According to most historical textbooks Columbus made mistakes while measuring the size of the Earth. This led him to believe, that he can travel to India westwards in a reasonable time. This is however quite strange, that he let no one correct him in his mistake.

Could it be possible and was it ever considered by the historians, that Columbus was simply lying that he can find the way to India? That he knew about existence of Americas somehow and used the lie to get funding for his operation?

  • 3
    Vote to close; unless there is some evidence, this is counterfactual pseudoscience. Is there a possibility that Columbus lied? Yes. But if you assume that he knew about the existence of the America's and rather than publishing his knowledge he conspired to take a risky ocean voyage, then you enter the realm of pseudohistory.
    – MCW
    Apr 17, 2013 at 14:21
  • 1
    This question might be on-topic at Skeptics.SE. Apr 17, 2013 at 14:28
  • 4
    This is actually an interesting question, that needs better phrasing - "Could Columbus have suspected the New World lay on his path to India?" The answer is, actually, "Maybe, but probably not" and involves a survey of Renaissance Italy, Basque, Irish, Scandanavian and African culture, and how well they cross-polinated, if at all. Apr 17, 2013 at 16:41
  • 2
    I'm sympathetic to re-opening, but not without evidence. Otherwise it is random speculation. Why is it implausible that Columbus made an error?
    – MCW
    Apr 17, 2013 at 18:28
  • 1
    Sorry, but I don't see any way that this question could be answered without speculating. I agree that it would be a better fit for Skeptics.SE. Apr 17, 2013 at 22:29

1 Answer 1


I think this is a valid question. But the answer is a rather resounding no. For one thing, we have no shred of evidence for such a conjecture. For another, this conjecture cannot be squared at all with the fact that Columbus to his dying day insisted on having actually landed in India - had he been dissimulating about his knowledge of the existence of America, surely after he got there he could have come clean.

The actual story how the great voyage was conceived is told with great detail (not all of it savoury) by Lord Acton in chapter 2 of his lectures on modern history.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.