Columbus’ Voyages and Legacy

Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer who many people today claimed he had “discovered” the americas. But he indeed was not the first person to step foot on these lands, and instead of being a hero, became partially blamed for opening up the americas to the Europeans.

Christopher Columbus was born October 31, 1451 in Genoa Italy. During his early teen years, he got his first job on a merchant ship, where he got the idea of becoming an explorer. Towards the end of the 15th century, when it was nearly impossible to reach Asia by land, many Portugal explorers would set sail, taking a long, hard route. But Columbus thought of an easier route to take. He thought sailing west across the Atlantic instead of around Africa, would be much more proficient, and easier to reach Asia. After presenting his idea to others, and being rejected multiple times, in 1491, he presented his idea to the Spanish monarchs, Isabella and Ferdinand. Isabella and Ferdinand agreed to support his expedition, leaving Columbus to sign a contract allowing him to keep 10% of whatever riches he found, along with a noble title and govenship of any land he encounters. Then on August 3, 1492, Columbus and his crew set sail to Asia. Columbus finally reaches what he thought was Asia but what was actually one of the Bahamian islands, on October 12. When first reaching the island, Columbus and his crew met a group of native who were open to trade. They exchanged cotton balls, parrots, glass beads, and spears. Columbus then continued his journey across the different islands meeting with leaders of different native populations. Columbus spent months looking for any sort of treasures he could find, but returned to Spain with almost nothing. He made a second voyage in September of 1493, forcing a forced labor policy over the native populations to help him explore for gold. His actions did cause him to produce some gold, but also caused problems between the population. Before his return to Spain, Columbus left his two brothers to govern the settlement, while he himself was convinced he discovered the outer edges of China. Columbus then returned with native slaves for Queen Isabella, trying to please her from his expedition. Isabella, who was mildly against the idea of slavery, was in fact furious with what Columbus had brought back, and claimed that these people were Spanish subjects who could not be enslaved. So, Columbus returned yet a third time in May 1498, to return the Spanish subjects. Once returning, he discovered the settling colonist staged a rebellion against Columbus’s brothers. Due to these terrible conditions, and of how poorly Columbus treated these native people, a Spanish royal official arrested Columbus, and stripped him of his noble authority, leading Columbus to return to Spain in chains. By 1506, most of the significant charges were dropped from his previous actions, and Columbus convinced the king and queen to sponsor one more trip across the Atlantic. On his final destination, he made it to panama, where there he faces an attack from hostile natives. Once again, he returned to Spain empty handed. Columbus spent the last years of his life trying to regain his noble title, and he died on May 20, 1506, due to severe arthritis, still believing he had discovered a shorter and easier route to Asia.

So, although Columbus did not “discover” the Americas, he did leave a very important legacy. His journey across the Atlantic caused many more centuries filled with exploration of the americas. But he also led many consequences, some good, some bad, with the land he conquered. Columbus and his crew brought many diseases, plants, animals and cultural traits to the native population, which over time, changed their entire environment. So, since Columbus was not the first person to discover America, and we now know that there were many generations of people there before him, many people do not think he did anything to impact our present day culture. But Columbus did in fact, open a new exploration of the new world, and open and new form of trade between Europeans and the Americans.

Many still argue today whether they believe Columbus should be known as a villain or a hero. But present day life without Columbus’s hope in finding Asia, and his mistake in actually finding the americas, impacts us more than many think. I personally think that without Columbus’s actions, and his many attempts to reach Asia, America and Europe would not have formed their new method of trade, which resulted in many new goods for our country, and which possibly could have led to many new present day inventions. Many animals and even diseases were exported by the Europeans to America. Animals such as horses, cattle, sheep, goats, chicken, large dogs were all exported from Columbus and his crew, which we as Americans, developed into our daily life over time. Even diseases like smallpox, influenza, measles, and even chicken pox, were all brought to us due to Columbus making his voyage. So, without Columbus mistaking America for Asia, we might not have had any of the present day animals, diseases, and maybe even tools, or inventions that we have today. Columbus did do a lot to help develop our country over time, and life today would truly be different without him, and his discovery.

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