England - Periods - Tudor 1485-1603

John Cabot

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During the 1400's there were stories and legends repeated throughout Northwestern Europe of the rich lands across the Atlantic Ocean. These of course were handed down by the Vikings and came from their colonies and exploits which did in fact reach across the Atlantic.

There is evidence of English and French fishermen, who listening to these stories, made their way across the North Atlantic and were rewarded by the richest fishing grounds in the world, the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. They did not want to share their discovery with competing fishermen and hence the secret was probably closely guarded. (As were later Spanish discoveries when they also feared that other nations would send expeditions to the rich lands which they discovered and keep secret logs and records of almost all of their sea voyages. EG: West coast of North America)

John Cabot was born Giovanni Caboto in c. 1450 in Genoa, Italy. Not much is known about his early life or upbringing. He likely grew up in a family of merchants and may have received some education in navigation and geography.

In the late 1460s, Cabot moved to Venice, where he became a citizen of the Republic of Venice and began working as a navigator and trader. He eventually became interested in finding a western route to Asia, which was a popular goal among European explorers at the time.

In the 1480s, Cabot moved to Bristol, England, which was a major center of trade and exploration. He may have been attracted to Bristol because of its connections to the New World, as Bristol merchants were involved in the cod fishery off the coast of Newfoundland.

Cabot's experience in navigation and trading made him an ideal candidate for exploration, and he began seeking support for a voyage to the west. He first approached King Henry VII of England in 1495, but his request was denied. However, he was eventually able to secure funding from a group of Bristol merchants, and he set out on his first voyage in 1497.

Cabot sailed with a small crew on a ship named the Matthew, which was probably only about 50 feet long. He reached Newfoundland, Canada, on June 24, 1497, and claimed the land for England. He may have also explored the coast of Labrador and other parts of North America, although the details of his second voyage are unclear.

When Cabot returned to England in 1497, he was greeted as a hero. He was able to secure further funding from King Henry VII for future voyages, and he made a second voyage in 1498. However, he did not return from this voyage, and his fate is unknown.

Despite his brief career as an explorer, John Cabot's voyages had a significant impact on English exploration and colonization of North America. He paved the way for future English explorers and helped establish English claims to parts of North America.

The discoveries made by John Cabot during his voyages to North America had several benefits, both for England and for Europe as a whole. Here are some of the main benefits:

Trade: Cabot's voyages opened up new trade routes for England, particularly in the form of the cod fishery off the coast of Newfoundland. English merchants were able to establish profitable trade with the indigenous people of the region, and this trade continued for centuries.

Colonization: Cabot's claim on behalf of England to parts of North America paved the way for English colonization of the region. The establishment of colonies in North America would later become a significant aspect of English history, and would play a major role in the development of the United States.

Exploration: Cabot's voyages helped spur further exploration of the New World by other European powers, including Spain, France, and the Netherlands. This led to the discovery of new lands and peoples, and helped expand European knowledge of the world.

Scientific knowledge: Cabot's voyages also contributed to the scientific understanding of the world. Cabot and his crew likely made observations of the natural environment and the indigenous peoples they encountered, which helped expand scientific knowledge and understanding.

Overall, John Cabot's discoveries had significant benefits for England and Europe, both in terms of trade and colonization, as well as in the expansion of scientific knowledge and exploration.

2nd Voyage

John Cabot's return to England in 1497 was a significant moment in his career. His successful voyage to North America and the claim he made on behalf of England was seen as a great achievement. Cabot's arrival in Bristol was greeted with great celebration, and he was hailed as a hero. He was awarded a pension of £20 per year by King Henry VII, which was a significant amount of money at the time.

Following the success of his first voyage, Cabot was able to secure further funding from King Henry VII for future voyages. In 1498, he set out on a second voyage, with a fleet of five ships. The goal of the voyage was to explore more of the coast of North America and establish English trade with the indigenous people. However, the details of this voyage are uncertain, and it is not clear what Cabot discovered or accomplished.

What is known is that Cabot did not return from his second voyage, and his fate is unknown. There are various theories about what happened to him. Some believe he may have died at sea or during an encounter with the indigenous people, while others speculate that he may have settled in North America or returned to Europe under a different name. However, there is no definitive evidence to support any of these theories.

Despite the mystery surrounding his disappearance, John Cabot's legacy as an explorer and navigator remains significant. His voyages helped establish England's claims to parts of North America and paved the way for future English exploration and colonization.

John Cabot had a son named Sebastian Cabot who also became an explorer and navigator. Sebastian was born in Venice, Italy, in 1481 and moved to England with his father in the 1490s. He accompanied his father on his second voyage to North America in 1498, and later worked as a navigator and explorer in his own right.

Sebastian Cabot made several voyages to the New World, including expeditions to Brazil and the Rio de la Plata region of South America. He also served as a consultant to various European monarchs, including King Henry VIII of England and King Charles V of Spain.

Sebastian Cabot was a skilled navigator and is credited with making significant contributions to the development of cartography and navigational techniques. He is also known for his efforts to promote the exploration and colonization of North America, and for his work as a merchant and trader.

Although Sebastian Cabot was not as famous as his father, he played an important role in the history of exploration and helped establish England's claims to parts of the New World.

By 1497 the success of Christopher Columbus was leaking out to all areas of Europe and the response in England was to take a closer look at the position of the Kingdom in the North Atlantic and the potential for conquering new lands or more importantly, as with Columbus's original intentions, to discover a direct trading route to the Far East.

Henry the VII had recently finished the War of the Roses by taking power himself and killing the last direct challenger for the throne. Feeling somewhat secure at home, he was ready to send someone west, across the Atlantic in search of China and the Spice Islands. He choose a Genoese navigator, John Cabot (Giovanni Cabot) and on May 2nd 1497 he set sail from Bristol England on a ship named the Mathew and crossed the Atlantic. According to a Bristol merchant John Day, he probably landed in Newfoundland, Labrador and Cape Breton Island. He returned the following year on a second voyage of discover and like Columbus he believed that he had reached Asia and the natives were in fact Chinese. These initial voyages were enough to establish a claim by England to this new territory and served to open up the floodgates for other exploration and fishermen in search of the legendary Grand Banks.

As Cabot arrived in Newfoundland's waters, he and his men were amazed by the sea life. They dipped baskets into the water and drew them out full of fish. This report triggered a rush of fishermen who were able to develop an huge industry for the European market. Cabot landed on the Newfoundland shore for only a few hours and found evidence of the native people. He did report the possible sighting of a couple of natives, but wasn't positive.

The following year 1498 he set out on another voyage to America but was lost somewhere at sea. He and his crew were never seen again.

Reference: Article by Greg Scott (Staff Historian), 2023

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