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John Cabot Q and A

Page history last edited by vlodish 12 years, 5 months ago

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Where did John Cabot start his voyage?

Cabot left Bristol in the spring of 1497, a year after the date of his patent, not with the 'five shippes' the King had authorized, but in the little "Matthew", with a crew of only eighteen men, nearly all Englishmen accustomed to the North Atlantic.


This scheme might have succeeded were it not for Canada; and it is at the point when Cabot reached the unwanted continent that the historians dispute begins. Historians have advanced a number of theories concerning his landfall: some say that Cabot landed in Labrador; others say it was in Nova Scotia or Cape Breton Island; still others support a landing in Newfoundland; and a minority argue for a landing all the way in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, or as far south as Maine. Each of these theories is based on some evidence and it is impossibleto refute any of them completely. The weight of the evidence seems to support the Nova Scotian landfall, an hypothesis which had been generally accepted since William F. Ganong argued persuasively for it in 1929.4 However, the discovery of a new document in the 1950s reopened the debate, which has continued with unabated fervor since that time.


Who sent and financed Cabot's voyage?

    *additional information*


Henry VII granted £10 "to hym that founde the new isle", and later a pension of £20 a year. In February 1498, Henry granted Cabot his second letters patent. He was authorized to take six ships, and go to the "londe and iles of late founde by the seid John".


What was Cabot's motivation to go on this voyage?


Then, about 1490, Cabot and his family moved to Spain to seek support for a voyage to Asia. It is probable that, like his fellow-countryman Christopher Columbus, Cabot wanted to be part of an expanding frontier of exploration, the Atlantic Ocean. The leaders in this enterprise were the Portuguese, and the Spanish were also interested. The monarchs of both countries wanted to find new routes to Asia and its riches - routes which would avoid the Mediterranean and the virtual monopoly on the spice trade held by the Italians. There was another motivation as well. In a deeply religious age, with the final triumph of the Reconquista at Granada as a rallying point, Europeans wanted to spread knowledge of Christianity, and to contain the spread of Islam.



Who did John Cabot meet?


On June 24, 1497, Cabot reached the east coast of North America, probably Newfoundland or Cape Breton. Cabot claimed the land in the name of Henry VII. They did not meet any Native peoples.


Following a trail leading away from the shore, Cabot and some of his men came across an abandoned campsite. The site may have belonged to the Beothuk, a tribe that became known for hiding itself from Europeans.


What was the outcome of John Cabot's voyage?


Despite the mysterious outcome of the 1498 voyage, and the total cessation of English exploration under Henry VIII, Cabot's 1497 expedition had laid the groundwork for England's interest in, and later colonization of, North America. Although he did not find the spices of the Orient, he brought the Grand Banks fishing grounds, which became the basis of the European fishing industry in subsequent years, into open public knowledge. Cabot's voyage gave European geographers their first hint of the size and extent of the North American continent, and led to searches for a North West Passage to the Orient.


What did Cabot do to make himself a hero or villian?


The Europeans who came to Newfoundland after Cabot's 1497 voyage were attracted, not by furs, nor gold, nor land as in other parts of the Americas, but by fish.



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