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Columbus is hailed as the explorer that discovered America. He most likely died believing that he had found a new route to China and India. He grew up with a seafaring background in Italy which was the centre of European trade in the 1400's. With the increasingly uneasy relationships between Christian Europe and Islamic North Africa and the Middle East, trade items from India, China and the Spice Islands coming to Europe and European items going to the far east were cut off by the Islamic middle man. The Portuguese had began exploring the African coast and Vasco de Gama had sailed around the Cape of Good Hope and up along the Eastern coast which would lead to a route that did not pass through Islamic territory.

Columbus had picked up on stories and rumors of a short route to China which could be followed by sailing directly west across the ocean. In a European world which generally

believed that the world was flat, the idea that it might be round had been quickly gaining credence. Columbus had worked as a sailor in England and would have been fairly familiar with the Viking sagas that depicted Islands and lands to the west. He may have also heard the stories of some of the English fishermen who told of a fishing area to the west with seas so full of fish that you could fill a basket by simply dipping it in the ocean.

Columbus solicited support from several kingdoms in the Christian west such as England, France, some Italian states and of course Spain. By 1491 Ferdinand and Isabella's war of conquest to unite the Iberian Peninsula under Christian rule and push the Moslems out was on the verge of a successful conclusion. Isabella in particular was susceptible to proposals of new and exciting ventures. She decide to back Columbus in his venture to sail to China and in 1492 he set sail for the Canary Islands where he resupplied his ships and then set his course due west.

The discovery of Caribbean Islands and his safe return with the news that he had reached China, set off a rush by the European powers to establish their own routes to the east. This process cumulated in the realization that Columbus had not reached China and that there was a huge land mass in between Europe and Asia. The French, Dutch and English organized and dispatch their sailors, explorers, fisherman, and ventures to the west. Native isolation in America was to be readily shattered and their way of life changed forever