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Thursday, 19 December 2013

Discovery of America

this lens' photo
In the early modern period, the voyages of Columbus initiated European exploration and colonization of the American continents, and are thus of great significance in world history. Christopher Columbus was a navigator and an admiral for Castile, a country that later founded modern Spain. He made four voyages to the Americas, with his first in 1492, which resulted in what is widely referred to as the Discovery of America or Discovery of the Americas. He did not actually reach the mainland until his third voyage, in 1498, when he reached South America, and the fourth voyage, when he reached Central America.

Columbus' discovery subsequently led to the major European sea powers sending expeditions to the New World to build trade networks and colonies and to convert the native peoples to Christianity. Pope Alexander VI divided "newly discovered" lands outside Europe between Spain and Portugal along a north-south meridian 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde islands (off the west coast of Africa). This division was never accepted by the rulers of England or France. (See also the Treaty of Tordesillas that followed the papal decree.)

The Virgin of the Navigators by Alejo Fernández, the earliest known painting about the discovery of the
Americas, 1531-36.Portugal's rival Castile (predecessor of Spain) had been somewhat slower than its neighbour to begin exploring the Atlantic. It was not until the late 15th century, following the unification of Castile and Aragon and the completion of the reconquista that Spain emerged and became fully committed to looking for new trade routes and colonies overseas. In 1492 the joint rulers of the nation conquered the Moorish kingdom of Granada, which had been providing Castile with African goods through tribute, and they decided to fund Christopher Columbus'
expedition that they hoped would bypass Portugal's lock on Africa and the Indian Ocean reaching Asia by travelling west.
 Funding campaign
In 1485, Columbus presented his plans to John II of Portugal, the King of Portugal. He proposed the king equip three sturdy ships and grant Columbus one year's time to sail out west into the Atlantic, search for a western route to the Orient, and return. Columbus also requested he be made "Great Admiral of the Ocean Sea" (for they called the Atlantic the Ocean Sea), appointed governor of any and all lands he 'discovered', and be given one-tenth of all revenue from those lands. The king submitted the proposal to his experts, who rejected it after many years. It was their considered opinion that Columbus' estimation of a travel distance of 2,400 miles (3,900 km) was, in fact, far too short.

In 1488 Columbus appealed to the court of Portugal once again, and once again John invited him to an
audience. It also proved unsuccessful, in part because not long afterwards Bartolomeu Dias returned to Portugal following a successful rounding of the southern tip of Africa. With an eastern sea route now under its control, Portugal was no longer interested in trailblazing a western trade route to Asia. Columbus traveled from Portugal to both Genoa and Venice, but he received no encouragement from either. Previously he had his brother sound out Henry VII of England, to see if the English monarch might not be more amenable to Columbus' proposal. After much carefully considered hesitation, Henry's invitation came too late. Columbus had already committed himself to the Kingdom of Castile in present day Spain.

About Columbus
Explorer and navigator Columbus was born in 1451, in the Republic of Genoa (Italy) to the son of weaver. Columbus first went to sea as a teenager, participating in several trading voyages in the mediterranean and Aegean seas.One such voyage , to the island of Khios, in modern day Greece, brought him the closest he would come to Asia.His first voyage into the Atlantic Ocean in 1476 nearly cost him his life as the commercial fleet he was sailing with was attacked by French privateers off the cost of Portugal.His ship was burned and Columbus had to swim to the Portuguese shore and make his way to Libson, Portugal, where he eventually settled and married Felipa Perestrello.The couple had one son, Diego in about 1480.His wife died soon after and columbus moved to Spain.He had a second son Fernando who was born out of wedlock in 1488 with Beatriz Enriquez de Arana. Columbus participated in several other expeditions to Africa gaining knowledge of the Atlantic currents following east and west from the Canary Islands.Muslim domination of the trade routes through the Middle East makes travel to India and China difficult. Believing a route sailing West across the Atlantic would be quicker and safer, Columbus devised a plan to sail West to get reach the East. He estimated the earth to be a sphere approximately 63% its actual size and the distance between the Canary Islands and Japan to be about 2300 miles. Many contemporary nautical experts disagreed, adhering the second century BC estimate of the earth's circumference at 25000 miles. This made the distance between the canary Islands and Japan about 12200 statute miles. While experts disagreed with Columbus on matters of distance, they concurred that a westward voyage from Europe would be an uninterrupted water route. 

 First Voyage to the New World

Rejected by the Portuguese king for a three-ship voyage of discovery, Columbus took his plan first to Genoa and then to Venice but was rejected there too. He then went to the Spanish monarchy of Isabella of Castille and Ferdinand of Aragon, in 1486. Their nautical experts too were skeptical and initially, Columbus was rejected. The idea however, must have intrigued the monarchs, for they kept Columbus on a retainer. But their focus was on a war with the Muslims and Columbus would have to wait.

