A man who is described as the discoverer of the New World, Columbus was born before 31 October 1451 in the territory of the Republic of Genoa, though the exact place remains unclear. In 1473, Columbus began his apprenticeship as business agent for the important Centurione, Di Negro and Spinola families of Genoa.
Later, he allegedly made a trip to Chios, a Genoese colony in the Aegean Sea. In 1479 or 1480, his son Diego Columbus was born. Between 1482 and 1485, Columbus traded along the coasts of West Africa, reaching the Portuguese trading post of Elmina at the Guinea coast.
In 1485, Columbus presented his plans to John II, King of Portugal. He proposed that the king equip three sturdy ships and grant Columbus one year’s time to sail out into the Atlantic, search for a western route to the Orient, and return. In 1488, Columbus appealed to the court of Portugal once again, and once again, John II invited him to an audience.
That meeting also proved unsuccessful, in part because not long afterwards Bartolomeu Dias returned to Portugal with news of his successful rounding of the southern tip of Africa (near the Cape of Good Hope). With an eastern sea route to Asia apparently at hand, King John was no longer interested in Columbus’s far-fetched project.
For years, Columbus proposed his plans to the Portuguese and Spanish kings, but he was turned down each time. Finally, after the Moors were expelled from Spain in 1492, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella reconsidered his requests.
Columbus promised to bring back gold, spices, and silk from Asia, spread Christianity, and explore China. He then asked to be admiral of the seas and governor of discovered lands. On November 21, 1492, the Pinta and its crew left to explore on its own. Then on Christmas Day, Columbus’ Santa Maria wrecked off the coast of Hispaniola.
Because there was limited space on the lone Nina, Columbus had to leave about 40 men behind at a fort they named Navidad. On November 3, the crew members sighted land and found three more islands, Dominica, Guadeloupe, and Jamaica, which Columbus thought were islands off of Japan.
Because there were still no riches there, they went on to Hispaniola, only to discover that the fort of Navidad had been destroyed and his crew killed after they mistreated the indigenous population.
While exploring the islands in the area and looking for gold to loot, Columbus’ men travelled to the islands of Hispaniola (now divided into Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Cuba, and many other smaller islands. On the return trip, the Santa Maria was wrecked and the captain of the Pinta sailed off on his own to try to beat Columbus back.
Columbus returned to Spain in the Nina, arriving on March 15, 1493.On his second, larger voyage (Sept. 25, 1493-June 11, 1496), sailed with 17 ships and 1,200 to 1,500 men to find gold and capture Indians as slaves in the Indies.
Columbus established a base in Hispaniola and sailed around Hispaniola and along the length of southern Cuba. He spotted and named the island of Dominica on November 3, 1493. Christopher Columbus died in Valladolid on May 20, 1506.