Christopher Columbus is a much more controversial figure than you thought he was when you learned about him in second grade. In fact, there are a lot of things about Columbus that don’t exactly fit the narrative we learned in elementary school.
So, in honor of Columbus Day, here are some facts about Christopher Columbus that may differ from the common account given in grade school textbooks.
HE WASN’T TRYING TO PROVE THE EARTH WAS ROUND: One big myth about Columbus is that he had the wisdom to know that the world was round in a world full of flat-Earthers and that his voyage was a way to prove the world was round.
This idea certainly paints Columbus with a brave and heroic brush, but it doesn’t square with reality. For Spanish people at the time of Columbus to believe the world was flat would be like someone today believing in bloodletting.
Humans started understanding the world was round as early as 600 BC. By the time of Columbus, that fact was common knowledge, especially among the educated tiers of society that Columbus belonged to.
BUT HE WAS WRONG ABOUT THE SIZE OF THE EARTH: At the heart of the story of Columbus was his idea that he could reach India by traveling West instead of East. He believed the world was much smaller than it was and was completely unaware of the giant land masses we call North and South America standing between him and what he thought was the other side of the world.
HE KIDNAPPED AND ENSLAVED PEOPLE: Most accounts of Columbus’ story don’t mention this, while others gloss over it, but Christopher Columbus essentially kidnapped six native Americans and brought them back to Spain on his return voyage. In his second voyage, he sent back several more to be sold as slaves.
HE DIDN’T ACTUALLY DISCOVER AMERICA: You probably already knew this one, but any list about Columbus would be incomplete without it. For those who may not know, Columbus didn’t actually discover “The New World.”
So who did? That would probably be The Vikings. While there are legends of people discovering the Americas prior to the vikings, we know for certain that The Vikings set foot on Canadian soil somewhere around 1000 AD. A Viking named Leif Erikson is credited with the discovery.