The explorers

The explorers

Christopher Columbus (1451 - 1506)

  • Christopher Columbus, an Italian sailor sponsored by Spain, made one of the earliest and most significant voyages to the Americas.
  • He is best recognised for his 1492 voyage when he inadvertently landed in the Bahamas in the Caribbean, having aimed for Asia.
  • Columbus made four voyages to the Americas between 1492 and 1502, exploring areas of the Caribbean, South America and Central America.
  • Columbus mistakenly believed he had reached Asia and thus referred to the indigenous people as Indians, a term still used today.
  • Columbus had a significant impact upon the indigenous civilisations he came into contact with, and his voyages marked the start of prolonged European colonisation of the Americas.

John Cabot (c.1450 - c.1499)

  • John Cabot was an Italian explorer who sailed under the English flag.
  • In 1497, Cabot embarked on a mission, backed by England’s King Henry VII, aiming to reach Asia by travelling westwards across the Atlantic.
  • Just like Columbus, Cabot also unwittingly made landfall in North America and is credited with the European ‘discovery’ of mainland North America.
  • He explored the region around Newfoundland, claiming it for England and paving the way for later English colonisation of Americas.

Ferdinand Magellan (1480 - 1521)

  • Ferdinand Magellan was a Portuguese explorer who undertook the first circumnavigation of the globe, though he did not complete it due to his death on the journey.
  • His expedition, carried out between 1519 and 1522, proved conclusively that the world was round and not flat and that the Americas and Asia were different continents.
  • Magellan discovered and navigated through the Strait of Magellan, a treacherous and intricate passage at the southern tip of South America.
  • Although he died during the expedition, his voyage laid the groundwork for future navigational routes and contributed to a greater understanding of the world’s geography.

Hernán Cortés (1485 -1547)

  • Hernán Cortés was a Spanish Conquistador who led an expedition resulting in the fall of the Aztec Empire.
  • Cortés is known for his brutal and ruthless approach to conquest, demonstrated in his siege of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire.
  • His actions significantly expanded Spanish territories in the Americas and shaped the future of Mexico and its indigenous cultures.
  • His conquest of the Aztec Empire also ensured an abundant flow of gold and riches to Spain, bolstering its position as a leading global power in the 16th century.