John Cabot

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  • Topic: John Cabot, Newfoundland, Bristol
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Name and origins
Cabot's birthplace is in Italy. In Italian he is known today as Giovanni Caboto, in English as John Cabot, in French as Jean Cabot, and in Spanish as Juan Caboto. The non-Italian forms reflect references to him in the related 15th-century documents. Only one set of documents has been found bearing his signature. These are Venetian testamentary documents of 1484, on which he signed as "Zuan Chabotto", "Zuan" being a form of "John" typical to Venice.[3] That he continued to use this form in England, at least among Italians, is supported by two letters referring to him that were written by others in London in 1497. One, from a London-based Venetian, gives Cabot's first name as Zuam.[4] Another, from the Milanese Ambassador, spells his name Zoane.[5] In a document identified in October 2010, he is described by his Italian banker in London as 'Giovanni Chabbote', this being the only known contemporary document to use this version of his first name.[6] Gaeta (in the Province of Latina) and Castiglione Chiavarese (in the Province of Genoa) have both been proposed as birthplaces.[7] The main evidence for Gaeta are records of a Caboto family dwelling there until the mid-15th century, but ceasing to be traceable after 1443.[8] Pedro de Ayala, the Spanish envoy and Cabot's contemporary in London, described him in 1498 as "another Genoese like Columbus".[9] John Cabot's son, Sebastian, appears to have believed that his father originally came from Genoa. What is certain is that in 1476 Cabot was made a Venetian citizen, which required a minimum of fifteen years' residency in the city. He must have lived in Venice since at least 1461.[10] Early life

Territories at 1500 Castile, England, Portugal
John Cabot appears in the Venetian records in 1471 when he was accepted into the religious confraternity of St John the Evangelist. Since this was one of the city's prestigious confraternities, this suggests that he was already a respected member of the community. He may have been born slightly earlier than 1450, which is the approximate date most commonly given for his birth. Following Cabot's acquisition of full Venetian citizenship in 1476, he would have become eligible to engage in maritime trade, including the trade to the eastern Mediterranean, which was the source of much of Venice's wealth. He presumably became engaged in this trade shortly thereafter. He is mentioned in a document of 1483 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 Palestine, Syria and Lebanon.[11] This is not sufficient to prove Cabot's later assertion that he had visited Mecca, which he said in 1497 to the Milanese ambassador in London.[5] He may have acquired better knowledge of the origins of the oriental merchandise he would have been dealing in (such as spices and silks) than most Europeans at that time. "Zuan Cabotto" (i.e. John Cabot) is mentioned in a variety of Venetian records of the 1480s. These indicate that by 1484 he was married to Mattea and already had at least two sons.[12] Cabot's sons are named in his 1496 royal patent as Ludovico, Sebastian, and Sancto.[13] The Venetian sources also contain references to Cabot's being involved in house building during his time there. This may be the experience on which he later promoted himself as a civil engineer in Spain.[14] Cabot appears to have gotten into financial trouble in the late 1480s and had left Venice as an insolvent debtor by 5 November 1488. He moved to Valencia, Spain where his creditors attempted to have him arrested by sending a lettere di raccomandazione a giustizia ("a letter of recommendation to justice") to the authorities.[15] While in Valencia, "John Cabot Montecalunya" (as he is referred to in local documents) proposed plans for improvements to the harbour. These proposals were rejected, however.[16] Early in 1494 he moved on to Seville, where he proposed, was contracted to...
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