23 Mar, 2009 @ 14:35
1 min read

You must be Jocking


Spanish historian claims Columbus was Scottish

SPAIN’S most famous explorer Christopher Columbus was actually Scottish, claims a controversial historian.

The 15th century discoverer of the New World heralded from Scotland, and adoped his surname from an Italian pirate.

The explorer, who sailed from Sevilla, after raising money from his expedition around Spain, was actually called Pedro Scotto.


Scotching assumptions that Columbus was the son of a weaver from Genoa, in Italy, or from Catalonia or Galicia, historian Alfonso Ensenat de Villalonga, claims he was actually the son of shopkeepers.

“He was baptised Pedro not Christopher,” Mr Villalonga told ABC newspaper.

He added that his family name was Scotto, and he was of Scottish origin.

“He had light-coloured eyes and freckles. He also had blond hair even though it quickly turned white. That’s how his contemporaries described him. Nothing like the traditional images (of him), which are totally invented,” the historian said.

Mr Villalonga cited a chronicle of Catholic kings written by Lucio Marineo Siculo, who referred in his writings to “Pedro Columbus”, not Christopher.

The historian has also claimed that the navigator once worked for a pirate called Vincenzo Columbus, and adopted that family name in order not to “expose” his relations.

Mr Villalonga said his research involved combing the archives in the Genoa region along with those in the Spanish history academy and national library.


  1. Just because his surname was Scotto doesn’t mean he was scottish. It still sounds a very italian surname. And this is the first time anyone reading any kind of source on Columbus has read the name “Pedro”. I think something like this would have been noticed by the THOUSANDS of scholars who have combed the archives over the years. Also, Siculo was Italian: i’d quite like to see his writtings on Columbus, see what sort of context they’re in. Considering the quality of 15th century spanish peleography, Pedro could easily be an abreviation malinterpreted: Villalonga needs his research cross-examined (but if he’s anything like Cesar Vidal, he won’t let anyone)

  2. The writer of this article could at least take the trouble to read his source properly. I’d be very surprised if the print version of the ABC article differed much from the online version, which does not cite Enseñat as saying that Columbus was Scottish, but that his family was originally from Scotland, moved to Lombardy in the 8th century, and from there to Portugal in the 15th. This is not particularly important or controversial. Where Enseñat is radical (or as radical as an elderly upper-class Spanish engineer is likely to get) is in saying that Colon’s family was the Colonnes, and that this surname became confused with the name Columbus. I know Enseñat personally, he’s a serious and extremely dedicated scholar, who may or may not be right, but if he isn’t it isn’t because he hasn’t done his research properly. The online version of the ABC article can be read here: http://www.abc.es/hemeroteca/historico-14-03-2009/sevilla/Cultura/colon-viene-de-familia-escocesa-y-fue-corsario_913766326766.html

  3. I think i know where the Pedro comes from: when one reads 15th century paleography, a lot of words are abreviated, so xto (cristo) can also be read pdo (pedro) because of deterioration of the ink and support, humidity, etc. The X would have curled at the bottom towards the left, and the top might have joind up = x – p; t – d aren’t too dificult to do either. John, thanks for the ABC article, it really clears things up. It also means that Columbus was genoese by birth, and only descended from scots (i was born in England but my family name is french, does this make me french?) Also, in Spanish and italian he is Colon, but it is only us anglo-saxons who call him columbus (colombo), so maybe scrap the taking-name-from-corsair theory, he wouldn’t have needed to, colonna and colombo are too similar

  4. Sorry, Craig, I’m not very convinced by your paleographic explanation, either. I’ll drop you an e-mail about it via your history blog, though – I don’t want to be a bore about this to people who aren’t particularly interested.

  5. I love the idea of a boat reaching the ameicas and the first man off saying”see you jimmy” to the natives. Imagine the whole of south america being populated by red haired glaswegian accented indians. Only Monty Python could come up with such a scene.

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