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Who was Christopher Columbus?

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Christopher Columbus was a European mariner and adventurer who is credited with “discovering” the New World.  Of course, he was not the first European to reach the Americas and he died believing that he had found Asia, but we still credit him with discovering the New World.

Not much is known about the early life of Columbus.  It is known that he was born in Genoa in what is now Italy and that his father was a weaver.  It is known that Columbus went to sea as a young man.  Not much else is known.

Over the years, Columbus became convinced that it would be easy to sail west from Europe to get to Asia.  He thought this because he badly underestimated how big the Earth was.  He did not think it was nearly as far from Europe to Asia (going west) as it really is.  Columbus spent a long time trying to convince European monarchs to fund a voyage of discovery.  He thought he could sail west to Asia and get rich from spices, gold, and other things.  He finally got Ferdinand and Isabella of what is now Spain to fund him.  This is how he came to sail for Spain even though he was from Genoa.

For a long time, Columbus was seen as a hero for finding the New World.  Modern historians are much less positive about him, however, because he did not find what he thought he found and because he mistreated the natives of the Caribbean islands that he did find.

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