10 Major Accomplishments of Christopher Columbus (2022)

Christopher Columbus (1451 – 1506) was an Italian explorer, navigator and colonist who played a key role in shaping the history of the world as it was his voyages that initiated widespread contact between the Old World, i.e. Africa, Asia and Europe; and the New World, i.e. the Americas. Columbus was born in the Republic of Genoa and lived in Portugal before eventually going on to settle in Spain. Columbus wanted to find a sea route to Asia by sailing across the Atlantic. He was not successful in his endeavor but ended up leading the first European expeditions to the Caribbean, Central America and South America. His voyages were beneficial for Europe and made possible the colonization of the Americas. Columbus was responsible for the Columbian Exchange, an event that changed the history of mankind. There are numerous negative aspects of the effects of his voyages as well as in his personal life; like he regularly used torture and mutilation to govern Hispaniola; he promoted slavery; and his voyages ultimately led to the extinction of the civilizations of the Americas. However, in this article we focus on the 10 major accomplishments of Columbus.

#1 He independently discovered the Americas

It was nearly impossible in the 15th century to head into Asia from Europe via land. The route was long and laden with hostile armies. While the Portuguese explorers were solving this quandary by sailing across the West African coast and around the Cape of Good Hope, Columbus put forth the notion of sailing across the Atlantic. The plans of Columbus were however based on faulty European mathematics. He calculated the circumference of the earth as much smaller than it actually was and thought that the proposed journey would be easy to complete. Though his calculations were faulty and he never discovered an alternate route to Asia, Columbus ended up independently discovering the Americas. Though he was not the first to discover the Americas, it was his voyage that redefined history and was instrumental in initiating centuries of conquest and colonization, asserting Europe’s dominance over the world.

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#2 He discovered a viable sailing route to the Americas

Columbus started his career by serving as an apprentice to some of the most influential families in Genoa. He eventually went on to be recognized as a seagoing entrepreneur. He sailed to Iceland and Ireland with the merchant marine in 1477 and was trading sugar in Madeira by 1478 as an agent for the Genoese firm of Centurioni. Then, after years of lobbying, Columbus’s plan to discover an alternate route to Asia was sponsored by the Catholic Monarchs of Spain. They hoped that he would discover a route to China and India, that were famous for their spices and gold, among other things. Columbus left Spain in August 1492 with three ships: the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. He made landfall in the Americas on October 12, 1492 in the Bahama Islands. Though not known to him then, Columbus had reached the eastern coast of the Americas, a continent which was not then known to the Old World. Though he was not the first man to discover the Americas, Columbus did find a viable sailing route to the Americas, which was no mean achievement.

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#3 He led the first European expeditions to the Caribbean, Central America and South America

Christopher Columbus undertook three more expeditionary voyages from Spain to the New World. His second voyage began on 24th September 1493 with a fleet of 17 ships carrying 1,200 men. The expedition contained supplies to establish permanent colonies in the New World. In November, 1493 his crew saw land and discovered the Dominica, Guadeloupe and Jamaica islands. In March, 1496, he set sail back to Spain. On May 30, 1498, Columbus left with six ships for his third trip to the New World. In July, the same year, he landed on the island of Trinidad. He then explored the Gulf of Paria and finally touched South America. Due to bad health, he returned to Hispaniola on August 19, 1498. The fourth voyage of Columbus began in May 1502. During this voyage he reached Central America. He sailed back to Spain in 1504. Columbus thus led the first European expeditions to the Caribbean, Central America and South America.

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#4 His settlement in Hispaniola provided Spain strategic advantage for expansion in the New World

The four voyages of Columbus provided a plethora of information to the Europeans about sailing from Europe to the Americas; as well as about the various kinds of people who resided in the New World. Apart from the information gathered from his voyages, another important repercussion of his expeditions was the island of Hispaniola. Founded by Columbus on his voyages in 1492 and 1493, Hispaniola was the site of the first permanent European settlement in the Americas. This ultimately aided Spain in its conquest of the west as the island’s position in the northern flank of the Caribbean Sea proved to be a strategic standpoint for the expansion of Spain to Cuba, Mexico, Panama and South America.

