Exploring the Americas
| Little is known about the early life of Columbus, but most scholars think that
was born in Genoa, Italy, in 1451.
| While still a young man,
Columbus became a
sailor on merchant vessels sailing from Genoa. When he was 25 years old, Columbus
was shipwrecked off the coast of Portugal. Fortunately, he landed
to Prince Henry's center for navigators. Columbus decided to
stay. For eight years Columbus read books about geography, history, and
He studied the charts of
Portuguese sailors who had sailed to Africa's
|By 1484, Columbus had developed a daring plan
to reach Asia by sailing west ! He
calculated that sailing west from
Spain to India would be approximately 4,000 miles long.
(It was actually closer to 11,000 miles !)
In 1484, Columbus asked the Portuguese rulers
to pay for his voyage. When they refused, Columbus turned to King
and Queen Isabella of Spain. They rejected his idea at first, but
in 1492, agreed to pay for the trip.
|On August 3,
1492, Columbus set sail from Palos,
Spain, with three ships and 88 men.
|After eight weeks at sea, the
feared that they would never see land again. They were afraid that the
strong east winds would prevent them from sailing back home. On
24, Columbus made the following entry in his journal:
" I am having trouble with the crew,…complaining that they will never
home. They have said that it is
and suicidal on their parts to risk their lives following the madness
a foreigner [they were Spanish but Columbus was Italian]…I am told by a
few trusted men (and these are few in number!) that if I persist in
onward, the best course of action will be to throw me into the sea some
|Columbus was being
threatened by his men, but Columbus continued sailing west. Two hours
after midnight on October 12 ( two very long
months after they set sail) land was sighted.
At dawn, the sailors went
ashore. They named the new land San Salvador and claimed it for Spain. San Salvador is a small island in the
Bahamas, which is located about 50 miles off the coast of Florida.
had thought he had landed on an island off the coast of Japan (which he
called Chipango) or China (which he called Cathay).
Columbus also visited two other islands: Hispaniola, and Cuba, which he
believed to be a part of China.
People knew within 30 years of his trip
that Columbus had not discovered a westward route to India. But
has continued to call the natives of America "Indians" and
islands he reached the "West Indies."
Excited about the lands and people he had discovered, Columbus
began his homeward voyage in January
The Spanish in the Americas
|When Columbus returned
the Spanish rulers were worried that the Portuguese would send ships to
this new world and get rich too. So, the Spanish asked Pope
VI to give them control of the sea routes and the lands where
Columbus had visited.
The pope wrote a decree( a law) granting the
Spanish control of all lands discovered (or to be discovered) by
He drew an imaginary line from north to south in the Atlantic.
land and sea west of the line would belong to Spain, and all land east
of the line would belong to Portugal. In 1494, the rulers of the
two countries signed the "Treaty of Tordesillas" to establish this
|Rumors that the lands were rich
and silver attracted many Spanish adventurers to the Americas.
they found riches, Spanish conquerors killed the native people and
|In the 1540s, the Spanish
discovered silver deposits
in Peru, on the Pacific coast of South America. They opened mines
and forced the Indians to work in them.
| Spain also sent
explorers and colonizers (people
who would set up new homes and farms to live in) to the new
The settlers were eager to make money. They set up plantations (large farms) to grow
cane, tobacco, and other crops for export (goods to send back) to
plantations required many workers to plant, harvest,
and pack the crops. The Spanish colonists forced the Indians to do
These workers were poorly fed,
overworked, and beaten by the Spanish. Many
died from this abuse.
Some Spanish priests, who
attempted to convert
the native peoples to Christianity by gentle means, tried to protect
Indians. However, these priests were few in number, and rarely
Europeans in North America
colonists also carried European
diseases, such as smallpox and measles.These diseases spread quickly
Central and South America, killing millions of the native inhabitants
the early 1500s.
|Spain was only one of many European countries
that explored the Americas. Around the year 1000, almost 500 years
Columbus's voyage, Vikings led by Leif Erickson landed in Newfoundland
and explored part of the coast of North America. In the 1480s, European
fishermen probably sailed near the coast of Canada in search of fishing
||The English were the first to send explorers after Columbus. In 1497
John Cabot reached Newfoundland, which he thought was part of Asia. On a second
voyage, he explored the coast of North America. When the English began to create
colonies in North America in the 1600s, they claimed ownership of the areas
Cabot had visited.
Vasco de Balboa, sailing for Spain,
crossed the Isthmus (narrow piece of land) of Panama and saw the
|From 1519 to 1521, a Spanish
fleet under the command of Ferdinand
Magellan made the first circumnavigation(or voyage around the earth).
You can trace Magellan's voyage on the
| By 1521, Balboa and Magellan had proved that a huge,
newly discovered continent blocked the westward route to Asia.
who followed were determined to find a way around or through that
The hope of
finding such a route, called
the Northwest Passage, brought Europeans across the Atlantic
King Francis I of France sent an expedition to America.
commander of the voyage, Giovanni da Verrazano
|sailed from the coast
present-day North Carolina north to Newfoundland.
and Cartier's voyages gave the French a claim to part of North America.
Europeans quickly realized that this huge new continent offered a wealth of
resources: land, timber, minerals, and fur. Colonists from England, France, and
Holland began to arrive in North America to farm, search for gold, trap animals
for fur, or seek religious freedom.
| Northern colonists had no need for cheap labor, so the natives were not
harmed- as quickly.
But as more settlers came, more natives died from
European diseases. And as more settlers claimed land, the Indians were pushed
|Europe loved sugar, so Caribbean Island
plantations grew more and more of it.
Holland, France, and England all
wanted in on this valuable crop. With wealth from sugar, they became the major
powers in Europe.
| In this map you can
see how active the European
countries were in making discoveries and claiming land in the new world.
In this picture you can see what is called the "Columbian Exchange" -
the exchange of foods, animals, wealth, and even diseases as the old
world and the new world began to interact. And all of this was a result
of the discovery of Christopher Columbus.