To me, the major question about his place in history boils down to this: do we celebrate him for being the first to "discover" the New World, or do we criticize him for his mistakes?
Critics point out many things about Columbus. They point out that he never realized what he had actually discovered and died thinking he had found an alternate route to Asia. His harshest critics (for example, Howard Zinn) accuse him of causing genocide.
Those who defend him point to the ways in which his character changed the world. They argue that his determination to try to find a new route to Asia is admirable, even if he didn't find what he thought he was finding.
In the end, people seem to judge Columbus based on whether they are conservative or liberal (here in the US, at least). Conservatives celebrate him and defend him against what they think of as liberal political correctness. Liberals see him as a symbol of imperialism and arrogance.
So I think his place in history is this -- he is a symbol for our own political arguments today. Those who believe in the superiority of Western civilization tend to see him as a hero. Those who think that Western civilization has been basically aggressive and arrogant towards the rest of the world see him as a villain.
The previous post did a great job of articulating the position of Columbus. To a large extent, I think that the view of Columbus represents whether one believes in the conflict or the consensus view of history. If one stresses a view of history that is consistent with a consensus point of reference, then Columbus' accomplishments would receive the lions' share of attention for this is a view that seeks to bring a sense of harmony and unity to historical narratives. The flip side would be the conflict view of history, where one stresses the disunity and fragmentation which actually resulted as a result of improperly seeking consensus. One viewpoint examines power as a construct that comes from "top down" while the other views it as one that arises from "the bottom up." Columbus, thus, becomes a figure from which power of organization arises or represents the very essence of silencing voices with his invention of "the Columbian exchange." In the final analysis, Columbus' view of history comes out of this valence of perception.
Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) may or may not have done things to justify the many allegations against him. However, however his main claim to historical fame - the discovery of existence of America, which people in rest of the world at that time did not know about - is undisputed. Whether, some other people had known about it in earlier times is not relevant to the discovery, or rediscovery, of America. Also whether Columbus discovered Americas because of his capabilities and efforts or he was just lucky, is not relevant his position in history as discoverer of America.
There are few personalities in history whose origin, biography and facts to be so discussed, so controversial, so distorted as those of Christopher Columbus.
What is his place in history? His tragic destiny was partly exaggerated in the romantic era. Denial of his role in history, of his act, of his means and achievements, belong instead of hypercritical contemporary historians. Their comments sounded something like:
“Columbus discoverer? America was only discovered by the Vikings.
Columbus perseverance? But what was his perseverance besides that of Magellan, which were the risks faced by him alongside the others? Columbus was not beheaded as Balboa or killed as Pizarro, or eaten by Indians as Solis. He died paralyzed, aged, in a sterile battle for his rights,with his prestige spent. His success was due to an error of calculation from the used papers.”
However, such opinions do not hold to historical criticism.The study about his life and his work demonstrates that there is an exceptional human and he realized an outstanding achievement by its results. Columbus was an excellent navigator, a cartographer and a good cosmographer. He made a sensitive progress in the human thinking. Anchored at first in the world of medieval scholasticism, searched exceed s +, but combining what he could not combine: the dogma of science. Anchored at first in the world of medieval scholasticism,he tried to exceed it, but combining what he could not combine: the authority of dogma with science
His discovery founded the greatness of Spain, the establishment of its colonial empire, but also, simultaneously, founded the Spain decline. It represents a turning point in European history, the expansion of European civilization, the American-European osmosis.