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#5 Columbus made colonization possible for Spain

Columbus’s efforts as an explorer set forth a chain of events that allowed Spain to establish a permanent foothold on the American continents. Spain started this by destroying the Aztecs, the Incas and the Mayan cultures, which paved way for 500 years of Western domination. In essence, Columbus’s voyages resulted in an everlasting contact between the Western and Eastern hemispheres of the world. While this resulted in the destruction of the native people of the Americas, it proved to be the basis on which our modern world is built. Led by Spain, the Europeans gained exceedingly due to the efforts of Columbus helping them prosper at the expense of their colonies and paving the way for their domination of the modern world.

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#6 He had a major impact on the history of mankind

Columbian Exchange is a term coined by Alfred W. Crosby in his revolutionary book The Columbian Exchange which was published in 1972. The term refers to the widespread exchange of animals, plants, human populations, diseases, technology and ideas that occurred between Afro-Eurasia and the Americas after Christopher Columbus landed in the New World. For instance, potatoes, corn and tomatoes were introduced to the Old World. Similarly, cattle, hogs and sheep were introduced to the people of America. The Columbian Exchange is one of the most important events in the history of mankind which had a great impact on the world in numerous ways. Thus, in a way, Columbus altered the history of mankind through his voyages.

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#7 Through domesticated animals, Columbian Exchange expanded the food supply in the Americas

Prior to the Columbian Exchange, the Old World had never seen a catfish or a tomato while the Native Americans had never seen a cow or an apple. Due to the Columbian Exchange a lot of crops and animals were introduced to both Old and New World. Crops introduced to Old World include potato, tomato, maize, cacao and tobacco. Crops introduced to New World include rice, wheat, apples, bananas and coffee. Turkey and Llama are probably the only prominent New World domesticated animals which were introduced to the Old World. However many animals were imported to the New World including horses, cows, chickens, donkeys and pigs. These animals, especially pigs because they breed very quickly, expanded the food supply in the Americas.

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#8 Columbian Exchange caused a huge increase in population in the Old World

The plants from the Americas had a huge impact on the Old World. Lives of millions of people in Africa, Europe and Asia were changed radically due to the introduction of New World crops. New World plants like potatoes and maize could grow in soils which were useless for Old World crops. Today China and India are the largest producers and consumers of potatoes in the world. Cassava provides more calories than any plant on earth and is the basic diet of more than half a million people in the developing world. As the crops from the Americas were far more caloric than Old World food it led to probably the greatest population increase the world had ever seen. Between 1650 and 1850 the population of the world doubled.

#9 He served as Governor of Hispaniola

Christopher Columbus was widely regarded as an expert navigator and maritime explorer of his time. He held many important titles and positions during his lifetime. In 1492, Columbus received the title of “Almirante mayor del Mar Oceano” which translates to “Admiral of the Ocean”. Columbus had a legal agreement with the Spanish Crown that entitled him to a percentage of their profits from his discoveries. He was also granted the viceroyalty and governorship of any lands that he might discover. Following his first voyage, Columbus was appointed Viceroy and Governor of the Indies. In effect, this meant that he was given power to administer the colonies in the island of Hispaniola. He held this title from 1492 to 1499, after which he was dismissed due to accusations of tyranny and incompetence.

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#10 Columbus is regarded as a major figure in Spanish history

Christopher Columbus is regarded as one of the most prominent figures in Spanish history. His contribution has been commemorated via a monument that stands as a tall pillar pointing towards the sea in Barcelona. In addition to this, Columbus Day is celebrated in America on the second Monday of October. While he was unable to fulfil his dream of finding a new passage to Asia, Christopher Columbus’ voyages gave headway to events that shaped the world for hundreds of years. In this regard, he is considered one of the most influential explorers in history.

