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Discovering America

Christopher Columbus often gets credit for discovering America, but this is despite the fact that people were already living on the continent.

When Christopher Columbus arrived in North America, he actually saw people already there. Those were the Native Americans.

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Question 1 of 2

Mini-test: Social Studies – Discovering America 

1. Christopher Columbus was the first European to step foot on America.
2. When Christopher Columbus first arrived in America he believed he was in India.
A.
B.
C.
D.

Question 1 of 2

Question 2 of 2

2. Which of the following statements about Columbus’ voyage of discovery is correct?
A.
B.
C.
D.
E.

Question 2 of 2


 

The next lesson: Christopher Columbus, both lessons are included in Practice Tests.

The following transcript is provided for your convenience.

So, even though he claimed to have discovered it, it was just the first time the Europeans were hearing about it in this timeframe. Actually, Vikings from Scandinavia had arrived around AD 1000. However, these explorers constructed no permanent settlements and did not remain for long. So, since the Vikings weren’t there for very long and didn’t leave any permanent settlements behind, they aren’t associated as much with discovering America. But they would’ve been the first European group to actually discover America, not counting the Native Americans that already living there.

So, Christopher Columbus, on his famous 1492 voyage, discovered America, and even at that time, he didn’t really believe that he had discovered something new, he thought he was just in a different part of India. Columbus and the explorers who would come later were really looking for the Northwest Passage, that would take them directly to Asia. So, they thought if they just kept sailing west, kind of the northerly route, getting from Europe travelling west, they would come full circle and reach Asia. But that didn’t happen because America was in the way. But the explorers didn’t know about America, so they assumed they were in some other part of Asia that was just a far outpost of it basically, where there weren’t any people speaking the language they were used to.

These explorers were actually annoyed by the new land that kept getting in their way. So, they wanted to get to the Asia they knew about, and start trading with India, and getting the goods that they were looking for. So, they were annoyed when new land kept popping up in their way, and they were finding people there that they didn’t have any language in common. And so, this land just posed an obstacle to them getting to their end result. They didn’t realize at first the resources that this new land could offer them.

Columbus died believing that he had landed in some outpost of India, being a part of Asia, but India specifically, which explains why he referred to the Native Americans as Indians. So, remember the Native Americans were here before Columbus, even though Columbus is usually given the credit for discovering America. Columbus died thinking he hadn’t discovered anything new, but it only landed on some far outpost of India, which he had meant to reach in the first place. He just never got to the part of India where he understood the language that was being spoken. And so, he called the Native Americans Indians, and that caught on for a long time.

It was not until economic expansion in Europe made exploration worthwhile that explorers would return. So, when they didn’t actually have that Northwest Passage getting to Asia, getting to India where they already had trade established, they kind of lost interest, even whenever they realized, “Oh, there’s this new land out there.” They didn’t see it as something valuable, they didn’t see it as a resource for them until economic expansion began in Europe. As different countries in Europe began trading with other countries, they realized there were certain goods and services that these other countries wanted that they could provide, if they were able to take these natural resources from America and ship them back to the European countries, and they would have those resources to trade.

They didn’t have unlimited land in the countries they currently inhabited, but there was more land, more minerals, more gold, more area to farm and send crops back. So, there were all these possibilities that were realized once they thought about it and said, “Oh, it would be worthwhile to go to this new land, set up some colonies, establish settlements so that we can get goods shipped back to us. We can get those raw, natural resources, and we can make them into things to trade with other countries.” And at that point, explorers would start returning and setting up colonies.

So, Christopher Columbus gets credit for discovering America, but it wasn’t really brand new to discover because there were already people living there: the Native Americans. The Vikings had actually beat Christopher Columbus there, but since they set up no permanent settlements and didn’t stay there very long, they don’t usually get associated with the discovery. Columbus didn’t mean to discover America, he meant to get to the West Indies, and he actually died believing that’s where he had ended up, even though he had run across some new land. At first, it wasn’t an annoyance for them that the land was in the way, but eventually, the Europeans realized the value of a new land full of valuable natural resources.

The next lesson: Christopher Columbus, both lessons are included in Practice Tests.