What did John Cabot achieve
Info sheet John Cabot - Giovanni Caboto (around 1450 - 1498/99)
Little is known about Giovanni Caboto. His hometown could have been Genoa, but also Venice. The fact is that he received the citizenship of Venice in 1476. In the history of geographical discoveries, however, he went down as John Cabot - the English name of the Italian.
In Spain, Caboto had heard of Columbus' first expedition. According to Caboto's idea of the world, it must be possible to find an even shorter way to India than Columbus, who crossed the Atlantic in 1492 and discovered America with the islands in the Caribbean.
Because of the curvature of the earth, Caboto believed that the shortest route between Europe and Asia was to be found in the north. So he wanted to go as far north as possible.
In Spain and Portugal, however, where Caboto first presented his plan, there were neither wealthy financiers for his thesis nor for his plan to cross the Atlantic in the far north. The Spanish and Portuguese courts relied on the newly discovered Central American region.
Caboto finally found interest and the money he needed for his idea in up-and-coming England, the rival of the two colonial powers in southern Europe. In Bristol it was wealthy traders who supported Cabot financially. When news arrived in England in 1493 that Columbus had discovered the Western Passage - as was generally believed at the time - to Asia, Caboto began to work out a concrete plan for an expedition to the Far East. In March 1496, King Henry VII approved this plan and commissioned Caboto to travel on behalf of the English crown.
John Cabot was able to set sail from Bristol on May 20, 1497 with the "Matthew" and a crew of 18. The ship was heading northwest. After a two-month crossing in partly stormy and rough weather, land was sighted on June 24th. Cabot ordered the landing.
After that, Cabot followed the coastline for thirty days without seeing a soul. It passed the Labrador Peninsula, Newfoundland and the coasts of New England. He called his discoveries "New Found Land" - and claimed all areas he sighted for England. At the beginning of August Cabot returned to England, where he proudly reported that he had discovered Asia.
The success seemed to have convinced his patrons, because they gave Cabot new money with which he could equip a second expedition. The English king also supported this new journey, during which Cabot hoped to penetrate as far as the Japanese Zipangu. This time he left Bristol in May 1498 with a sizable small fleet of four or five ships and a crew of 200.
On this second voyage, Cabot lost luck, as only one of his ships returned to England. There is still no trace of him or his other men. Some historians suspect that the entire expedition sank at sea. Others look for his tracks in East Greenland. Finally, some believe that Cabot sailed as far as Chesapeake Bay and returned to England from there.
These are all speculations. The only fact is that John Cabot was the second European after Columbus to set foot on the American continent. After the Vikings, he was undoubtedly the first to return to the harsh and inhospitable north of the American continent, not the tropical and subtropical regions of Central and South America. That is certainly his outstanding achievement.
The exact place where John Cabot went ashore in 1497 is not known to this day - it probably happened on the east coast of Newfoundland. Neither his logbook was preserved, nor was there any credible eyewitness who could have shed light on the tragic end of John Cabot's last expedition.
For England it was crucial that John Cabot had taken possession of all his discoveries for the English crown. This fact, hardly noticed during Cabot's lifetime, paved the way for Great Britain to rise to one of the largest colonial powers in the world.
His life in facts and figures
- born around 1450
So little is known about Giovanni Caboto that even his place of birth cannot be named with certainty today. It could have been Genoa, but also Venice, where he saw the light of day around 1450.
- 1476 to 1493
The first reliable information about the navigator and explorer comes from the year 1476, in which Caboto received the citizenship status of Venice. The Italian then stayed in Spain and Portugal in order to win patrons and donors for an expedition to Asia at the royal courts there. In contrast to Columbus, Caboto wanted to reach the distant continent via a sea route leading as far north as possible, because he was convinced that the route to Asia via the northern hemisphere would have to be the shortest. While his plans were rejected in Spain and Portugal, Caboto found financiers in Bristol, England. They also put him in contact with the English King Henry VII, on whose behalf John Cabot - as he was henceforth called in England - finally sailed to North America.
In May 1497 the expedition started with the "Matthew" and a crew of 18 from Bristol. After a two-month crossing, Cabot entered the North American continent in mid-June. He sailed over a month off the North American coast, passed the Labrador Peninsula, Newfoundland and New England. When he returned to England, he was certain that he had discovered Asia.
In view of the great success of his first voyage, Cabot quickly received new money with which he immediately equipped another expedition. On this second voyage, John Cabot wanted to penetrate as far as Japan with his men. In the late spring of 1498, four or five ships with about 200 men on board left Bristol. Only one of these ships returned. The few survivors knew nothing about the fate of John Cabot and the rest of the expedition. To this day, one can only speculate about where and how the life of the courageous Italian navigator and explorer in English service ended.
Source: Geography Information Center
Author: Dr. Klaus-Uwe Koch
Published by Klett
Source date: 2003
Processing date: 06/04/2012
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