Primary Source #11

Giovanni Caboto (c. 1450-c. 1500) was a Venetian navigator and explorer. He was commissioned by King Henry VII in 1496 to sail for England, partly in hope of finding an alternate route to Asia, similar to Columbus. In 1497, John Cabot (as the English called him) sailed to Newfoundland. His son, Sebastian Cabot, sailed south along the Atlantic coast in the following decade as far as the Chesapeake and north to Hudson’s Bay, seeking a Northwest Passage to the Pacific Ocean. Although every explorer hoped to find cities of gold, some of the commodities the English hoped access were a dye-wood believed to come from the mythical land of Hy-Brasil and Cod, which had likely been fished by the Vikings and more recently in the fifteenth century by the Basques and Portuguese on the Grand Banks, adjacent to Newfoundland. These fisheries were so valuable that access to them was typically mentioned in treaties between nations (including the Treaty of Paris that concluded the American Revolution). Cabot recorded that when he reached the Banks, he saw over a thousand fishing boats from Iberia.

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