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Negative Impact of the Columbian Exchange

Although it can’t be established certainly how many Native Americans died due to the arrival of Europeans but it is estimated that 80-95 percent died in the 150 years following the arrival of Columbus. The most affected regions lost 100 percent of their indigenous population. Though European brutality was a factor, the primary reason behind this were the diseases introduced to the New World through Columbian Exchange like smallpox, measles, malaria, typhus, chicken pox and yellow fever. Also due to the Columbian Exchange, the diversity of life on earth has diminished drastically and planting crops where they don’t belong has hurt the environment. Man and “the plants and animals that he brings with him have caused the extinction of more species of life forms in the last four hundred years than the usual processes of evolution might kill off in a million”.

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FAQs

What were Christopher Columbus's major accomplishments? ›

The explorer Christopher Columbus made four trips across the Atlantic Ocean from Spain: in 1492, 1493, 1498 and 1502. He was determined to find a direct water route west from Europe to Asia, but he never did. Instead, he stumbled upon the Americas.

What are 3 accomplishments of Christopher Columbus? ›

Word of his voyage soon spread throughout Europe. Columbus made three further voyages to the Americas, exploring the Lesser Antilles in 1493, Trinidad and the northern coast of South America in 1498, and the eastern coast of Central America in 1502.

What did Christopher Columbus do for America? ›

What is Columbus's legacy? Columbus died in 1506, still believing that he had found a new route to the East Indies. Today his historic legacy as a daring explorer who 'discovered' the New World has been challenged. His voyages launched centuries of European exploration and colonisation of the American continents.

What is the most important fact about Christopher Columbus? ›

Christopher Columbus was not his real name. The name he was actually given when he was born in Genoa was Cristoforo Colombo. Christopher Columbus began a career as a seafarer at the age of fourteen and later supported himself by selling maps and charts. Half of his voyages ended in disaster.

Why is Christopher Columbus a hero? ›

Christopher Columbus has long been exalted as a heroic figure in American history: the first explorer to establish a European presence in the New World. Americans have celebrated his arrival as far back as 1792, the 300th anniversary of his landing.

What awards did Christopher Columbus win? ›

He was at first full of hope and ambition, an ambition partly gratified by his title “Admiral of the Ocean Sea,” awarded to him in April 1492, and by the grants enrolled in the Book of Privileges (a record of his titles and claims).

How did Christopher Columbus impact the world? ›

Columbus's journeys to the Americas opened the way for European countries to colonize and exploit those lands and their peoples. Trade was soon established between Europe and the Americas. Plants native to the Americas (such as potatoes, tomatoes, and tobacco) were imported to Europe.

Who actually discovered America first? ›

Before Columbus

We know now that Columbus was among the last explorers to reach the Americas, not the first. Five hundred years before Columbus, a daring band of Vikings led by Leif Eriksson set foot in North America and established a settlement.

What did Christopher Columbus discover? ›

During four separate trips that started with the one in 1492, Columbus landed on various Caribbean islands that are now the Bahamas as well as the island later called Hispaniola. He also explored the Central and South American coasts.

What is a famous quote from Christopher Columbus? ›

By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination. Following the light of the sun, we left the Old World. Riches don't make a man rich, they only make him busier.

What if Christopher Columbus never discovered America? ›

If the Americas had never been colonized by the Europeans, not only would many lives have been saved, but also various cultures and languages. Through colonization, the Indigenous populations were labeled as Indians, they were enslaved, and they were forced to abandon their own cultures and convert to Christianity.

What did Christopher Columbus discover for kids? ›

Christopher Columbus opened the world of the Americas to his fellow Europeans. Europeans called Vikings had reached the Americas hundreds of years before Columbus first arrived there in 1492. However, the Vikings did not establish long-lasting settlements.

What is Christopher Columbus famous for kids? ›

Christopher Columbus is the explorer who is credited for discovering America. Of course, there were already people living in America at the time who we call Native Americans. There even was a European, Leif Ericsson, who had been to the Americas before.

What was Christopher Columbus's real name? ›

Christopher Columbus Was Not His Real Name

In Italian he is known as Cristoforo Colombo, which was long thought to be his birth name, and in Spanish as Cristóbal Colón. But he has also been referred to, by himself and others, as Christoual, Christovam, Christofferus de Colombo, and even Xpoual de Colón.

