When Columbus was born in the mid-fifteenth century, Europe was largely isolated from the rest of the Old World - Africa and Asia - and ignorant of the existence of the world of the Western Hemisphere. The voyages of Christopher Columbus opened a period of European exploration and empire building that breached the boundaries of those isolated worlds and changed the course of human history. This book describes the life and times of Christopher Columbus on the 500th aniversary of his first voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492. Since ancient times, Europeans had dreamed of discovering new routes to the untold riches of Asia and the Far East, what set Columbus apart from these explorers was his single-minded dedication to finding official support to make that dream a reality. More than a simple description of the man, this new book places Columbus in a very broad context of European and world history. Columbus's story is not just the story of one man's rise and fall. Seen in its broader context, his life becomes a prism reflecting the broad range of human experience for the past five hundred years. Respected historians of medieval Spain and early America, the authors examine Columbus's quest for funds, first in Portugal and then in Spain, where he finally won royal backing for his scheme. Through his successful voyage in 1492 and three subsequent journeys to the new world Columbus reached the pinnacle of fame and wealth, and yet he eventually lost royal support through his own failings. William and Carla Rahn Phillips discuss the reasons for this fall and describe the empire created by the Spaniards in the lands across the ocean, even though neither they, nor anyone else in Europe, know precisely where or what those lands were. In examining the birth of a new world, this book reveals much about the times that produced these intrepid explorers.