God, Gold and Glory!

Christopher Columbus, born 1452 in Genoa, came from humble a background and was one of four boys in his family. Though he was not considered a scholar, he was well read and had a wide range of academic interests. Columbus is famous for his ‘discovery’ of the Caribbean. Though the Caribbean was where he ended up, he started out, believing that he could find an alternative route to Asia by traveling west.

Despite Columbus’ aim, Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain had their own reasons and motivations for agreeing to Columbus’ voyage when he was rejected by so many others before. They are listed here:

  • The rise of nation states: The rise of nationalism was fostered by many states becoming unified under a central king.
  • The legacy of exploration: To be known as the person or the state that ‘ventured into the unknown to continue work begun by earlier explorers.’
  • The rebirth of learning: New discoveries in science and technology paved the way for the voyages of explorations into the the world.
  • Rising demand in Europe for foreign goods: With the increase in population came increased demands for food and luxury items such as silk perfume and jewellry from Asian countries.
  • Scientific research and development: Breakthroughs in Geography, Astronomy, navigation, firearms and naval gunnery allowed for exploration that were previously barred.
  • Printing: Facts were now able to spread widely thereby sharing the information about new discoveries.
  • The Renaissance: This period fostered an ‘environment which promoted courage and zeal.’ These men ventured into the unknown world.
  • Missionary Zeal: As evidenced by the struggle to extend the political and economic influence of Christianity in the face of the threat of Muslim dominance.
  • Political Patronage: This is how the King and Queen of Spain benefited from Columbus’ voyages. Kings and crowned princes patronised men in their quest for new discoveries.
  • The need to find a new route to the East: Finding a shorter route would maximise profits and reduce problems related to high taxation and dangers posed by thieves.
  • The quest for wealth: Expansion in trade fostered the growth of wealth within nations who ventured on these explorations.

 Source: Caribbean History: Core Course, Dr. Yvette Taylor-Kanarick

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