The Online Library of Knowledge


Christopher Columbus

A portrait of ColumbusA portrait of Columbus In 1492 Christopher Columbus (1451–1506) sailed west across the Atlantic Ocean. His aim was to find a sea route to the rich lands of East Asia—the lands of spices and silks. These lands were known to Europeans as the Indies. When Columbus set foot on one of the Caribbean islands he was convinced that he had found the Indies. He called the local people that he met “Indians”. To this day, the Caribbean islands are sometimes called the West Indies. Columbus's four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean made Europeans aware of the existence of the Americas.

Columbus dreams of reaching Asia by seaColumbus dreams of reaching Asia by sea

Early life

Christopher Columbus was born in the Republic of Genoa in 1451. In those days, Genoa was an independent state with its own language (he was known locally as Christoffa Corombo). Before he was 20, Columbus went to sea, sailing aboard a Genoese warship fighting the Kingdom of Naples. He later travelled to England, and, possibly, Iceland, before moving to work as a trader in Lisbon, Portugal. He married a Portuguese woman called Filipa Moniz Perestrelo.

An ambitious man, Columbus taught himself Latin, Portuguese and Castilian Spanish. He read widely about astronomy, geography and history, including the works of Claudius Ptolemy and the travels of Marco Polo

When Columbus set sail in August 1492, he had estimated that Japan should lie about 3000 Italian miles (3700 km, or 2300 miles) to the west, while in fact it lay 19,600 km (12,200 miles) to the west.

© 2020 Q-files Ltd. All rights reserved. Switch to Mobile