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John Cabot Italian: His discovery of the coast of North America under the commission of Henry VII of England is the earliest known European exploration of coastal North America since the Norse visits to Vinland in the eleventh century. To mark the celebration of the th anniversary of Cabot's expedition, both the Canadian and British governments elected Cape Bonavista , Newfoundland , as representing Cabot's first landing site.
However, alternative locations have also been proposed. The non-Italian forms are derived from how his name was recorded in related 15th-century documents. He was referred to by his Italian banker in London as 'Giovanni Chabbote', in the only known contemporary document to use this version of his first name. He was born in Italy, the son of Giulio Caboto and his wife; he had a brother Piero.
Pedro de Ayala , the Spanish envoy and Cabot's contemporary in London, described him in a letter to the Spanish Crown in as "another Genoese like Columbus". In Cabot was made a citizen of the Republic of Venice, which required a minimum of fifteen years' residency in the city; thus he must have lived in Venice since at least He may have been born slightly earlier than , which is the approximate date most commonly given for his birth.
Since this was one of the city's prestigious confraternities, his acceptance suggests that he was already a respected member of the community. Following his gaining full Venetian citizenship in , Caboto would have been eligible to engage in maritime trade, including the trade to the eastern Mediterranean that was the source of much of Venice's wealth. He presumably entered this trade shortly thereafter. A document refers to his selling a slave in Crete whom he had acquired while in the territories of the Sultan of Egypt, which then comprised most of what is now Israel, Syria and Lebanon.
John Cabot is mentioned in a variety of Venetian records of the s. These indicate that by he was married to Mattea and already had at least two sons. He may have relied on this experience when seeking work later in Spain as a civil engineer. Cabot appears to have got into financial trouble in the late s and left Venice as an insolvent debtor by 5 November He moved to Valencia , Spain, where his creditors attempted to have him arrested by sending a lettera di raccomandazione a giustizia "a letter of recommendation to justice" to the authorities.
These proposals were rejected, however. This project was abandoned following a decision of the City Council on 24 December Like other explorers at those times, including Christopher Columbus , Cabot led an expedition on commission, in his case, England. Cabot planned to depart to the west from a northerly latitude where the longitudes are much closer together, and where, as a result, the voyage would be much shorter.
Historians had thought that, on arrival in England, Cabot went to Bristol, a major maritime centre, to seek financial backers. Cabot's royal patent, issued by the Crown in , stated that all expeditions should be undertaken from Bristol, so his primary financial supporters were probably based in that city. In any case, it also stipulated that the commerce resulting from any discoveries must be conducted with England alone, with goods only being brought in through Bristol.
Portugal having made Lisbon into such a monopoly port, while Spain was in the process of doing the same thing with Seville. In the late 20th century, British historian Alwyn Ruddock found documentation that Cabot went first to London, where he received some financial backing from its Italian community. She suggested one patron was Father Giovanni Antonio de Carbonariis , an Augustinian friar who was also the deputy to Adriano Castellesi , the papal tax collector.
Ruddock also suggested that Carbonariis accompanied Cabot's expedition. Beyond this, Ruddock stated that Cabot received a loan from an Italian banking house in London. As Ruddock ordered the destruction of all her research notes on her death in , scholars have had to duplicate her research and rediscover documents.
This payment from the Florentine merchants would have represented a substantial contribution, although it was not enough to completely finance the expedition. On 5 March Henry VII gave Cabot and his three sons letters patent   with the following charge for exploration:. Those who received such patents had the right to assign them to third parties for execution. Cabot went to Bristol to arrange preparations for his voyage.
Bristol was the second-largest seaport in England. From onward it had supplied several expeditions to look for Hy-Brazil. According to Celtic legend, this island lay somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. As the island was believed to be a source of brazilwood from which a valuable red dye could be obtained , merchants had economic incentive to find it. Little was recorded of Cabot's first voyage.
A letter from John Day, a Bristol merchant, sent during the winter of to an addressee believed to be Christopher Columbus , refers briefly to it, but writes mostly about the second, voyage. He notes, "Since your Lordship wants information relating to the first voyage, here is what happened: Information about the voyage comes mostly from four short letters and an entry in a chronicle of the city of Bristol.
The chronicle entry for says in full:. John the Baptist's Day [24 June ], the land of America was found by the Merchants of Bristow in a shippe of Bristowe, called the Mathew; the which said the ship departed from the port of Bristowe, the second day of May, and came home again the 6th of August next following. What is known as the "John Day letter" provides considerable information about Cabot's second voyage. In addition to these letters, Alwyn Ruddock reported to have found another, written on 10 August by the London-based bankers of Fr.
Giovanni Antonio de Carbonariis. This letter has yet to be found. From various written comments made by Ruddock, the letter did not appear to contain a detailed account of the voyage. The known sources do not concur on all aspects of the events, and none can be assumed to be entirely reliable. Cabot was described as having one "little ship",  of 50 tons burden, called Matthew of Bristol according to the chronicle. It was said to be laden with sufficient supplies for "seven or eight months".
