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Author Topic: England's early voyages to America  (Read 1296 times)
Description: Expeditions from 1480 and John Cabot in 1497
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« on: November 19, 2006, 02:04:00 AM »

The Naming of America

Richard Amerik was a Welshman (Ap Meric) who became harbourmaster for the English port of Bristol. He financed the 1497 voyage of John Cabot, commonly credited as the first early modern European to discover the North American mainland. Amerik's name may well have been given to that continent.

John Cabot

Giovanni Caboto (c. 1450 ? c.1499), known in English as John Cabot, was an Italian navigator and explorer.

Almost nothing is known about Cabot's early years. He was born around 1450, more probably in Genoa[2][1]. When he was 11 he moved to Venice and became a Venetian citizen. He married with Mattea, who gave him three sons, who followed him in his entrerprises.

Like other Italian explorers of the era, such as Christopher Columbus (Cristoforo Colombo), Cabot made another country his base of operations. He moved first to Spain, where he collaborated to the works of the new port of Valencia.

It was probably on hearing of Columbus's discovery of 'the Indies' that he decided to find a route to the west for himself. He incorrectly thought spices were coming from northern Asia; and a degree of longitude is shorter the further one is from the equator, so the voyage from western Europe to eastern Asia would be shorter at higher latitudes. He proposed his plans first to Ferdinand II of Aragon, but wen the Spanish court refused to support his voyage, Cabot moved to England.

King Henry VII of England gave him a grant to go on "full and free authoritie, leave, and power, to sayle to all partes, countreys, a see as, 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 was the second-largest seaport in England, and during the years from 1480 onwards several expeditions had been sent out to look for Hy-Brazil, an island said to lie somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean according to Celtic legends. Some people even think Newfoundland may have been found on one of these voyages.

A replica of the Matthew in Floating Harbour, Bristol

In 1496 Cabot set out from Bristol with one ship. But he got no further than Iceland and was forced to return because of disputes with the crew. On a second voyage Cabot again used only one ship with 18 crew, the Matthew, a small ship (50 tons), but fast and able. He departed on either May 2 or May 20, 1497 and sailed to Dursey Head, Ireland. He landed on the coast of Newfoundland on 24 June, 1497. His precise landing-place is a matter of controversy, either Bonavista or St. John's. He went ashore to take possession of the land, and explored the coast for some time, and probably departed 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, and on August 6 arrived back in Bristol.

The location of Cabot's first landfall is not definitely known, due of lack of surviving evidence. Many experts think it was on Cape Bonavista, Newfoundland, but others look for it in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Labrador, or Maine. Cape Bonavista, however, is the location recognised by the governments of Canada and the United Kingdom as being Cabot's official landing. His men may have been the first Europeans to set foot on the American mainland since the Vikings. Christopher Columbus did not find the mainland until his third voyage, in 1498, and letters referring to a voyage by Amerigo Vespucci in 1497 are generally believed to have been forgeries or fabrications.

1497 Voyage
What route did Cabot take?

Our evidence for his journey comes from three historical sources:

La Cosa's map
It suggests Cabot landed further south on the North American mainland than is generally accepted.

John Day's Letter
A letter written by a mysterious man known as John Day who seems to have been a double-agent. Day wrote a letter to Christopher Columbus. This letter suggests that Cabot went ashore on the Canadian mainland and then sailed in a north-easterly direction up the coastline before sailing past Newfoundland on the way home.

Soncino's Letter
A letter written by Raimondo Soncino to the Duke of Milan in Italy. This letter states that Cabot sailed passed Ireland, turned north, and, after a few days, headed west.

Whilst cruising off the Newfoundland shore, Cabot and his crew saw tall pine trees good enough to be used for ships' masts. They did not meet any people on the mainland, but they did find evidence where a fire had been made there.

Cabot's return journey took only 15 days before land was sighted at Brittany in France.

Back in England, Cabot was made an admiral, rewarded with ?10 and a patent was written for a new voyage. Later, a pension of ?20 a year was granted to him. The next year, 1498, he departed again, with 5 ships this time. The expedition made for an Irish port, because of distress. Except for one ship, Cabot and his expedition were never heard from again and are presumed to have been lost at sea.

John's son, Sebastian Cabot, later made a voyage to North America, looking for the hoped for Northwest Passage (1508), and another to repeat Magellan's voyage around the world, but which instead ended up looking for silver along the R?o de la Plata (1525-28).

In 1498-1500 a few Portuguese travelers, Miguel and Gaspar Corte-Real being the most famous participants, visited Greenland, Labrador and Newfoundland. In 1501-1505 an English syndicate, consisting of 3 Azoreans and 2 English traders, made voyages to Newfoundland. From 1504, if not before, Breton, Basque, Portuguese and English fishermen crossed the ocean to catch fish on the Newfoundland banks.
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« Reply #1 on: November 19, 2006, 03:05:56 AM »

Cabot's voyages are noted by the positions of British flags on the Juan de la Cosa Chart of 1502 in the Museo Naval, Madrid.

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« Reply #2 on: November 19, 2006, 01:37:01 PM »

The following three documents contain all the evidence from contemporary witnesses whose information may have come from John Cabot himself. The text is from the Hakluyt Society's edition of Columbus' Journal.

Letter from Lorenzo Pasqualigo to His Brothers Alvise and Francesco.

    [Calendar of State Papers (Venice), i. p. 262, No. 752.]

London, 23rd August, 1497.

