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Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer who lead an expedition in search of a new trade route to India under the Catholic Monarch of Spain in 1492. He sailed across the Atlantic and landed on the Americas, but he assumed he had reached the Indies.
See the fact file below for more information on Christopher Columbus or alternatively, you can download our 22-page Christopher Columbus worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
EARLY LIFE AND PERSONAL INTERESTS
- Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer born in Genoa in 1451. His exact date of birth is unknown. Born during the Renaissance period when people were making new discoveries every day, he wanted to learn more about what the future would hold.
- He lived in Lisbon where he developed his interests in ships and navigation. As a teenager, he worked under a trader and sailed in several commercial voyages in the Mediterranean and Aegean Sea.
- While living in Lisbon, Portugal, Columbus married Felipa Perestrello, with whom he had a son. His wife died soon after and he decided to move to Spain. In 1488, out of wedlock, he had another son with Beatriz Enriquez de Arana, named Fernando.
- During his early years in navigation, Columbus participated in a number of voyages to Africa, giving him a lot of knowledge and experience about sailing in the Atlantic.
- People living in Europe wanted to set up a new trade route with China. It was a time when trading with Asia was difficult and expensive due to the monopoly by Italian merchants and Turkish control over the route.
- Columbus thought the best way to do this was to sail west from Spain until he reached China. He believed that sailing across the Atlantic would reach Asia, thus discovering a new trade route.
- In 1492, prior to his first voyage, Columbus negotiated with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, entitling him to 10% of the profits of all the riches he would discover:
“that of all and every kind of merchandise, whether pearls, precious stones, gold, silver, spices, and other objects and merchandise whatsoever, of whatever kind, name and sort, which may be bought, bartered, discovered, acquired and obtained within the limits of the said Admiralty, Your Highnesses grant from now henceforth to the said Don Cristóbal [Christopher Columbus] … the tenth part of the whole, after deducting all the expenses which may be incurred therein.”
- In 1492, Christopher Columbus set sail for China with 90 men and a fleet of 3 wooden sailing boats called the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. Rather than using the stars, on this voyage Columbus had a compass and a traverse board to track where the fleet was going.
- On October 12, 1492, Columbus’ fleet came across a small island that he named San Salvador. This island is now part of the Bahamas.
- He then sailed on and discovered Cuba and an island called Hispaniola.
- Despite being near America, Columbus believed his fleet was in the Indies and so named the Native American people he came across ‘Indians’. The natives traded goods like glass, cotton, spears, and parrots with Columbus’ crew. The Europeans took note of the adornments they wore – gold!
- Columbus thought that modern-day Bahamas was China, and what is now Haiti and Dominican Republic he thought was Japan. All his assumptions were based on Marco Polo’s early accounts regarding the grandeur of Asia.
- On Christmas Day in 1492, Columbus’ ship, the Santa Maria, was shipwrecked on a reef. Columbus and his sailors built a new settlement using salvaged parts from the ship and called it Villa de la Navidad, or ‘Christmas Town’.
- The Niña and the Pinta sailed back to Spain, leaving 40 men behind in the new settlement, arriving in 1493. Columbus had brought some captive Native Americans with him.
- Christopher Columbus was named ‘Admiral of the Seven Seas’ due to his triumphs. On his second voyage, Columbus took 17 ships back to the Bahamas to collect the men he had left behind. He found that the settlement had been destroyed and all his men had been killed. He went against the Spanish Queen’s wishes and requested that the Native Americans acted as slaves and rebuilt the settlement for him.
- On his third voyage, he discovered South America and explored the Orinoco River in Venezuela.
- After the third voyage, the Queen of Spain heard about how Columbus had made the Native Americans his slaves and had him arrested, but Columbus managed to convince the King that one more voyage to the New World would bring him many riches. On his fourth voyage, Christopher Columbus discovered more of Central America, although he was still hoping that his ship would reach China.
LATER LIFE, DEATH, AND CONTROVERSY
- On the fourth voyage, Columbus’ ship was wrecked and he and his crew were stranded in Cuba. Because Columbus had insisted the Native Americans pay tribute to him every three months with food, supplies and treasures or face violent and cruel punishment, they had become resentful, staged revolts, and then refused to help him when he was shipwrecked. He was eventually rescued and taken back to Spain in 1504 and died in 1506, aged around 54, after falling ill.
- Throughout Columbus’ life and voyages, he failed to reach Asia and was unsuccessful in discovering a new trade route. On the other hand, he was still credited for opening the Americas to European exploration.
- Named after him, the Columbian Exchange set the stage for large scale transfer of people, animals, and plant species, culture, and diseases to and from the rest of the world.
- Columbus’ relation with the Taino people, or Arawaks, natives of Hispaniola, is considered the center of controversy against the explorer. The extinction of the Tainos is blamed on how Columbus treated them plus the diseases brought from the west during the Age of Exploration.
- According to Bartolome de Las Casas in A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies published in 1542, Columbus ordered the enslavement of the natives, some were grilled, dismembered, and sold as dog food, while others were strung up and burned alive, and women were held as sex slaves.
- Despite the contentions of Queen Isabella, Columbus’ colonization of the Arawaks set the stage for slave trade, which lasted for centuries.
- In 1937, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared the second Monday in October a federal holiday to commemorate his ‘discovery’ of the Americas as persuaded by Christian American Italians in the U.S.
- On the other side of the coin, critics saw Columbus as the main person who wrecked the Arawak population and initiated slavery in the Americas. Many argued that he was not the first European to set foot in today’s America since the Vikings were ahead of him.
- In addition, he explored the Caribbean and not modern-day United States. Moreover, some states and cities in the U.S. created a counter celebration named as Indigenous Peoples’ Day which honors the contributions of Native Americans instead of Columbus Day.
Christopher Columbus Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Christopher Columbus across 22 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Christopher Columbus worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Christopher Columbus who was an Italian explorer who lead an expedition in search of a new trade route to India under the Catholic Monarch of Spain in 1492. He sailed across the Atlantic and landed on the Americas, but he assumed he had reached the Indies.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Christopher Columbus Facts
- The Explorer
- Behind European Voyages
- Mapping the Voyage
- Wrecking Ship
- Yes, It’s TRUE!
- Columbus Maze
- The Catholic Monarchs
- Picture Analysis
- Columbus Day
- Hero or Villain?
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Link will appear as Christopher Columbus Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, August 24, 2019
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.