Story of Christopher Columbus
The discovery of the Americas is often credited to Columbus, even though American Indians had been living there for quite some time. Even before the native Americans, Norse explorers landed on the continent 500 years before Columbus. Regardless of who found the Americas first, Columbus should definitely be credited for starting the age of exploration. As well as popularizing the Americas and the “treasures” encased by it. Columbus was often complimented for being a master of navigation, and his skills were the main reason he was the first European explorer to discover the “new” land. Columbus’s discovery of this incredible land started a new chapter in human history.
Many speculations revolve around how different our world would be if Columbus never found the Americas. Regardless of the incredible feat achieved by Columbus, there were many terrible things that followed. Most people are happy where we are in the human timeline, but don’t realize how we came to be. At the time, Columbus was considered one of the best navigators on the planet. The first European explorer to find a new, un-discovered land. “His journeys sparked the beginning of centuries of transatlantic colonization”. Columbus was originally trying to find a direct water route from Europe to Asia.
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Like I mentioned earlier, Columbus was considered an incredible navigator. Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile listened to Columbus’s proposal and were awed by the thoughts of fame and fortune. Columbus set off on his adventure in 1942. Little did anyone think, Columbus stumbled upon something unthinkable at the time, more than 9,525,067 total sq. km of “undiscovered” land. To Spain and much of Europe this was an incredible discovery. New land meant new goods, spices, and precious metals. In this age these were extremely valuable and guided many explorers towards massive wealth. New plants, animals, and food also brought the same excitement. These discoveries fueled more and more expeditions to the new world. Along with all of the new discoveries came new knowledge and techniques as well. In this era traditional portolan charts were used for almost all expeditions. Due to the massive increase in excursions, nautical maps were developed, and posed a massive advantage over the outdated portolan maps. These new maps meant easier and more efficient navigation, encouraging the continuation of silk and spice trading. This trading was a massive industry and was the main reason for the first European expeditions. The industry was booming, and the discovery of the Americas revealed a trading “gold mine”.
The biggest challenge in the trading industry was trying to avoid hostile armies and the terrible conditions on the silk road. While there was another route that avoided hostile armies, it added an incredible amount of time. Going all the way around Africa was simply not going to keep up with the industry need for these goods. Then the discovery of the Americas introduced great potential for a new trade route. Because of the amazing opportunity for trading and new beginnings people came from all over the world to settle in North America. Even with all of the positives attached to the discovery of the Americas, arguably it is one of the darkest times in history. An incredible discovery often comes with very dark undertones.
In the case of Columbus, his actions during the age of exploration have made us question if we should even celebrate him at all. One of the first things Columbus did when arriving in the Americas was enslave the indigenous people he came across. If he wasn’t enslaving them, he was forcing them to covert to Christianity. When encountering natives during his expeditions, Columbus was notorious for treating them as obstacles and would not let them get in his way. This era was a time of growing slavery, and Columbus and his men were no exceptions. In the west indies Columbus was exceptionally brutal and violent towards the indigenous people. The fact that trading was a booming industry was extremely unfortunate for the natives, Columbus capitalized on enslaving them to maximize profits. These actions continue to spark debate regarding the celebration of Columbus and the fact that there is a federal holiday in his name.
One of the most depressing actions committed by Columbus was when he encountered the peaceful Taino Indians. They resided on the island of Hispaniola, and Columbus promptly enslaved them and shipped them to Spain, where the vast majority died in-route. According to History.com “Within 60 years after Columbus landed, only a few hundred of what may have been 250,000 Taino were left on their island.” When these horror stories began to circle around many natives began to revolt against Columbus and his men. In response, he ordered the decimation of an incredible number of natives, and that their dismembered bodies be paraded through the streets.
The story of Christopher Columbus has grown slowly over time, with every released detail lowering his credibility. In 2005 Spanish historians released the studies showing his brutal decimation and dismemberment of the natives. This study caused a large outcry and people began to question the legitimacy of a man once seen as the father of exploration. While at the time no one can deny his importance to the course of human history and North America, his methods and morality spark an important debate. Without Columbus it’s impossible to predict where North America would be now. Most of the first countries that were found and pillaged are, to this day, developing third world countries.
In contrast, the more important discoveries, like North America, were the most sought after. Now, these important discoveries are some of the most powerful countries on the planet. His actions towards the indigenous people are undoubtably horrifying. Historians even consider his introduction of new diseases, bacteria, and wildlife, biological warfare. In my opinion his discovery of the Americas ultimately did benefit North America. Without Columbus, it is inevitable that another European explorer would have found the new world. If this explorer chose to do things differently, we may have a different population of indigenous people, or less third world countries. Ultimately, most of history is riddled with terrible, important people. Yet without the advancements these individuals made the Americas and history as we know it could be drastically different.