Our Venetian, who went with a small ship from Bristol to find new islands, has come back, and says he has discovered, 700 leagues off, the mainland of the country of the Gran Cam, and that he coasted along it for 300 leagues, and landed, but did not see any person. But he has brought here to the king certain snares spread to take game, and a needle for making nets, and he found some notched trees, from which he judged that there were inhabitants. Being in doubt, he came back to the ship. He has been away three months on the voyage, which is certain, and, in returning, he saw two islands to the right, but he did not wish to land, lest he should lose time for he was in want of provisions. This king has been much pleased. He says that the tides are slack, and do not make currents as they do here. The king has promised for another time, ten armed ships as he desires, and has given him all the prisoners, except such as are confined for high treason, to go with him, as he has requested; and has granted him money to amuse himself till then. Meanwhile, he is with his Venetian wife and his sons at Bristol. His name is Zuam Talbot, [note: A misprint: "T" for "C."] and he is called the Great Admiral, great honour being paid to him, and he goes dressed in silk. The English are ready to go with him, and so are many of our rascals. The discoverer of these things has planted a large cross in the ground with a banner of England, and one of St. Mark, as he is a Venetian; so that our flag has been hoisted very far away.

First Despatch of Raimondo di Soncino to the Duke of Milan. (Extract.)

    [Calendar of State Papers (Venice), iii. p. 260, No. 750.]

24th August, 1497.

Some month afterwards His Majesty sent a Venetian, who is a distinguished sailor, and who was much skilled in the discovery of new islands, and he has returned safe, and has discovered two very large and fertile islands, having, it would seem, discovered the seven cities 400 leagues from England to the westward. These successes led His Majesty at once to entertain the intention of sending him with fifteen or twenty vessels.

Second Despatch of Raimondo di Soncino to the Duke of Milan.

[note: Annuario Scientifico, Milan, 1866, p. 700; Archiv d'Etat Milan, reprinted by Harrisse in his John Cabot, p. 324, from the Intorno of Desimoni, and translated from his text for the Hakluyt Society, with his permission.]

18th December, 1497.

My most illustrious and most excellent Lord,

Perhaps amidst so many occupations of your Excellency it will not be unwelcome to learn how this Majesty has acquired a part of Asia without drawing his sword. In this kingdom there is a certain Venetian named Zoanne Caboto, of gentle disposition, very expert in navigation, who, seeing that the most serene Kings of Portugal and Spain had occupied unknown islands, meditated the achievement of a similar acquisition for the said Majesty. Having obtained royal privileges securing to himself the use of the dominions he might discover, the sovereignty being reserved to the Crown, he entrusted his fortune to a small vessel with a crew of 18 persons, and set out from Bristo, a port in the western part of this kingdom. Having passed Ibernia, which is still further to the west, and then shaped a northerly course, he began to navigate to the eastern part, leaving (during several days) the North Star on the right hand; and having wandered thus for a long time, at length he hit upon land, where he hoisted the royal standard, and took possession for his Highness, and, having obtained various proofs of his discovery, he returned. The said Messer Zoanne, being a foreigner and poor, would not have been believed if the crew, who are nearly all English, and belonging to Bristo, had not testified that what he said was the truth. This Messer Zoanne has the description of the world on a chart, and also on a solid sphere which he has constructed, and on which he shows where he has been; and, proceeding towards the east, he has passed as far as the country of the Tanais. And they say that there the land is excellent and (the climate?) temperate, suggesting that brasil and silk grow there. They affirm that the sea is full of fish, which are not only taken with a net, but also with a basket, a stone being fastened to it in order to keep it in the water; and this I have heard stated by the said Messer Zoanne.

The said Englishmen, his companions, say that they took so many fish that this kingdom will no longer have need of Iceland, from which country there is an immense trade in the fish they call stock-fish. But Messer Zoanne has set his mind on higher things, for he thinks that, when that place has been occupied, he will keep on still further towards the east, where he will be opposite to an island called Cipango, situated in the equinoctial region, where he believes that all the spices of the world, as well as the jewels, are found. He further says that he was once at Mecca, whither the spices are brought by caravans from distant countries; and having inquired from whence they were brought and where they grow, they answered that they did not know, but that such merchandize was brought from distant countries by other caravans to their home; and they further say that they are also conveyed from other remote regions. And he adduced this argument, that if the eastern people tell those in the south that these things come from a far distance from them, presupposing the rotundity of the earth, it must be that the last turn would be by the north towards the west; and it is said that in this way the route would not cost more than it costs now, and I also believe it. And what is more, this Majesty, who is wise and not prodigal, reposes such trust in him because of what he has already achieved, that he gives him a good maintenance, as Messer Zoanne has himself told me. And it is said that before long his Majesty will arm some ships for him, and will give him all the malefactors to go to that country and form a colony, so that they hope to establish a greater depot of spices in London than there is in Alexandria. The principal people in the enterprise belong to Bristo. They are great seamen, and, now that they know where to go, they say that the voyage thither will not occupy more than 15 days after leaving Ibernia. I have also spoken with a Burgundian, who was a companion of Messer Zoanne, who affirms all this, and who wishes to return because the Admiral (for so Messer Zoanne is entitled) has given him an island, and has given another to his barber of Castione, [Footnote 5: Perhaps Castiglione, near Chiavari.]  who is a Genoese, and both look upon themselves as Counts; nor do they look upon my Lord the Admiral as less than a Prince. I also believe that some poor Italian friars are going on this voyage, who have all had bishopricks promised to them. And if I had made friends with the Admiral when he was about to sail, I should have got an archbishoprick at least; but I have thought that the benefits reserved for me by your Excellency will be more secure. I would venture to pray that, in the event of a vacancy taking place in my absence, I may be put in possession, and that I may not be superseded by those who, being present, can be more diligent than I, who am reduced in this country to eating at each meal ten or twelve kinds of victuals, and to being three hours at table every day, two for love of your Excellency, to whom I humbly recommend myself. London, 18 Dec. 1497, your Excellency's most humble servant, Raimundus.

« Reply #3 on: November 19, 2006, 02:02:15 PM »

Map by Juan de la Cosa from the year 1500. It shows the flags of Castile and Leon in the vicinity of Cuba and the English flags covering all of North America from Florida to Canada.

