What was Christopher Columbus' motivation to go to the New World?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Columbus's motivation for his voyage was to reach Asia by sailing west. Neither he nor his backers (nor the people who thought his voyage ill-advised) knew that he would reach the "New World" by sailing west. By reaching Asia, he hoped to find a direct route to the markets of Asia, especially the spice islands. Direct trade with merchants there could be fabulously lucrative for whatever European nation that could establish it, and Columbus pitched his plan to Portugal, at the time the leader in exploration among the European kingdoms, before he went to the newly unified kingdoms of Castile and Aragon. Obviously the captain who made such a discovery would become among the most celebrated and wealthy men in Europe. Columbus wanted wealth, titles, and fame as well as the satisfaction of proving (against the majority of educated opinion) that one could reach Asia by sailing west. Columbus believed the world much smaller than most scholars, and therefore thought Asia reachable by sea. (All agreed, by the way, that the world was round, and none knew the Americas were there). Columbus also had religious motives. He hoped to spread Christianity to the people that he met in Asia. So his voyages were driven by a combination of personal ambition, the profit motive, and religious piety. 

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