columbus eventually learned Latin, Portuguese, and Castilian. He read widely about astronomy, geography, and history, including the works of Claudius Ptolemy, Pierre Cardinal d’Ailly‘s Imago Mundi, the travels of Marco Polo and Sir John Mandeville, Pliny‘s Natural History, and Pope Pius II‘s Historia Rerum Ubique Gestarum. According to historian Edmund Morgan,
Columbus was not a scholarly man. Yet he studied these books, made hundreds of marginal notations in them and came out with ideas about the world that were characteristically simple and strong and sometimes wrong …
Throughout his life, Columbus also showed a keen interest in the Bible and in Biblical prophecies, often quoting biblical texts in his letters and logs. For example, part of the argument that he submitted to the Spanish Catholic Monarchs when he sought their support for his proposed expedition to reach the Indies by sailing west was based on his reading of the Second Book of Esdras (Ezra): see 2 Esdras 6:42, which he took to mean that the Earth is made of six parts of land to one of water. Towards the end of his life, he produced a Book of Prophecies in which his career as an explorer is interpreted in the light of Christian eschatology and of apocalypticism.
Carol Delaney has argued that Columbus was a millennialist and that these beliefs motivated his quest for Asia in a variety of ways. Columbus wrote often about seeking gold in the diaries of his voyages and writes about acquiring the precious metal “in such quantity that the sovereigns… will undertake and prepare to go conquer the Holy Sepulcher”. In an account of his fourth voyage, Columbus wrote that “Jerusalem and Mount Sion must be rebuilt by Christian hands”. It has also been written that “conversion of all people to the Christian faith” is a central theme in Columbus’s writings which is a central tenet of some Millenarian beliefs. In a more specific identification of his motivations, Hamandi writes that the “deliverance of Jerusalem from Muslim hands” could be accomplished by “using the resources of newly discovered lands”.