It is likely that two ranking Bristol merchants were part of the expedition. His participation was confirmed by a document found in the early 21st century noting his reward from the King in January after the ship returned. More importantly, in historian Evan Jones confirmed that Weston had undertaken an independent voyage to the New Found Land in , probably under Cabot's patent, as the first Englishman to lead an expedition to North America. Leaving Bristol, the expedition sailed past Ireland and across the Atlantic, making landfall somewhere on the coast of North America on 24 June The exact location of the landfall has long been disputed, with different communities vying for the honor.
Historians have proposed Cape Bonavista and St. Since the discovery of the "John Day letter" in the s, it seems most likely that the initial landfall was either on Newfoundland or Cape Breton Island. This is because Day's letter implies that the coastline explored in lay between the latitudes of Bordeaux, France and Dursey Head in southern Ireland. The initial landfall seems to have taken place close to the southern latitude, with the expedition returning home after reaching the northern one.
For the th-anniversary celebrations, the governments of Canada and the United Kingdom designated Cape Bonavista in Newfoundland as the "official" landing place. Here in Queen Elizabeth II, along with members of the Italian and Canadian governments, greeted the replica Matthew of Bristol, following her celebratory crossing of the Atlantic. Cabot is reported to have landed only once during the expedition and did not advance "beyond the shooting distance of a crossbow".
The crew appeared to have remained on land just long enough to take on fresh water; they also raised the Venetian and Papal banners, claiming the land for the King of England and recognising the religious authority of the Roman Catholic Church. On return to Bristol, Cabot rode to London to report to the King. Once Henry's throne was secure, he gave more thought to Cabot.
On February 3, he was given new letters patent covering the voyage  and to help him prepare a second expedition. The Great Chronicle of London — reports that Cabot departed with a fleet of five ships from Bristol at the beginning of May , one of which had been prepared by the King. Some of the ships were said to be carrying merchandise, including cloth, caps, lace points and other "trifles". The Spanish envoy in London reported in July that one of the ships had been caught in a storm and been forced to land in Ireland, but that Cabot and the other four ships had continued on.
For centuries no other records were found or at least published that relate to this expedition; it was long believed that Cabot and his fleet were lost at sea. But at least one of the men scheduled to accompany the expedition, Lancelot Thirkill of London, is recorded as living in London in It is not known if Cabot died during the voyage, or returned safely and died shortly after. The historian Alwyn Ruddock worked on Cabot and his era for 35 years.
She suggested that Cabot and his expedition successfully returned to England in the spring of She claimed their return followed an epic two-year exploration of the east coast of North America, south into the Chesapeake Bay area and perhaps as far as the Spanish territories in the Caribbean. Her evidence included the well-known world map of the Spanish cartographer Juan de la Cosa. His chart included the North American coast and seas 'discovered by the English' between and Ruddock suggested Fr.
Giovanni Antonio de Carbonariis and the other friars who accompanied the expedition had stayed in Newfoundland and founded a mission. If Carbonariis founded a settlement in North America, it would have been the first Christian settlement on the continent, and may have included a church, the only medieval church to have been built there. The Cabot Project at the University of Bristol was organized in to search for the evidence on which Ruddock's claims rest, as well as to undertake related studies of Cabot and his expeditions.
These appear to place John Cabot in London by May , albeit Jones and Condon have yet to publish their documentation. The Project is collaborating on an archaeological excavation at the community of Carbonear , Newfoundland, located at Conception Bay and believed the likely location for Carbonariis' mission settlement. The Archaeology of Historic Carbonear Project, carried out by Memorial University of Newfoundland , has conducted summer fieldwork each season since So far, it has found evidence of planter habitation since the late 17th century and of trade with Spain through Bilbao , including a Spanish coin minted in Peru.
Ruddock claimed that William Weston of Bristol, a supporter of Cabot, undertook an independent expedition to North America in , sailing north from Newfoundland up to the Hudson Strait. In , Jones confirmed that William Weston who was not previously known to have been involved led an expedition from Bristol [with royal support] to the " new found land " in or , making him the first Englishman to lead exploration of North America. This find has changed the understanding of English roles in exploration of that continent.
This revealed that Weston and Cabot had received rewards from King Henry VII in January , following a royal audience, thereby confirming that the two explorers were involved by this stage. This amount was larger than any previously accounted for in royal support of the explorations. This conducted further expeditions in and According to Peter Martyr's account this expedition explored a section of the coast from the Hudson Bay to about Chesapeake Bay.
Sebastian Cabot , one of John's sons, also became an explorer, later making at least one voyage to North America. In he was searching for the Northwest Passage. Nearly two decades later, he sailed to South America for Spain to repeat Ferdinand Magellan 's voyage around the world.
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