It is certain that John Cabot wrote the name of his paymaster (Amerike) on one of the islands or perhaps on the mainland:

"...but with the help of the enclosed copy you (Columbus) will be able to ascertain what you wish to know, since the capes of tierra firma and the islands are therein named and you will also see there where the first landfall [primera vista] took place, because it was on the return [course] that was found the major part of the land."
- (John Day's letter to Columbus).

John Day was Bristol merchant and spy for the Spanish Inquisition. He sent detailed descriptions of John Cabot's voyages to help him (Columbus) find the New World.!!

This letter was discovered in the Spanish National Archives in Simancas in 1955 by Dr. Hayward Keniston of the University of Michigan and Dr. Louis Andr? Vignaras. It was from a certain John Day (a spy for the Spanish Inquisition) to Christopher Columbus and was sent in 1497.

John Day to the Very Magnificent and Honorable Lord, the Lord Great Admiral

With your most revered Excellency's servant, and considering what you instructed me therein, which I would wish to do in accordance with my desire and duty, I do not find the book Invincio Fortunati; I thought I had brought it with my effects, and am greatly annoyed that I can not find it, because I sought very much to serve you. The other [book] by Marco Polo, and the copy of the tierra [globe or world map] which has been found I send you, and if I did not send you the chart, it is because, with my heavy schedule [occupaciones] it is not as I would like it to be, since I made it in a hurry at the time of my departure [from England], but with the help of the enclosed copy you will be able to ascertain what you wish to know, since the capes of tierra firma and the islands are therein named and you will also see there where the first landfall [primera vista] took place, because it was on the return [course] that was found the major part of the land

Thus also your Lordship will see that the cape closest to Ireland is 1800 millas west of Cabo Dursal, which is in Ireland, and the lowest part of the Isle of the Seven Cities is west of the Rio de Burdeos, and you will note that he did not go ashore save at one place of tierra firma, which is close to where they made the first landfall, in which place they went ashore with a crucifix and raised banners bearing the arms of the Holy Father and the arms of the King of England my lord, and they found big trees from which masts of ships are made, and other trees underneath them, and the land was very rich in pasturage; in which place (as I have already told your Lordship) they found a very narrow way leading into the land, and saw a spot where someone had made a fire, and found dung of animals which they judge to be tame, and they found a stick of elbow length perforated at both ends and painted with brasil and from these signs the land is judged to be inhabited; and as he found himself to be with few men he dared not enter the land beyond a cross-bow shot, and he took on fresh water and returned to his ship and along the coast they found many fish of the kind that in Iceland are cured in the air and sell in England and other countries and which in England are called estoqfis; and also when coasting they saw running ashore two bultos [big objects], one chasing the other, but were unable to tell whether they were men or beasts; and it seemed to them that there were cultivated lands where they thought there might be villages, and they saw vegetation whose leaves appeared fair to them, and the time that he departed from England was in the end of May and he was en route 35 days before he found land, and the winds were east and northeast and the seas were smooth on the outward as on the homeward passage, save one day when there blew up a gale, and that was two or three days before he found land; and being so far out, the north-seeking needle failed him and varied two points down, and he went exploring the coast one month more or less and the above said cape of tierra firma which is closest to Ireland being [passed] on the return, they arrived off the coast of Europe in 15 days. Carrying a stern wind, he arrived in Brittany because the mariners confused him, saying that he was steering too far north; and from thence [Brittany] he came to Bristol and went to the king to tell him all the above said, and the king gave him a grace of 20 pounds sterling per annum that he might recuperate during the time when more becomes known of this business, since it is hoped to launch an expedition of 10 or 12 ships to discover the said land more completely the coming year, God willing, because on this said voyage he had but one ship of 50 toneles with 20 persons and victuals for 7 or 8 months, and because he wished to get this [expedition] under way.

It is considered certain that this same point of land at another time was found and discovered by those of Bristol who found el Brasil as you are already aware, which is called Ysla de Brasil, and is presumed and believed to be the tierra firma which those of Bristol discovered.

As regards the first voyage which Your Lordship wished to know about, the fact is that he [Cabot] went in one ship and the people whom he engaged disconcerted him and he went ill provisioned and encountered contrary winds and decided to return.

Magnificent Lord, upon completion of other matters pertaining to the case, I would like to serve Your Lordship provided I am not impeded from so doing because of business obligations of great importance and by the proper preparation of documents and cargoes for shipment to England which I must expedite. Which matters greatly interfere with my serving of Your Lordship; but accept from me, Your Lordship, as a Magnificent Lord, the wish of my true intention, which is to be of service to you, and when I find myself in a position [so to do], when comparatively unencumbered by business, I will take up work which shall have for its purpose to be of service to you, and when I shall have had news from England touching on the above (and I know that everything [English] comes to my attention), I shall make known to Your Lordship everything that may not be prejudicial to the King [of England] my Lord.

In return for any services which I hope to perform on your behalf, I pray that your Lordship will be pleased to write to me a few words touching on those matters, since the kindness which in this matter you will be doing me will open many hints wherewith to serve you with all the things of which you are aware. May Our Lord cause your Lordship's high estate to prosper in conformity with your merits. When your Lordship is through with it, please deliver the book or command that it be given to Mycer Jorge.

I kiss your Lordship?s hands.

Johan Day.
« Reply #4 on: November 19, 2006, 02:05:09 PM »

The name of Richard Ameryk on the Bristol customs roll in Westminster Abbey.

From the Public Record Office, Warrants for Issue, 13 Hen. VII, E. 404, Bundle 82.

