Christopher Columbus (Italian: Cristoforo Colombo; Spanish: Cristóbal Colón; Portuguese: Cristóvão Colombo; born between October 31, 1450 and October 30, 1451 – 20 May 1506) was an Italian explorer, navigator, and colonizer, born in the Republic of Genoa, in what is today northwestern Italy. Under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, he completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean that led to general European awareness of the American continents. Those voyages, and his efforts to establish permanent settlements on the island of Hispaniola, initiated the Spanish colonization of the New World.
In the context of emerging western imperialism and economic competition between European kingdoms seeking wealth through the establishment of trade routes and colonies, Columbus' speculative proposal, to reach the East Indies by sailing westward, eventually received the support of the Spanish crown, which saw in it a chance to gain the upper hand over rival powers in the contest for the lucrative spice trade with Asia. During his first voyage in 1492, instead of reaching Japan as he had intended, Columbus landed in the Bahamas archipelago, at a locale he named San Salvador. Over the course of three more voyages, Columbus visited the Greater and Lesser Antilles, as well as the Caribbean coast of Venezuela and Central America, claiming them for the Spanish Empire.
The exact ethnic or national origin of Christopher Columbus has been a source of speculation since the 19th century. It is generally agreed upon by historians that Columbus' family was from Liguria, that he spent his boyhood and early youth in Genoa, in Vico Diritto, and that he subsequently lived in Savona, where his father Domenico moved in 1470. Much of this evidence derives from data concerning Columbus' immediate family connections in Genoa and opinions voiced by contemporaries concerning his Genoese origins, which few dispute.
In the early modern period, the voyages of Columbus initiated European exploration and colonization of the American continents, and are thus of great significance in world history. Christopher Columbus was a navigator and an admiral for Spain. He made four voyages to the Americas, the first being in 1492, which resulted in the Discovery of America from a European point of view.
The discovery of America has variously been attributed to others, depending on context and definition. For example, Asians migrated across the Bering Strait to North America between 12,000 and 42,000 years ago and the Vikings (c. 1000) established a short-lived settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland. While Columbus was not the first European to voyage to the New World and did not actually reach the mainland until his third voyage in 1498 (when he reached South America, and the fourth voyage, when he reached Central America), his discoveries led to the widespread knowledge of the existence of the new continent, and to major European sea powers sending expeditions to the New World to build trade networks and colonies and to convert the native people to Christianity.
The United States is a country in the Northern Hemisphere, Western Hemisphere, and the Eastern Hemisphere. It consists of forty-eight contiguous states in North America, Alaska, a peninsula which forms the northwestern most part of North America, and Hawaii, an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. There are several United States territories in the Pacific and Caribbean. The term "United States", when used in the geographical sense, means the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands of the United States. The country shares land borders with Canada and Mexico and maritime (water) borders with Russia, Cuba, and the Bahamas in addition to Canada and Mexico.
The Age of Discovery (also known as the Age of Exploration) was a period starting in the early 15th century and continuing to the 17th century. During this period Europeans explored Africa, the Americas, Asia and Oceania. The fall of Constantinople in 1453 severed European trade links by land with Asia leading many to begin seeking routes east by sea and spurred the age of exploration. Historians often refer to the 'Age of Discovery' as the pioneer Portuguese and Spanish long-distance maritime travels in search of alternative trade routes to "the East Indies", moved by the trade of gold, silver and spices.
The Age of Discovery can be seen as a bridge between the Middle Ages and the Modern era, along with its contemporary Renaissance movement, triggering the early modern period and the rise of European nation states. European overseas expansion led to the rise of colonial empires, with the contact between the Old and New Worlds producing the Columbian Exchange: a wide transfer of plants, animals, foods, human populations (including slaves), communicable diseases and culture between the Eastern and Western hemispheres, in one of the most significant global events concerning ecology, agriculture, and culture in history. European exploration allowed the global mapping of the world, resulting in a new world-view and distant civilizations acknowledging each other, reaching the most remote boundaries much later.