Sunday, October 10, 2010

Columbus Day

Tomorrow, Monday October 11, 2010 is Columbus Day, the holiday that honors the Italian navigator Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the New World.

While Columbus's nationality is still subject to debate in some quarters, it is generally agreed that was born in what is now Italy. As I pointed out in my article on Columbus Day on HubPages, Columbus Day began as an Italian-American holiday.

Of course Christopher Columbus' fame rests on his discovery on the New World while in the service of Spain. Although technically, Columbus was employed, not by the Spanish government, but rather in the employ of Queen Isabella of Castile. Castile had been combined with the Kingdom of Aragon by Isabella's marriage to Aragon's King Ferdinand and the the combination of these two kingdoms, both located on the Iberian Peninsula, formed the basis for the modern nation of Spain. In addition to being King of Aragon, King Ferdinand was also the ruler of the Kingdom of Naples on the Italian peninsula.

In addition to being privately financed by Queen Isabella (unlike today, the finances of monarchs were closely linked with that of their kingdoms), it should be remembered that the real purpose of Columbus' voyages was more for the purpose of discovering a new, and more direct, trade rout to Asia rather than exploration per se.

Europe, at the time of Columbus was entering a period of economic growth that was driven in part by both population growth and by a period of global warming. A desire to expand trade was a part of this economic growth and, while the New World proved to be a big barrier to a western sea route to Asia, the the New World itself became a major trading partner for Europe.

Links for Further Reading:

The Origins of Columbus Day - my article on how the Columbus Day Holiday came about.

Lief Erikson Day October 9th - Some five centuries before Columbus Lief Erikson and his fellow Vikings attempted discovered the New World and attempted to establish a colony in North America. Lief Erikson is recognized with a holiday in October but it is observed mainly in Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Dakotas.

Global Warming and the Discovery of America - a major reason for the failure of the Viking settlements in North America and for the economic decline of the Viking colony in Greenland was a period of global cooling. The warming period that followed this cooling period resulted in those who followed Columbus being able to successfully colonize the New World.

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