Henry by the grace of God King of England and of ffraunce and lord of lrland To the Tresourer and Chambrelains of oure Eschequier greting:

Where as We by oure warrant under oure signet for certain consideracions have yeven and graunted unto John Caboote xx Ii. [?20] yerely during oure pleasur to be had and perceyved by the handes of oure Custumers in oure poorte of Bristowe, and as we be enfourmed the said John Caboote is dilaied of his payement bicause the said Custumers have no sufficient matier of discharge for their indempnitie to be yolden at their accomptes before the Barons of oure Eschequier; Wherfore we wol and charge you that ye oure said Treasourer and Chambrelains that now be and hereafter shallbe, that ye, unto suche tyme as ye shall have from us otherwise in commaundement, do to be levied in due fourme ij severall tailles, every of theim con teignying x Ii. upon the Customers of the revenues in our said poort of Bristowe at two usuell termes of the yere, whereof oon taill to be levied at this tyme conteignying x Ii. of the Revenues of oure said poort upon Richard Meryk and Arthure Kemys, late Custumers of the same, And the same taill or tailles in due and sufficient fourme levied ye delyver unto the said John Caboote to be had of oure gift by way of rewarde without prest or eny other charge to be sette upon hym or any of theim for the same. And thies our letters shalbe youre sufficient warrant in that behalf Yeven undre oure prive seal at oure manour of Chene the xxiith day of ffebruary The xiiith yere of oure Reigne.

Printed in The Precursors of Jacques Cartier, by H. P. Biggar, pp. 24-5. First printed in 1896.

Biggar, H. P., The Precursors of Jacques Cartier, 1497-1534, Ottawa, Canada, 1911.
Broome, Rodney, The True Story of How America Got Its Name, MJF Books, New York, 2001.
« Reply #5 on: November 19, 2006, 04:02:12 PM »

Richard Amerike

Richard Amerike (Ameryk or ap Meryk) (c. 1445-1503) was a wealthy English merchant of Welsh descent who funded John Cabot's voyage of discovery to North America in 1497. He is chiefly remembered because of the theory, not widely held, that America is named after his surname.

Richard ap Meryk (in Welsh, Richard, son of Meryk (originally Meurig, equivalent to Maurice in English)) was born in Weston-under-Penyard, near Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire in England, and was descended from the family of the Earl of Gwent. The name was anglicised to become Amerike.

He married a Lucy Wells and lived at West Camel, near Ilchester, Somerset until he decided to move his family to Bristol. Bristol, at this time, was growing in importance as a port, second only to London, and was attracting merchants and adventurers from all over the country. In Bristol, Richard Amerike became a wealthy and important merchant and dignitary, holding the post of King's Customs Officer three times and becoming the Sheriff of Bristol in 1497.

Theory of the naming of America
Richard Amerike's connection with the Americas' name surfaced in the 1890s, when the 1497 and 1498 customs rolls, archived in Westminster Abbey, were found to contain his name in connection with the payment of John Cabot's pension.

In 1908 local Bristol antiquarian and butterfly collector Alfred Hudd first proposed the theory that the word America had evolved from Amerike or ap Meryk. Alfred Hudd was a gentleman of some leisure, known as an antiquary who was a member of the Clifton Antiquarian Club of Bristol, founded in 1884 to arrange meetings and excursions for the study of objects of archaeological interest in the west of England and south Wales, and a butterfly-collector and local naturalist and member of the Bristol Naturalists' Society around Bristol.

Hudd proposed that the word "America" was originally applied to a destination across the western ocean, possibly an island or a fishing station in Newfoundland. This would have been before the existence of a continent on the other side of the Atlantic was known. However, no maps bearing this name or documents indicating a location of this supposed village are known.

According to Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage,[1] "While it has been difficult to pinpoint the exact time frame of these North Atlantic probes, evidence that they were indeed occurring by the 1490's is found in a report sent by Pedro de Ayala, a Spanish envoy located in London. The year after Cabot's successful transatlantic voyage he wrote Ferdinand and Isabella stating that for the previous seven years the Bristolians had been equipping caravels to look for the islands of Brasile and the Seven Cities. While it is not possible to ascertain whether or not these were large scale ventures and precisely what their motives might have been, Ayala's words seem to supply some proof of westward bound voyages."

There had long been a suspicion that fishing ships in search of cod were regularly crossing the Atlantic from Bristol to Newfoundland before Columbus' first voyage. Bristol merchants bought salt cod from Iceland until 1475, when the King of Denmark stopped the trade. In 1479 four Bristol merchants received a royal charter to find another source of fish. Records discovered in 1955 suggest that from 1480, twelve years before Columbus, English fishermen may have established a facility for processing fish on the Newfoundland coast. In 1960 trading records were discovered that indicated that Richard Amerike was involved in this business. A letter from around 1481 suggests that Amerike shipped salt (for salting fish) to these men at a place they had named Brassyle. The letter also states that they had many names for headlands and harbours. Rodney Broome and others suggest that one of these names may have been "America".

John Cabot (originally Giovanni Caboto, a Venetian seaman) had become a well known mariner in England, and he came to Bristol in 1495 looking for investment in a new project. On 5 March 1496, Cabot received a letter of authority from King Henry VII to make a voyage of discovery and claim lands on behalf of the monarch. It is believed that Amerike may have been one of the principal investors in the building of Cabot's ship, the Matthew.

Cabot is known to have produced maps of the coast from Maine to Newfoundland, though none have survived. He named an island off Newfoundland St. John's. Copies of these maps were sent to Spain by John Day, where Christopher Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci would have seen them. The theory suggests that Cabot may have written the name America (or similar) on his maps, but no extant maps are available to prove this assertion.

Vespucci sailed to South America and the Caribbean with Alonso de Ojeda (Hojeda) in 1499 and Gon?alo Coelho in 1501 and became convinced that these were new lands, not Asia as Columbus believed. Martin Waldseem?ller, a German map-maker, published a world map in 1507 using Vespucci's previously published letters. The theory suggests that Waldseem?ller assumed that the "America" that Vespucci used was derived from his first name. Waldseem?ller provided an explanation of this assumption as an attachment to the map. Vespucci himself never stated that this was the case. There were immediate protests from Columbus' supporters to get the continent renamed for Columbus, but attempts were unsuccessful, since 1,000 copies of the map were already in circulation. On later editions of the map he substituted the words "Terra Incognita," but it was too late; the name America was now firmly associated with the entire northern and southern continent across the Atlantic from Europe.

