John Cabot was born in Genoa, Italy around 1450. His name was actually Giovanni Caboto, but he would be remembered by the English translation, John Cabot.
In 1476, Cabot lived in Venice, Italy, the main trading center for the entire Mediterranean region. He worked there as a merchant and a navigator. Horrible experiences with Arab traders probably influenced Cabotís decision to find a sea route to the Far East which would allow merchants to trade directly with Asian traders instead of the Arab traders.
Search for the Northwest Passage
In 1483, Cabot moved to Bristol, England. He believed that Asia could be reached by sailing west. In 1493, when word of Columbusí reports of his successful journey to the New World arrived, Cabot convinced King Henry VII that England did not have to sit still while the Spaniards helped themselves to the New World. Even though the Pope had given Spain control of all the new lands in the New World, King Henry VII like Cabotís idea. He paid for Cabot to begin an exploration of the New World because Cabot convinced him that it was possible to reach Asia on a more northerly route than Columbus had taken, and this route would be even shorter! The idea that a northern route existed started the search for the Northwest Passage to the Indies.
Cabot sailed out of Bristol with his ship, the Matthew, on May 2, 1497. He landed in the New World, believing that he had landed on the east coast of Asia. Even now, we donít know exactly where he landed. He may have landed in Maine or Newfoundland, Canada. Wherever he landed, he claimed it in the name of King Henry VII. Cabot became the first European explorer to discover the mainland of North America (Canada and the United States). He sailed further north, making the first recorded attempt to find the Northwest Passage, only to find ice-crusted waters.
When Cabot arrived back in England, he was given a heroís welcome for (supposedly) reading the "Land of Spices." He was made an admiral and sent immediately back to find Japan. This time he sailed with five ships, but instead of finding Asian spices, he found dark forests and horrible rivers.
Some historians believe that Cabot returned from his second expedition and died around 1499 in England. Others believe that he never returned from his second voyage and was never heard from again.
Who Goes There: European Exploration of the New World