Columbus continued to lobby the royal court and soon after the Spanish army captured the last Muslim stronghold in Granada in January of 1492, the monarchs agreed to finance his expedition. In August of 1492, Columbus left Spain in the Santa Maria, with the Pinta and the Niña along side. After 36 days of sailing, Columbus and several crewmen set foot on an island in the present day Bahamas, claiming it for Spain. There he encountered a timid but friendly group of natives who were open to trade with the sailors exchanging glass beads, cotton balls, parrots and spears. The Europeans also noticed bits of gold the natives wore for adornment.

Columbus and his men continued their journey, visiting the islands of Cuba and Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and meeting with the leaders of the native population. During this time, the Santa Maria was wrecked on a reef off the coast of Hispaniola. With the help of some islanders, Columbus' men salvaged what they could and built the settlement Villa de la Navidad ("Christmas Town") with lumber from the ship. Thirty-nine men stayed behind to occupy the settlement. Convinced his exploration had reached Asia, he set sail for home with the two remaining ships.

Subsequent Voyages

Returning to Spain in 1493, Columbus gave a glowing, somewhat exaggerated report and was warmly received by the royal court. That same year he took to the seas on his second expedition and explored more islands in the Caribbean Ocean. Upon arrival at Hispaniola, Columbus and his crew discovered the Navidad settlement had been destroyed with all the sailors massacred. Spurning the wishes of the queen, who found slavery offensive, Columbus established a forced labor policy over the native population to rebuild the settlement and explore for gold, believing it would prove to be profitable. His efforts produced small amounts of gold and great hatred among the native population. Before returning to Spain, Columbus left his brothers Bartholomew and Diego to govern the settlement on Hispaniola and sailed briefly around the larger Caribbean islands further convincing himself he had discovered the outer islands of China.

It wasn't until his third voyage that Columbus actually reached the mainland exploring the Orinoco River in present-day Venezuela. Unfortunately, conditions at the Hispaniola settlement had deteriorated to the point of near-mutiny with settlers claiming they had been misled by Columbus' claims of riches and complaining about the poor management of his brothers. The Spanish Crown sent a royal official who arrested Columbus and stripped him of his authority. He returned to Spain in chains to face the royal court. The charges were later dropped but Columbus lost his titles as governor of the Indies and for a time, much of the riches made during his voyages.

Convincing King Ferdinand that one more voyage would bring the abundant riches promised, Columbus went on what would be his last voyage in 1502, traveling along the eastern coast of Central America in an unsuccessful search for a route to the Indian Ocean. A storm wrecked one of his ships stranding the captain and his sailors on the island of Cuba. During this time, local islanders, tired of the Spaniards poor treatment and obsession with gold, refused to give them food. In a spark of inspiration, Columbus consulted an almanac and devised a plan to "punish" the islanders by taking away the moon. On February 29, 1504, a lunar eclipse alarmed the natives enough to re-established trade with the Spaniards. A rescue party finally arrived, sent by the royal governor of Hispaniola in July and Columbus and his men were taken back to Spain in November of 1504.

Mixed Legacy

In the two remaining years of his life, Columbus struggled to recover his lost titles and in May of 1505 did regain some of his riches, but his titles were never returned. He died May 20, 1506 still believing he had discovered a shorter route to Asia.

Columbus' legacy is a mixed one. He has been credited for opening up the Americas to European colonization as well as blamed for the destruction of the native peoples of the islands he explored. On the one hand, he failed to find that what he set out for - a new route to Asia and the riches it promised. However, in what is known as the Columbian Exchange, his expeditions set in motion the wide-spread transfer of people, plants, animals, diseases, and cultures that greatly affected nearly every society on the planet.

The horse from Europe allowed Native American tribes in the Great Plains of North America to shift from a nomadic to a hunting lifestyle. Foods from the Americas such as potatoes, tomatoes and corn became staples of Europeans and helped increase their populations. Wheat from Europe and the Old World fast became a main food source for people in the Americas. Coffee from Africa and sugar cane from Asia became major cash crops for Latin American countries.

The Exchange also brought new diseases to both hemispheres, though the effects were greatest in the Americas. Small pox from the Old World decimated millions of the Native American population to mere fractions of their original numbers. This more than any other factor made for European domination of the Americas. The overwhelming benefits of the Exchange went to the Europeans initially and eventually to the rest of the world. The Americas were forever altered and the once vibrant and rich cultures of the Native American civilizations were not only changed, but lost, denying the world any complete understanding of their existence.

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