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From the Book:
The New World Discoverers
Greetings, this episode relates the voyages of Britain’s first New World Explorer when John Cabot embarked on his second voyage of discovery on May 2, 1497.
John Cabot (c. 1450 – c. 1500)
The son of a spice merchant, Giulio Caboto, Cabot is native to Venice, Italy. His Italian name, Giovanni Caboto, has been Anglicized to John Cabot. Historians know little of his early life. Historical documents indicate he married a woman named Mattea, with whom he had two sons, and possibly more. He was apparently a respected merchant. Sometime in the 1480’s, he ran into financial trouble and fled Italy to Spain. Cabot became involved in some Spanish projects, and then migrated to England in the middle 1490’s. In 1496 British King Henry VII issued him a letter of patent to explore “all parts, regions and coasts of the eastern, western and northern sea, under our banners, flags and ensigns, with five ships or vessels of whatsoever burden and quality they may be, and with so many and with such mariners and men as they may wish to take with them in the said ships, at their own proper costs and charges, to find, discover and investigate whatsoever islands, countries, regions or provinces of heathens and infidels, in whatsoever part of the world placed, which before this time were unknown to all Christians.”
The news of Columbus’s voyages had spread all over Europe. The tidings spurred the other European monarchs into action. King Henry VII of England granted John Cabot his patent letters on March 5, 1496. These letters authorized his voyages to unknown lands to the east. Shortly thereafter, Cabot embarked on his first voyage sometime in 1496. Historians know little of this voyage. Christopher Columbus had requested that his friend, Bristol merchant John Day, keep him informed of Cabot’s activities. His letter stated that “Since your Lordship wants information relating to the first voyage, here is what happened: he went with one ship, his crew confused him, he was short of supplies and ran into bad weather, and he decided to turn back.” The one ship had departed only a couple of months after Cabot received his letter and most surmise there was not time to plan it properly.
The second voyage departed Bristol, England on May 2, 1497. The ship, the Matthew, carried eighteen crewmen. Since no one yet knew that Columbus had discovered a new continent, everyone on board assumed they were heading for Asia.
August 06, 1497 – John Cabot Returned to England
Returning from a voyage that he had begun May 2, 1497, John Cabot believed that he had found a passage through the land mass they still thought was Asia, to China and its rich silk and spices.
Reward, Then Mystery
For his accomplishment, the King awarded Cabot an annual pension of about £20. This amounted to about four times the average income of the average Englishman at the time. In 1498, Cabot convinced the King to outfit him for another voyage. In his report, he related the land he found was temperate and the land fertile. He stated that there were fish enough in the waters to free England from dependence on Icelandic fisheries. In May 1498, Cabot set sail with a flotilla of five ships. One of the ships developed difficulties and sailed to Ireland. The other four ships sailed into mystery as none were ever heard from again.
This story is exerpted from my book, The New World Discoverers. Listeners can find the book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and other online retailers. You can also buy the book direct from me on my website, http://www.mossyfeetbooks.com. You can contact me an email@example.com
Thank you for listening.
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