Coat of arms

There is a further speculative theory, tending to be found only in support of the above theory concerning the naming of America, that the flag of the United States of America is influenced in part by the design of Amerike's coat of arms. This appears to be entirely based upon a perceived similarity in design. It may be inferred therefore that it is intended simply to add symbolic weight to the preceding theory. According to the American Flag Research Centre in Massachusetts, the heraldic origin of the American flag is not positively known. The popular belief however is that it derives in part from the coat of arms of George Washington, whose family bore arms of the Stars and Stripes.

Amerike's coat of arms, which also feature a stars and stripes design (albeit rather dissimilar to the Washington family design), can be seen in the Lord Mayor's Chapel on College Green in Bristol, England.

Johanna Ameryk's tomb in St Mary Redcliffe church

    * The Columbus Myth: Did men of Bristol reach America before Columbus? Ian Wilson (1991: ISBN 0-671-71167-9)
    * Cabot and naming of America, Peter Macdonald (1997: ISBN 0-9527009-2-1)
    * Terra Incognita: The True Story of How America Got Its Name, by Rodney Broome (US 2001: ISBN 0-944638-22-8)
    * Amerike: The Briton America is named after, by Rodney Broome (UK 2002: ISBN 0-7509-2909-X)
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« Reply #6 on: November 19, 2006, 04:23:14 PM »

This is totally awesome.
Here for years I have been repeating what I learned from the Jesuits in High School about Amerigo Vespucci.
This is off topic but did you know that La Cosa put his face on his chart. That's the story until I find my reference anyway. The heads blowing and showing wind direction, pretty cool. Hunh?

« Reply #7 on: November 19, 2006, 05:04:20 PM »

Yes, Doc, I agree that this is totally awesome. It is yet another example of how people commonly just repeat what they think they know, generation after generation, without checking and without - frankly - thinking about what they're saying. It also demonstrates how even the Jesuits teach myth as history, as if one didn't know that already.

Actually, the truth of this is probably far more surprising and interesting. There is reason to believe that the merchants of Bristol were financing voyages of exploration to North America before that of Cabot.

We know how charts were strategic weapons in that period and therefore were regarded as state secrets. It was the same in England. The difference was, the English tend to keep their secrets somewhat better and as a result we may never have definitive proof or detail of early English voyages to North America.

With that limitation, I cannot state this as a fact, but I feel reasonably confident that English ships sighted and sailed off the American continent quite a few years before Cabot and later Spanish and Portuguese, and that we know about Cabot only because he was Italian and unreliable, security-wise. Columbus and company may have got the glory, but England went on to create British North America and we know now which had the greatest military and economic significance and which went on to project power most effectively.

In my view, European foundations in the Americas were first built in Bristol, largely in secret.

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« Reply #8 on: November 19, 2006, 05:15:03 PM »

From the La Cosa chart it would appear that he definitely had knowledge of the Cabot voyages so there must have been some leak regarding the secrecy of his charted information. La Cosa's chart doesn't represent rumors, only facts.

« Reply #9 on: December 08, 2006, 11:45:16 AM »

We have a good piece on John Cabot here:
The Cabot Dilemma: John Cabot's 1497 Voyage & the Limits of Historiography
« Reply #10 on: December 08, 2006, 02:21:24 PM »

England in the Age of Discovery:
Erica Seitz

 It is now neccessary to look at a seaport on the southwestern coast of England which was very important to England in the Age of Discovery. This seaport was Bristol. Why though, was Bristol so important? The major reason Bristol was so important was because of its trading affiliations with other nations. Kenneth Andrews stated that " it is not surprising therefore to find that Bristol, having strong links with Lisbon and Seville as well as with the Madeiras, Ireland and Iceland, was an active base of North Atlantic exploration at this time, and it is reasonable to assume, though we have no evidence until the mid nineties, some interchange of ideas between Iberia and Bristolian explorers form about 1480." (Andrews,43) Bristol had begun trading with Iceland, Portugal, Maderia, and the Azores early in the fifteenth century and it already had established trade with Ireland.(Sauer,11) This connection with major trading cities would be an important factor in Bristol's initiatives taken in exploration in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries.

 The initiatives taken by Bristolians in exploration during this time consisted of fishermen sailing out in search of new waters in which to fish. It is in this exploration to find new fishing grounds and new markets that sometimes unknown land would be stumbled upon. One reason Bristol men went out in search of new fishing grounds was because problems arose in the Icelandic trade in which England participated . (Quinn, 49) Relations between England and Iceland were sometimes tense and hostile, because England was in competition with Denmark and Iceland permitted Denmark to enter the Icelandic trade. (Quinn, 49) It has been suggested by some historians that these Bristol fishermen, who were looking for better fishing grounds and new markets to trade in, may have actually discovered the coasts of North America years before Columbus ever set his eyes on the coast of America. This is a theory which has been presented by David Beers Quinn in his book The Discovery of America 1481-1620. Quinn backs up his argument by using a set of letters which were only recently retrieved from an archives in 1956. These letters collectively are known as the John Day letter.

 The John Day letter has become a very important argument for early English exploration and the discovery of land which may well have been the coasts of America. The letter not only states that Bristolian fishermen found land in "other times" which was referred to as the Isle of Brazil, but the letter also states that the land John Cabot discovered in 1497 was the same land which Bristolian fishermen had found in "other times". (Quinn, 6) Needless to say, Bristol was a very important seaport for exploration. Whether it was the Bristolian fishermen or the other man from Genoa, John Cabot, the discoveries are important in looking at the role of England in the Age of Discovery.

