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John Cabot

John Cabot

b. 1450 Genoa? d. 1499

John Cabot's real name is Giovanni Caboto. He became a Venetian citizen when he was a young boy and learned the arts of navigation and trading.  Bad experiences Cabot may have had trading and negotiating for silks and spices with Arabs at Mecca, might have given him reasons to find an all-sea route to the Far East. By doing this he could cut out the middlemen (Arabs) altogether. 

In the wake of Columbus' historic 1492 voyage in the service of the Spanish crown, Caboto convinced King Henry VII that England did not have to sit still while the Spaniards helped themselves to the New World, even though the Pope had given them the monopoly (the whole business) on western discoveries. The king eager to get into the trade route-discovery business himself gave Caboto (now known as John Cabot) letters-patent authorizing (permission) him to explore "islands, countries, regions, or provinces of heathens or infidels ... which before this time have been unknown to all Christians."

Having convinced the local merchants that not only was it possible to reach China by heading west on a more northerly route than the one Columbus had taken, but also that this route would be even shorter, Cabot sailed out of Bristol on the small ship Matthew on May 2, 1497. He hit land June 24, thinking that he had reached the east coast of Asia. Where exactly he did land is not known - it may have been Labrador, Newfoundland, or Cape Breton Island - but he claimed it anyway in the name of King Henry VII .

On his return to England, Cabot was given a hero's welcome and made an admiral for having, supposedly reached the "Land of Spices." Then he was sent immediately back across the Atlantic to establish "a factory in the land of the Grand Khan." Instead of finding the expected curry and cloves, he came across harsh rivers and unfriendly forests. He sailed due north, making the first recorded attempt to discover the Northwest Passage, but he only found ice-crusted waters. In the fall of 1498 he returned to England, only to find out he had to take another voyage across the ocean.

Suddenly, nothing more is heard of John Cabot - he disappears from the world. Some historians think that he died quietly in Bristol, and like Columbus, never realized that the Far East he thought he had reached was farther east still. Asia aside, however, all of England's later claims to land in the New World were based on Cabot's achievements.

Click here to view another image of Cabot's route.


Below are links and sites related to John Cabot. 


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John and Sebastian Cabot


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John Cabot, Explorer






This site was last updated 08/04/2004 08:08 PM -0400