Christopher Columbus completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean. Until his death, he didn’t know what he accomplished. Columbus thought he was making a trip to the Old World (Asia and Africa), yet he discovered the New World, Americas. The 15h century explorer started the Spanish colonization in the New World. But that is one among the many of Cristopher Columbus’s accomplishments.
Born in Genoa, Italy, he lived in Portugal before settling in Spain. He wanted to find a sea route to Asia by sailing across the Atlantic. He didn’t achieve that feat. But accidentally, he ended up discovering the new world, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean.
His voyages helped pave the way for the Spanish colonization of America. He completely changed the history of mankind. There are negative aspects of his voyages, like torture and mutilation to govern Hispaniola, promotion of slavery, and more. But we cannot ignore the big accomplishments by Christopher Columbus.
He started sailing in 1470, at the age of 19, getting a prominent role on a Genoese ship conquering Naples. Here are his biggest accomplishments and achievements.
Discovering the Americas
In the 15th century, there was no possibility to get to Asia from Europe via land. Travelers had to go through a long route filled with hostile armies. Portuguese explorers solved the problem by sailing across the West African coast and around the Cape of Good Hope.
But Columbus believed that you can reach Asia by sailing across the Atlantic. He calculated the circumference of the earth as much smaller than it actually was. Those faulty mathematics made him think that he could easily complete the journey.
His faulty calculations never led to an alternate route to Asia. But he ended up independently discovering the Americas. His voyage redefined history and paved a role for centuries of conquest and colonization. Columbus also asserted Europe’s dominance over the world.
Discovering a Viable Sailing Route
The Catholic Monarchs of Spain sponsored his trip to discover an alternate route to Asia. They hoped he would discover a route to China and India, two countries famous for their spices and gold.
He first left Spain in August 1492 with three ships, Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. On October 12, 1492, Columbus made landfall in the Bahama Islands. He effectively reached the eastern coast of the Americas, a continent not yet discovered.
In the process, he found a viable sailing route to the Americas, one we still use today.
First European Expeditions to the Caribbean, South America, and Central America
Columbus made three more voyages after his first one. He sailed from Spain to the New World. His second voyage began on September 24, 1493, with a fleet of 17 ships. This expedition carried supplies to establish permanent colonies in the New World.
In November 1493, they saw land and discovered the Dominica, Guadeloupe, and Jamaica islands. For his third trip, he took six ships to the new world and landed on the island of Trinidad.
Columbus continued exploring the Gulf of Paria and finally made it to South America. During his fourth voyage, he reached Central America.
Pave the Way for Spanish Expansion in the New World
Columbus settled in Hispaniola, a move that provided Spain with a strategic advantage for expansion. His voyages provided information to the Europeans about sailing from Europe to the Americas.
In 1492 and 1493, Columbus founded the island of Hispaniola, the first of many European settlements in America. This move aided Spain in its conquest of the west as the island proved a strategic standpoint for expansion.
Thanks to this strategic advantage, Spain could conquer Cuba, Mexico, Panama, and South America.
Colonization of the New World
Columbus presented his plan for the trip to Spanish monarchs Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile in 1492. With his voyages, Columbus wanted to achieve fame and fortune. The Spanish monarchs wanted the same.
But they also wanted to export Catholicism to lands across the globe. Columbus, as a devout Catholic himself, supported that goal. In the initial deal, he agreed to keep 10% of whatever riches he found, along with a noble title and governorship of any lands he should encounter.
When established a permanent foothold on the American continents, Columbus paved the way for Spain to come over. That resulted in destroying the Aztecs, Incas, and Mayan culture. It also helped pave the way for 500 years of Western domination.
Expanding the Food Supply
Before Columbus set sail to the New World, Europe had never seen a catfish or a tomato. Native Americans had never seen a cow or an apple. Christopher established the Columbian Exchange, helping many crops and animals get from the Old World to the New World and vice versa.
Thanks to Columbus, we now have tomato, potato, cacao, tobacco, and many other ingredients in Europe. Turkey and llama are two animals that got introduced to the Old World.
Horses, cows, chickens, and donkeys, on the other hand, made their way to the New World.
Increase in Population
Thanks to the Columbian Exchange, the population in the Old World increased. The plants imported from America had a huge impact. The lives of millions in Europe got changed radically due to the introduction of new crops.
For example, potatoes could grow in soils previously deemed useless for Old World crops. Crops from the Americas provided much more nutritional and caloric value.
Governor of Hispaniola
We said before that in his original agreement with Spain, Columbus got the right to govern any new lands. He served as governor of Hispaniola, the first land he stepped foot on during his voyages. He held that title from 1492 to 1499. But he got dismissed due to accusations of tyranny and incompetence.
One of the biggest gifts Columbus gave to the world is his journal. During his voyages, he kept a detailed diary. In it, he mentioned everything from wildlife, to the weather, and moods of his crew. During his voyage, he encountered wildlife like dolphins and birds.
Upon his return, he gifted the journal to Isabella.
Proved Aristotle’s Claim of Round Earth
Ferdinand Magellan is the first person in history to circumnavigate the Earth. Magellan proved the round Earth theory.
But Christopher Columbus also proved that theory. Yet, we have to note, that during his era, nobody in Europe believed in the flat Earth theory.
But we also have to note that when he set sail in 1492, he predicted to make landfall in Asia. Instead, he made landfall in the Americas.