According to the agreement between Columbus and the King and Queen of Spain, why did Ferdinand and Isabella support Columbus’s voyage?

Reasons why the King and Queen of Spain supported Columbus's voyage include that they hoped to find a new route to the Spice Islands and that they sought trading advantages over the Portuguese.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In addition to the answers included by the other Educators, I will mention that King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain hoped to find a route to the Spice Islands that did not directly compete with the Portuguese. For decades, the Portuguese had been sending out voyages of exploration south...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

In addition to the answers included by the other Educators, I will mention that King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain hoped to find a route to the Spice Islands that did not directly compete with the Portuguese. For decades, the Portuguese had been sending out voyages of exploration south along the west coast of Africa. They hoped to find their own sea route to the Spice Islands and cut out the expensive overland route that they had relied on for centuries. In 1488, they appeared to be nearing their goal when Bartolomeu Dias became the first European to go around the southern tip of Africa and into the Indian Ocean. Indeed, only a few years later, Vasco de Gama would reach India.

In 1492, Spain, though newly reunified after centuries of Moorish rule, was still not ready to go head to head with its Portuguese neighbors. But the Spanish still hoped to find a way to bolster their economy with some sort of new wealth. That is why they liked Columbus's idea of sailing west across the Atlantic Ocean to find their very own route to the source of spices. If they could establish their own trade routes, they would be able to reap the rewards of the spice trade without directly competing with the Portuguese.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Spanish kingdoms of Castille and Aragon had recently united under the two monarchs—Ferdinand and Isabella were searching for national prestige. By creating a fast track to Asian spices, Spain would become rich and powerful. Spain would also reap the benefits of any other materials obtained from the voyage. Compared to other European nations, Spain did not have as many natural resources. Overseas colonization would give future Spanish explorers a place to build wealth for the mother country as well as for themselves.

There were also religious connotations to the voyage. The two Spanish monarchs sought to make Catholic converts of any people Columbus encountered. Spain had recently won its war against the Moorish kingdoms of North Africa and was looking for reinforcements against what it regarded as the twin evils of Islam and heresy.

There was also the cost-to-benefit ratio of the trip. It was well known that navigators from the Italian city-states were among the best in Europe. If Columbus was successful, he could make the Spain the richest country in Europe. If he failed, it would only lead to the loss of an Italian explorer, his three ships, and his crew. Spain had more to gain than it had to lose from the voyage.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Isabella and Ferdinand were concerned that their nearby rival, Portugal would dominate the lucrative trade with the Orient if they did not do something to counter the Portuguese. Portuguese explorer Dias had travelled by sea around the tip of Africa to the Orient, and the Spanish were thus motivated to find another, shorter sea route in order to access that rich section of the world. When Columbus came to them, arguing that he could travel west across the Atlantic and arrive at the Orient, they financed his journey in return for a considerable share of any profits. Obviously, none of them knew they were going to bump into a new continent. Also, because they had completed the reconquest of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella had resources free to devote to this project and the foresight to understand that trade with Asia was of growing importance to European economies. 

As to their agreement, Columbus agreed that he would declare Spain ruling power over any regions he discovered and would share the profits of his adventures with them. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There were several reasons why King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella supported the voyage of Columbus. There was a belief that a shorter route to Asia existed. Spain had a strong interest in trading with Asia. If they could discover a shorter route to Asia, it would give Spain an advantage in trading with Asia.

There also was the possibility the Columbus might discover places that were rich in minerals and resources. According to their agreement with Columbus, Spain would keep most of any minerals that were discovered. Thus, Spain had an opportunity to improve its finances and its economy if Columbus was successful.

The main religion in Spain was the Catholic religion. They had a strong interest in spreading Christianity to any land they controlled. If Columbus would discover new lands, he would claim them for Spain. Then, Spain could spread Christianity to these new lands through the work of missionaries.

The King and Queen of Spain sponsored Columbus because they believed Spain would benefit from his voyages. They also knew they would also benefit personally if he was successful. While there were risks, there were also opportunities for many rewards.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Ferdinand and Isabella agreed to fund Columbus’ expedition when no other monarch did. Why did they do this? The Spanish monarchs had just retaken Spain from the Muslims, and refused to trade with them. Ever since Constantinople fell in 1453, trade with the Indies was controlled by the Muslims, and they tacked on their percentage whenever a trade took place.

The Spanish royal couple realized that if Columbus was correct, they would have access to a new trade route that was shorter and safer than any other trade route to the indies. They would more or less replace the Muslims as the new middlemen as far as trade with the Indies was concerned, and the potential riches that would result were astronomical.

Despite concerns from their own advisors, they decided to outfit Columbus with three ships and enough money to send him west in 1492.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team