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Christopher Columbus

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Essay title: Christopher Columbus

“When asked by an anthropologist what the Indians called America before the white man came, an Indian said simply, ‘Ours.’" Christopher Columbus was always thought as a brave man who discovered America, but does this tell the entire story? The real Columbus may not be the person people once thought he was.

Events that may have influenced Columbus

Century long conflicts between the Christians and Muslims greatly impacted Columbus. In 1415 the Portuguese invaded North Africa in an attempt to destroy Islam by destroying its commercial empire, Ceuta. The conquering of Ceuta later led to the exploration of Africa and the finding of a passage around the southern tip of Africa. The exploration affected Columbus because the Portuguese no longer needed another passage to Asia. The fall of Constantinople in 1453 also affected Columbus. The Islamic Empire captured the city from the Christians, which affected Columbus’ home city of Genoa, Italy. The war was basically happening in Genoa’s “backyard.” The lost colonies in the eastern Mediterranean were a major calamity to a seafaring city. The Genoese now had to look to the western Mediterranean for trade. Because of the war in Constantinople, many Italians immigrated to the west, including Columbus himself.

Early Life

Many historians believe Christopher Columbus was born between August 25th and October 31st, 1451 in Genoa, Italy. His parents are believed to be Domenico Colombo, a wool weaver, and Suzanna Fontanarossa, a daughter of a wool weaver. Columbus was the eldest of five children and would remain closest to his brother Bartolomeo. Little is known about the education Columbus received as a child, but historians do know that Italian schools taught basic reading and writing. At a time where sons were expected to follow their fathers in the family business, it was also natural for many men living near the seas to turn to the seas for a career and that is what Columbus did. Columbus started off as an apprentice at the age of 14, and it is believed that he served as the messenger, ship’s boy, or a common sailor. In 1474 Columbus was hired as an ordinary sailor on a ship bound for Chios in the Aegean Sea. This was the first long voyage from his home and he gained economic independence from his family. A historian states, “The great irony is that his trip to the Aegean island brought him the closest he would ever get to Asia.” On August 13, 1476, a Genoese commercial expedition of five ships bound for England gave Columbus his first opportunity to sail into the Atlantic Ocean. After passing the Strait of Gibraltar without fault, the fleet came under attack by French privateers. Columbus, one of the unfortunate ones whose ship was burned, had no choice and had to swim to shore. He swam six miles to get to shore and regained his strength in the Port of Lagos without money, Columbus made his way to Lisbon’s large Genoese community of merchants and ship builders. By 1477 Columbus lived in Lisbon and soon his brother Bartolomeo would be also, working as a mapmaker and studying geography. In Lisbon Columbus received his first commission sailing for Italian merchants in 1477. Other voyages followed, but he did have time to meet and marry Felipa Perestrello e Moniz. Though the father Bartolomeo Perestrello was deceased by the time Felipa and Columbus met, the family was a respected, though relatively poor, noble family. Bartolomeo was a hereditary governor originally appointed by Prince Henry to Porto Santo in the Madeiras Islands. He had also been a great sailor. After Columbus’ son Diego was born in 1480, the family moved to Madeira. It is believed that Columbus’ wife died soon after. The next couple of years are filled with voyages, and in 1482, Columbus sailed to El Mina in Africa. Historians believe that there Columbus observed a fast paced river of water in the ocean called the Canary Current. They also believe that this could be the reason why Columbus decided to start his voyage to the new world near the Canaries.

Getting Ready for 1492

Columbus’ plan of sailing west to go east is called his “Enterprise of the Indies.” Columbus had set up a complete plan for his voyage to the west. Because of his marriage to Felipa Perestrello, Columbus had gained access to his father in law’s collection of maps and charts of the ocean. This helped him gain more knowledge of the sea. In the 15th century royal sponsorship was needed to fund an expedition. Columbus’ decision to seek the Portuguese’ sponsorship seemed like a good one because they had encouraged explorations for a while and the present monarch King John II was very interested in finding a route to the east. When Columbus approached the King with his idea, he passed it to his council who later denied

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