Why is Columbus given credit for finding the New World?
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.
There are a few reasons why Columbus is given credit for discovering the New World even though others came before him. One factor has to do with timing. There was a big effort to try to find a shorter route to Asia. Since there was a great deal of interest in finding a shorter route to Asia, when Columbus reported that he found a new land, people were very interested in this discovery. If he actually had found a shorter route, that would have been exciting news for many people. After his news reached Europe, there were more explorations of the New World.
The Spanish sponsored Columbus, so there was some knowledge of his actions. Columbus also kept a journal or a diary of his experiences. Because he had kept records of his travels, people were able to read about his experiences.
Because other European countries came after his voyage, and because he had written records of his travels, some people believed he discovered the New World.