Did Christopher Columbus have guns? ›

Columbus and other early explorers were probably the first Europeans to bring guns to the New World, archaeologists say. And the arquebus — a long-barreled, musket-like weapon — was most likely the first personal firearm on mainland America.

How old was Christopher Columbus when died? ›

How many ships did Christopher Columbus have? ›

On August 3, 1492, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus started his voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. With a crew of 90 men and three ships—the Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria—he left from Palos de la Frontera, Spain.

Why do we celebrate Columbus Day? ›

Columbus Day is a U.S. holiday that commemorates the landing of Christopher Columbus in the Americas in 1492, and Columbus Day 2022 occurs on Monday, October 10. It was unofficially celebrated in a number of cities and states as early as the 18th century, but did not become a federal holiday until 1937.

Who named America after? ›

The LOC.GOV Wise Guide : How Did America Get Its Name? America is named after Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian explorer who set forth the then revolutionary concept that the lands that Christopher Columbus sailed to in 1492 were part of a separate continent.

When did Christopher Columbus become popular? ›

Though he sailed in 1492, Christopher Columbus was not widely known among Americans until the mid-1700s.

What Did Columbus bring back to Spain? ›

He also kidnapped several Native Americans (between ten and twenty-five) to take back to Spain—only eight survived. Columbus brought back small amounts of gold as well as native birds and plants to show the richness of the continent he believed to be Asia.

What movies did Chris Columbus make? ›

Chris Columbus

How did Christopher Columbus impact the world? ›

Columbus's journeys to the Americas opened the way for European countries to colonize and exploit those lands and their peoples. Trade was soon established between Europe and the Americas. Plants native to the Americas (such as potatoes, tomatoes, and tobacco) were imported to Europe.

What is Christopher Columbus real name? ›

Christopher Columbus Was Not His Real Name

In Italian he is known as Cristoforo Colombo, which was long thought to be his birth name, and in Spanish as Cristóbal Colón. But he has also been referred to, by himself and others, as Christoual, Christovam, Christofferus de Colombo, and even Xpoual de Colón.

How old was Christopher Columbus when died? ›

What did Columbus discover? ›

It is commonly said that "Columbus discovered America." It would be more accurate, perhaps, to say that he introduced the Americas to Western Europe during his four voyages to the region between 1492 and 1502.

Who really discovered America first? ›

We know now that Columbus was among the last explorers to reach the Americas, not the first. Five hundred years before Columbus, a daring band of Vikings led by Leif Eriksson set foot in North America and established a settlement.

What is a famous quote from Christopher Columbus? ›

By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination. Following the light of the sun, we left the Old World. Riches don't make a man rich, they only make him busier.

Why Columbus is a hero? ›

Columbus's famed voyage to the New World was celebrated by Italian-Americans, in particular, as a pathway to their own acceptance in America. Christopher Columbus has long been exalted as a heroic figure in American history: the first explorer to establish a European presence in the New World.

What did Christopher Columbus discover for kids? ›

Christopher Columbus opened the world of the Americas to his fellow Europeans. Europeans called Vikings had reached the Americas hundreds of years before Columbus first arrived there in 1492. However, the Vikings did not establish long-lasting settlements.

How many ships did Christopher Columbus have? ›

On August 3, 1492, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus started his voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. With a crew of 90 men and three ships—the Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria—he left from Palos de la Frontera, Spain.

Who named America after? ›

The LOC.GOV Wise Guide : How Did America Get Its Name? America is named after Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian explorer who set forth the then revolutionary concept that the lands that Christopher Columbus sailed to in 1492 were part of a separate continent.

Where did Columbus think he landed in 1492? ›

After sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus sights a Bahamian island on October 12, 1492, believing he has reached East Asia.

Where did Christopher Columbus land first? ›

On October 12, 1492, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus made landfall in what is now the Bahamas. Columbus and his ships landed on an island that the native Lucayan people called Guanahani. Columbus renamed it San Salvador.

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