The New World
In 1488, the Genoese explorer Cristoffa Corombo gained the support of Queen Ysabel of Navarre for a seemingly insane journey to Asia by sailing west across the Oceanic Sea. His calculations – based both on faulty mathematics and on tendentious readings of the Bible – were clearly preposterously wrong, and he had already been turned down by Portugal (twice), Castile, Genoa and Venice. It is not clear why Ysabel consented to the scheme at all, except perhaps that certain of her advisors were aware of the stories among the local fishermen of islands discovered far to the west.
Whatever the reasons, Corombo was equipped with ships and supplies, and in 1490 he landed in the Bahamas. Establishing a colony on the island he named “Navarrella”, he conducted several more expeditions, and reigned for some time as a governor of the region. In 1499, however, he was returned to Navarre in chains, accused of various illegal acts as governor, including torture, sedition, and theft. Released from prison and granted a small pension, he fled across the border to Castille, where the King gratefully accepted his experience and knowledge. For Castille, Corombo made several more voyages, exploring the northern coast of South America, and the eastern coast of Central America. He heard rumours of a passage to an eastern ocean (which he stubbornly insisted to be the Straits of Molucca), but never found it.
After Corombo’s first voyage, exploration of the New World surged forward – Navarre was joined not only by Castille, but by Aragon, Portugal, and the Lancastrian Kingdom, who were represented by Zuan Chabotto, a Venetian. Chaos reigned, only resolved by the Treaty of Toulouse in 1515. Under the terms of this treaty, Navarre retained rights to all land discovered by westward exploration between the latitudes of the Cape Verde islands and the Madeira archipelago; north of Madeira, all land would be granted to France-England (as a third kingdom held independently by the King, not in right of either Crown). South of Cape Verde, Portuguese rights to the tip of Brazil were accepted, along with their rights over all eastward exploration, while the remainder of the world went to Castille. Aragon was overlooked entirely, but was appeased by rights over any future Christian conquests in North Africa, as well as the right to keep control of a few islands in the Antilles that would otherwise be ceded to Castille. Newfoundland and lands west of it, though originally belonging to Lancaster, was later ceded to Navarre in recognition of its prior discovery by Basque fishermen.
Navarre had little money to support substantial exploration, but that did not prevent its conquest, in 1529, of the Aztec Empire, through the actions of conquistadors such as Pascual de Andagoya and Edward Weston; later in the century, they successfully annexed the territories of the Maya and the Tarascans, to consolidate their control over central America. Attempts – first by Andagoya and later by the mad explorer Lope de Aguirre, to chart and conquer the Peruvian Empire succeeded only in granting the Peruvians firearms (and decimating them through disease). Voyages under captains Urdaneta and Elcano crossed the Pacific, but led to nothing – the expense and danger of the route could not be justified in light of the small returns, and the Navarrese crown was already concerned by the power of the Mexicans, and did not want to give Mexico any further prestige or wealth.
The single most important factor in the history of the New World was, however, probably the union of Castille and Portugal into a united Spain in the latter half of the sixteenth century, which ended Castillian ambitions to discover alternative routs to the Indies. In 1600, therefore, the New World was divided between France-England (which had little interest in exploration), Navarre (which had some interest, but a weak international position – it had little room for exploration according the Treaty of Toulouse, and did not have the strength to challenge either Spain or France-England to revise the treaty), and Spain, which concentrated almost entirely on the eastern route.