In 1497, an Italian sea captain, sailing under the English flag, reached the coast of North America. John Cabot may have been the first European to set foot on this conttnent after the viking explorer, Leif Erickson, who had landed there 5 centuries before. Joh Cabot's became the basis for the English claim to America.
John Cabot's Italian name was Giovanni Caboto. He was born in Genoa probably in 1451. Later, his family moved to Venice, where John Cabot became a merchant. On one of his trading voyages, he visited Mecca, in what is now Saudi Arabia. Mecca was a huge trade center, where products from Europe and Asia were bought, sold, and traded. But the journey to buy spices and other goods from the east, was long and slow. Like Columbus, Cabot believed that the Earth was not flat, but a sphere, ans that Asia could be easily reached by sailing west across the Atlantic Ocean.
Cabot tried to get Spain and Portugal to back an ocean voyage to Cathay, China. But Spain had already sent Columbus, and Portugal had plans for a voyage to Asia around the southern tip of Africa. Joh Cabot then went to England where he recieved the financing from a group of merchants and the English King, Henry VII.
John Cabot sailed from Bristol, late in May 1497, with a crew of 18, on a small ship named "The Matthew." On June 24th, he landed somewhere on the coast of North America, probably New Foundland or Cape Brenton Island, in what is now know as Canada. John Cabot was positive that he had reached the Northeast coast of Asia and excitedly sailed back to England to report to the King.
Encouraged by the news, Henry VII gave John Cabot a small fleet and sent him on another voyage in 1498. This voyage is surrouned by mystery. It is believed that Cabot first sailed back to New Foundland and then went south as far as Chesapeake Bay before storms wrecked most of his ships. One ship may have reached the Caribbean Sea. For many years it was believed that John Cabot survived this voyage and died later in England the folowing year, but because of more recent evidence, historians now believe that John Cabot perished when his ship went down in a storm in 1498.