Why is Columbus given credit for finding the New World? 

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Christopher Columbus is given credit for discovering the New World because it was his voyage in 1492 that was most consequential for Europeans.  Of course, Columbus did not “discover” the New World.  It had already been “discovered” by the people who became the Native Americans.  Furthermore, it was “discovered” by Vikings who landed in what is now Canada sometime around 1000 AD and built at least temporary settlements in Newfoundland.  However, none of this was very important for Europeans as a group. 

When Columbus’s expedition reached the New World, it changed European (and world) history forever in a way that the earlier “discoveries” did not.  The Norse settlements in the New World did not last long and did not lead to any sort of sustained contact between Europe and the New World.  They certainly did not lead to the colonization of the Americas and the transfer of huge amounts of wealth to Europe.

It was only with Columbus’s voyage that European history was really changed.  Because Columbus was the leader of and the driving force behind the expedition, he is given credit for “discovering” the New World.

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