All the World About

A study of the cosmographical theories and nautical observations that prompted Columbus’s momentous voyage to the unknown West in 1492.

CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS sighted San Salvador, now Watlings Island, in the Bahamas on October 11th, 1492, thus realizing an ambition that he had pursued tenaciously for some twenty years. Born at Genoa in 1451, he had journeyed as a trader throughout the Mediterranean before he arrived in Lisbon about 1470. Portugal was then embarked upon the course of expansion that was to establish her in India, Malacca and the Moluccas, the "Spice Islands" of mystery and fabled wealth. Nearer home, settlements had been founded on the north-west African coast, Madeira and the Azores, and a brisk trade was already developing. At Lisbon, the hub of the fifteenth-century "new frontier," sailors and merchants from western Europe, as far distant as Galway and Iceland, were in contact with those from the Mediterranean, north Africa and the Atlantic islands. Columbus seems to have made some progress socially; he married Dona Felipa Perestrello e Moniz, daughter of the Hereditary Captain of the Porto Santo in the Madeira group. For some years he was busy on trading voyages, during the course of which, his son Ferdinand relates, he visited Galway and Iceland.

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