 Now I would like to turn to John Cabot, the man who could have possibly put England in the forefront of exploration in the fifteenth century. There is not much known about John Cabot, the person or the explorer. He was most likely born in Genoa, but Carl Sauer points out that Cabot recieved his Venetian citizenship somewhere around 1472. (Sauer, 37) In his later years, Cabot went to England to try to find support for his ideas of a western route to the Indies. Why would Cabot go to England to look for support?

 Cabot went to England to look for support only after he tried to get support from Lisbon and Seville. Since Cabot failed to find support in Spain or Portugal, he moved to England where he would establish himself a name in Bristol.
Cabot thought England would be a good place to try to get support for his voyage since England had to pay some of the highest prices for spices since she was at the end of the Indies trade route. (Morison, 159) Another possible reason for Cabot turning to England was because the King, Henry VII, had already turned down the opportunity to support Christopher Columbus, and Cabot thought the King would now want to support a western trade route to the Indies. (Morison, 159) Cabot not only wanted to find this new western trade route to the East but he also wanted to find land in the western ocean, which had been rumoured to exist by the Bristolian fishermen. ( Andrews, 50)

 On March 5, 1496 Cabot received what he had been waiting for: support and permission from the King of England to sail to lands in the North, East, and the West. " Since the discovery of the John Day letter it is known that Cabot made a first unsuccessful attempt out of Bristol in 1496." (Sauer, 39) Cabot made another attempt to sail from Bristol in May 1497 with one ship called the Mathew. This time the adventure was a lot more successful than the first venture.

 The exact routes and discoveries of John Cabot are not known. Unlike Columbus, Cabot did not keep a diary of his travels. The John Day letter has proved to be very helpful to historians in explaining the course which John Cabot took in 1497. It is known that " Cabot tried sailing west on a high short latitude, hoping to reach 'Cathay', northern China. " (Morison,170)

However, the latitude which was given in the Day Letter says that it would "have been from Cape Breton Island to northern Newfoundland", but the description of the floral life and the land forms does not compare to the vegetation which would have been prevalent in Newfoundland during July.

(Sauer, 41) The conjecture which many historians have made is that is that the land that Cabot landed at, was more apt to be the New England coast or the coast of Nova Scotia. Although Cabot did not bring back treasures of gold and spices to the King, he did " prove the existence of a great country beyond the Ocean to the West of Ireland, which country he himself assumed to belong to China", and besides this " he discovered great quantities of fish off the newly discovered coast.' (Nansen, 323)

 In 1498 Cabot would again set sail to sea for another voyage to Asia where it was hoped that he would bring back wealth to the King of England. This voyage would only bring about a miserable failure. Cabot's ships were caught in a storm, one ship was forced into a port in Ireland, did not return and nothing was ever heard of them again. It is assumed that Cabot died at sea along with all his dreams of finding wealth in the Indies.

 With Cabot's failure of returning with spices and gold, England's attempt at finding a Western trade route to the Indies would come to a virtual hault for almost a century, except for a few relevant voyages by John Cabot's son, Sebastian, and a few others. One historian summed up the effect of Cabot by saying, "what followed was an anti-climax." (Andrews, 47)

The John Day Letter

    Reproduced from James A Williamson The Cabot Voyages and Bristol Discovery Under Henry VII. (Cambridge University Press) 1962, 212-214.

Your Lordship's servant brought me your letter. I have seen its contents and I would be most desirous and most happy to serve you. I do not find the book Inventio Fortunata, and I thought that I (or he) was bringing it with my things, and I am very sorry not [to] find it because I wanted very much to serve you. I am sending the other book of Marco Polo and a copy of the land which has been found [by John Cabot]. I do not send the map because I am not satisfied with it, for my many occupations forced me to make it in a hurry at the time of my departure; but from the said copy your Lordship will learn what you wish to know, for in it are named the capes of the mainland and the islands, and thus you will see where land was first sighted, since most of the land was discovered after turning back. Thus your Lordship will know that the cape nearest to Ireland is 1800 miles west of Dursey Head which is in Ireland, and the southernmost part of the Island of the Seven Cities is west of Bordeaux River, and your Lordship will know that he landed at only one spot of the mainland, near the place where land was first sighted, and they disembarked there with a crucifix and raised banners with the arms of the Holy Father and those of the King of England, my master; and they found tall trees of the kind masts are made, and other smaller trees, and the country is very rich in grass. In that particular spot, as I told your Lordship, they found a trail that went inland, they saw a site where a fire had been made, they saw manure of animals which they thought to be farm animals, and they saw a stick half a yard long pierced at both ends, carved and painted with brazil, and by such signs they believe the land to be inhabited.

Since he was with just a few people, he did not dare advance inland beyond the shooting distance of a crossbow, and after taking in fresh water he returned to his ship. All along the coast they found many fish like those which in Iceland are dried in the open and sold in England and other countries, and these fish are called in English 'stockfish'; and thus following the shore they saw two forms running on land one after the other, but they could not tell if they were human beings or animals; and it seemed to them that there were fields where they thought might also be villages, and they saw a forest whose foliage looked beautiful.

They left England toward the end of May, and must have been on the way 35 days before sighting land; the wind was east-north-east and the sea calm going and coming back, except for one day when he ran into a storm two or three days before finding land; and going so far out, his compass needle failed to point north and marked two rhumbs below.

They spent about one month discovering the coast and from the above mentioned cape of the mainland which is nearest to Ireland, they returned to the coast of Europe in fifteen days. They had the wind behind them, and he reached Brittany because the sailors confused him, saying that he was heading too far north. From there he came to Bristol, and he went to see the King to report to him all the above mentioned; and the King granted him an annual pension of twenty pounds sterling to sustain himself until the time comes when more will be known of this business, since with God's help it is hoped to push through plans for exploring the said land more thoroughly next year with ten or twelve vessels-because in his voyage he had only one ship of fifty toneles and twenty men and food for seven or eight months-and they want to carry out this new project.

