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John Cabot

Cabot, John, fl. 1461–98, English explorer, probably b. Genoa, Italy. He became a citizen of Venice in 1476 and engaged in the Eastern trade of that city. This experience, it is assumed, was the stimulus of his later explorations. Like Columbus (though there is no evidence that either influenced the other), he apparently believed that the riches of East Asia might be more easily reached by sailing west. He went to England, probably in the 1480s, and resided chiefly at Bristol, a port then promising as a base for discovery. Under a patent granted by Henry VII (Mar. 5, 1496), Cabot made a first voyage in 1496, but turned back because of bad weather. In 1497 Cabot again sailed from Bristol and discovered the North American coast, touching at Cape Breton Island or Newfoundland. In 1498 he sailed a third time for America to explore the coast. The fate of the expedition is unknown, although there is presumptive evidence that it reached America and that some of its members returned. The English claims in North America were based on his discovery. His son was Sebastian Cabot.

See C. R. Beazley, John and Sebastian Cabot: The Discovery of North America (1964); R. C. Howard, Bristol and the Cabots (1967); D. Goodnough, John Cabot and Son (1979); D. Hunter, The Race to the New World (2011).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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