In the early modern period, the voyages of Christopher Columbus were a series of four voyages to the Americas between 1492 and 1502 that were led by the explorer Christopher Columbus. Columbus was an Italian navigator from the Republic of Genoa who sailed for the Spanish Crown, which sponsored these voyages. These expeditions led to the colonisation of America.

At the time of Columbus' voyages, the Americas were inhabited by natives considered to be the descendants of Asians who crossed the Bering Strait to North America in prehistoric times. Vikings were the first Europeans to reach the Americas, establishing a short-lived settlement in Newfoundland circa 1000. Columbus' voyages led to the widespread knowledge that a new continent existed west of Europe and east of Asia. This breakthrough in geographical science led to the exploration and colonization of the New World by major European sea powers, and is sometimes cited as the start of the modern era.

Spain, Portugal and other European kingdoms sent expeditions and established colonies throughout the New World, converted the native inhabitants to Christianity, and built large trade networks across the Atlantic, which introduced new plants, animals, and food crops in both continents. The search for a westward route to Asia continued in 1513 when Nuñez de Balboa crossed Central America and became the first European to sight the Pacific Ocean. The search was completed in 1521, when the Spanish Magellan-Elcano expedition sailed across the Pacific and reached Southeast Asia.

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