It is considered certain that the cape of the said land was found and discovered in the past by the men from Bristol who found 'Brasil' as your Lordship well knows. It was called the Island of Brasil, and it is assumed and believed to be the mainland that the men from Bristol found.

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.

Magnificent Lord, as to other things pertaining to the case, I would like to serve your Lordship if I were not prevented in doing so by occupations of great importance relating to shipments and deeds for England which must be attended to at once and which keep me from serving you: but rest assured, Magnificent Lord, of my desire and natural intention to serve you, and when I find myself in other circumstances and more at leisure, I will take pains to do so; and when I get news from England about the matters referred to above-for I am sure that everything has to come to my knowledge-I will inform your Lordship of all that would not be prejudicial to the King my master. In payment for some services which I hope to render you, I beg your Lordship to kindly write me about such matters, because the favour you will thus do me will greatly stimulate my memory to serve you in all the things that may come to my knowledge. May God keep prospering your Lordship's magnificent state according to your merits. Whenever your Lordship should find it convenient, please remit the book or order it to be given to Master George.

I kiss your Lordship's hands,

Johan Day

* Review - The Many Landfalls of John Cabot..pdf (16.36 KB - downloaded 9 times.)
« Reply #11 on: December 09, 2006, 01:51:42 PM »

The Dawn of Canadian History: A Chronicle of Aboriginal Canada
by Stephen Leacock


1. Christopher Columbus himself is said to have made a voyage for the Bristol merchants to Iceland in 1477. There is even a tale that, before Columbus was known to fame, an expedition was equipped there in 1480 to seek the 'fabulous islands' of the Western Sea. Certain it is that the Spanish ambassador in England, whose business it was to keep his royal master informed of all that was being done by his rivals, wrote home in 1498: 'It is seven years since those of Bristol used to send out, every year, a fleet of two, three, or four caravels to go and search for the Isle of Brazil and the Seven Cities, according to the fancy of the Genoese.'

2. The voyages of the Bristol traders and the enterprise of England by no means ended with the exploits of the Cabots. Though our ordinary history books tell us nothing more of English voyages until we come to the days of the great Elizabethan navigators, Drake, Frobisher, Hawkins, and to the planting of Virginia, as a matter of fact many voyages were made under Henry VII and Henry VIII.

3. The merchants of Bristol do not seem to have been disappointed with the result of the Cabot enterprises, for as early as in 1501 they sent out a new expedition across the Atlantic. The sanction of the king was again invoked, and Henry VII granted letters patent to three men of Bristol--Richard Warde, Thomas Ashehurst, and John Thomas--to explore the western seas.

4. ...in the summer of 1502, they were sent out on another voyage from Bristol. In September they brought their ships safely back, and, in proof of the strangeness of the new lands they carried home 'three men brought out of an Iland forre beyond Irelond, the which were clothed in Beestes Skynnes and ate raw fflesh and were rude in their demeanure as Beestes.'

5. There is evidence that a further expedition went out from Bristol in 1503, and still another in 1504.

6. By the time of Henry VIII, who began to reign in 1509, the annual fishing fleet of the English which sailed to the American coast had become important.

The Spanish therefore knew from the Genoese that expeditions from Bristol had been seeking the Isle of Brazil and the Seven Cities since at least 1491.


* The Dawn of Canadian History.txt (20.9 KB - downloaded 8 times.)
* Review - The Many Landfalls of John Cabot..pdf (16.36 KB - downloaded 8 times.)
« Reply #12 on: December 12, 2006, 12:00:18 PM »

The Bristol Voyages
At the close of the fifteenth century the town of Bristol enjoyed a pre-eminence which it has since lost. It stood second only to London as a British port. A group of wealthy merchants carried on from Bristol a lively trade with Iceland and the northern ports of Europe. The town was the chief centre for an important trade in codfish. Days of fasting were generally observed at that time; on these the eating of meat was forbidden by the church, and fish was consequently in great demand. The merchants of Bristol were keen traders, and were always seeking the further extension of their trade. Christopher Columbus himself is said to have made a voyage for the Bristol merchants to Iceland in 1477. There is even a tale that, before Columbus was known to fame, an expedition was equipped there in 1480 to seek the 'fabulous islands' of the Western Sea. Certain it is that the Spanish ambassador in England, whose business it was to keep his royal master informed of all that was being done by his rivals, wrote home in 1498: 'It is seven years since those of Bristol used to send out, every year, a fleet of two, three, or four caravels to go and search for the Isle of Brazil and the Seven Cities, according to the fancy of the Genoese.'

We can therefore realize that when Master John Cabot came among the merchants of this busy town with his plans he found a ready hearing. Cabot was soon brought to the notice of his august majesty Henry VII of England. The king had been shortsighted enough to reject overtures made to him by Bartholomew Columbus, brother of Christopher, and no doubt he regretted his mistake. Now he was eager enough to act as the patron of a new voyage. Accordingly, on March 5, 1496, he granted a royal license in the form of what was called Letters Patent, authorizing John Cabot and his sons Lewis, Sebastian and Sancius to make a voyage of discovery in the name of the king of England. The Cabots were to sail 'with five ships or vessels of whatever burden or quality soever they be, and with as many marines or men as they will have with them in the said ships upon their own proper costs and charges.' It will be seen that Henry VII, the most parsimonious of kings, had no mind to pay the expense of the voyage. The expedition was 'to seek out, discover and find whatsoever islands, countries, regions and provinces of the heathens or infidels, in whatever part of the world they be, which before this time have been unknown to all Christians.' It was to sail only 'to the seas of the east and west and north,' for the king did not wish to lay any claim to the lands discovered by the Spaniards and Portuguese. The discoverers, however, were to raise the English flag over any new lands that they found, to conquer and possess them, and to acquire 'for us dominion, title, and jurisdiction over those towns, castles, islands, and mainland's so discovered.' One-fifth of the profits from the anticipated voyages to the new land was to fall to the king, but the Cabots were to have a monopoly of trade, and Bristol was to enjoy the right of being the sole port of entry for the ships engaged in this trade.
« Reply #13 on: December 12, 2006, 12:04:16 PM »

by Rebecca Catz

From London, he would have gone on to Bristol, an English seaport of great importance.  Their commercial interests would also have taken the Genoese ships to Galway, on the western coast of Ireland, and from there, further north to Iceland.

