John Cabot

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John Cabot was an Italian navigator and explorer who is popularly credited as the modern discoverer of Canada, or at least the region that would become that nation. In 1497, he set sail from Bristol on his ship the Matthew looking for a sea route to Asia. He ended up in the North American mainland, he and his men being the first Europeans since the Vikings verifiably known to have done so.

King Henry VII of England gave him a grant: "full and free authoritie, leave, and power, to sayle to all partes, countreys, and seas, of the East, of the West, and of the North , under our banners and ensignes, with five ships…and as many mariners or men as they will have in saide ships , upon their own proper costes and charges, to seeke out, discover, and finde, whatsoever iles, countreyes, regions or provinces of the heathen and infidelles, whatsoever they bee, and in what part of the world soever they be, whiche before this time have beene unknowen to all Christians."

Cabot went to Bristol to make the preparations for his voyage. Bristol by then was the second-largest seaport in England. Cabot left with only one vessel, the Matthew, a small ship, but fast and stable. The crew consisted of only 18 people. He departed on May 20, 1497. He sailed to Dursey Head, Ireland, from where he sailed due west to Asia. He landed on the coast of Newfoundland on June 24, 1497. His precise landing-place is a matter of much controversy, either Bonavista or St. John's. he went ashore to take possession of the land, and explored the coast for some time, probably departing on July 20. On the homeward voyage his sailors thought they were going too far north, so Cabot sailed a more southerly course, reaching Brittany instead of England. On August 6 he arrived back in Bristol.

His men may have been the first Europeans on either American continent since the Vikings: Christopher Columbus did not find the mainland until his third voyage, in 1498, and letters referring to a voyage by Amerigo...
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