     Some historians doubt that Columbus ever went to Iceland and as a result, a small literature has grown up over the years on the subject of Columbus's Iceland voyage, and the issue is still not decided.  The little that we know about this voyage comes to us in part on the authority of his son Ferdinand, quoting from a now lost memorandum of his father, which he wrote to prove that the torrid and the Arctic zones were inhabitable.  "In the month of February 1477," he says,

"I sailed 100 leagues beyond the island of Tile whose southern part is in latitude 73x north . . .and at the time when I was there the sea was not frozen, but there were vast tides, so great that they rose and fell as much as 26 braccia (about 50 feet), twice a day . . ."

Tile is clearly Thule, or Ultima Thule, as Iceland was called.  There was a regular trade at that time between Lisbon, Bristol and Iceland, and the Bristol merchants were in constant relations with the Icelanders, exporting their manufactured goods largely in return for fish.  Confirmation of the fact that he did indeed go to Iceland is given by Columbus himself in a note in his own handwriting, inscribed in his copy of Pope Pius II's book--"History of Memorable Things that Happened in My Time"--written in Latin, and which translates as follows:

"Men have come hither from Cathay in the Orient.  Many remarkable things have we seen, particularly at Galway, in Ireland, a man and a woman of most unusual appearance adrift in two boats."

The identity of the bodies has been convincingly suggested by David Quinn as Inuit, an Eskimo people, who, with their Mongol-type features, probably resembled Orientals.  Columbus is indeed very likely to have visited Galway, if, as he says, he had been on a voyage to Iceland.  It is the natural intermediate port of call between Iceland and Bristol.

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« Reply #14 on: April 05, 2007, 01:10:58 AM »

The discovery of America: the revolutionary claims of a dead historian
4 April 2007
Dr Alwyn Ruddock, a former reader in history at the University of London, was the world expert on John Cabot's discovery voyages from Bristol to North America (1496-98). What she was said to have found out about these voyages looked set to re-write the history of the European discovery of America. Yet, when Dr Ruddock died in December 2005, having spent four decades researching this topic, she ordered the destruction of all her research.

   In an article published today in historical research, Alwyn Ruddock?s extraordinary claims are explored by Dr Evan Jones of the University of Bristol.

   In Spring 2006, all Dr Ruddock?s research material was destroyed, in line with the instructions in her will.  However, her correspondence with her intended publisher, the University of Exeter Press, survived.  Using this correspondence Dr Jones has investigated the research that Dr Ruddock had worked on, and kept secret, for so many years.

   "To describe Alwyn Ruddock?s claims as revolutionary," said Dr Jones, "is not an exaggeration." Her apparent findings include information about how John Cabot persuaded Henry VII to support his voyages and why the explorer was able to win the backing of an influential Italian cleric: Fr. Giovanni Antonio de Carbonariis, an Augustinian friar who was also in charge of collecting the Pope?s taxes in England. 

   Dr Ruddock?s most exciting claims, however, involve John Cabot?s 1498 voyage to America . While the fate of this expedition has long been a mystery, Dr Ruddock appears to have found evidence of a long and complex exploration of the American coastline, which culminated in Cabot?s return to England in the spring of 1500, followed shortly by his death. During this voyage, Dr Ruddock suggests that Cabot explored a large section of the coastline of North America, claiming it for England in the process.

   Dr Ruddock intended to reveal that while Cabot was sailing south down the coast of America his chief supporter, Fra Giovanni, was establishing a religious colony in Newfoundland.  Having disembarked from his ship, the Dominus Nobiscum, Fra Giovanni apparently established a settlement and built a church. This church, the first to be built in North America, was named after the Augustinian church of San Giovanni a Carbonara in Naples.

    Dr Jones said: "Ruddock?s claims about the 1498 voyage are perhaps the most exciting of all. For while we have long known that Fra Giovanni accompanied the expedition, along with some other 'poor Italian friars', nothing has been known of what happened to their mission. If Ruddock is right, it means that the remains of the only medieval church in North America may still lie buried under the modern town of Carbonear."

   Dr Ruddock?s claims are clearly extraordinary but are they all correct? This is an issue that remains, in large part, to be resolved. In his article, Dr Jones shows that in many cases Alwyn Ruddock?s claims can be substantiated by reference to previously unknown material.  However, much remains to be done.

   Dr Jones continued: "In publishing this article now my intent was to put into the public domain what appear to be the last vestiges of Dr Ruddock?s research.  While her correspondence does not give all the answers, it does provide many clues that historians can use to investigate her claims. I also hope that the publication of this article might persuade people who possess knowledge of Dr Ruddock?s research to come forward.  For it is clear from her correspondence that many people must possess useful knowledge, ranging from her ex-students at the British Library to the 'old and historic families in Italy' who gave her access to their private archives."

   As to why Alwyn Ruddock should have chosen to have all her research destroyed on her death, Dr Jones confesses that he has no clear answers. In her obituary in the Guardian newspaper, it was suggested that she destroyed the first draft of her book "because it did not meet her exacting standards."  This does not explain, however, why she wanted everything destroyed ? including her microfilms, her photographs and the transcripts of the documents she used.

   "What is clear," said Dr Jones, "is that she had a great sense of possession for her work and she felt this gave her the moral right to take her secrets to the grave. But even if all the documents she claimed to have found do come to light eventually, the mystery of why she sought to suppress her own basic research may never be resolved."


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