John Cabot vs Christopher Columbus: Who Was First?

…on the mainland of North America? John (Giovanni) Caboto was an italian, who sailed in the service of the English merchants of Bristol. He sailed a northerly course, and reached the region of newfoundland.
There seems to be very little written about Cabot/Caboto-anyone know why the english never followed up on his voyages?
I also wonder if the caboto was known to Columbus-is there any evidenc e that they knew of eachother?

Since Columbus never set foot on the mainland of North America, it has to be Cabot.

The major non-academic book on him appears to be The Voyage of the Matthew: John Cabot and the Discovery of America, by P. L. Firstbrook.

While the English certainly did exploit the Newfoundland cod banks that Cabot discovered, his personal record of failed voyages, sailing through horrible weather, and being lost at sea may have put a tiny crimp into the plans of others for a while.

According to articles in Wikipedia Cabot charted Canada’s East coast in June-August of 1497, hitting the islands of Newfoundland and Cape Breton, the mainland along Nova Scotia and possibly Labrador.

Columbus sailed around Caribbean islands on his first three voyages. It wasn’t until his fourth voyage that he actually touched mainland in Central America on August 14, 1502

There is more info about Cabot here - he launched a second expedition in 1498 with 5 ships but was never heard of again.

I read somewhere years ago that Spanish fishermen had been cod fishing on the Grand Banks for quite some time before Columbus and co.went across the Atlantic.

It makes sense that the fishermen would have kept quiet about the location to keep out competition but it would also seem likely that at least some of them would have landed at some time,been driven ashore or suchlike.

I started a thread about what Columbus actually accomplished once and the replies were both intelligent and eye-opening. The man was probably the luckiest pure crackpot that ever lived and he never even knew that he found new lands.

Why did Columbus Think that He Discovered a Route to the Far East?

Basque, actually. Here is a good book on the subject. This is written by the same guy who wrote Salt: A World History.

In the 1970’s, historian Samuel Eliot Morison wrote a wonderfully engaging book on the subject: The European Discovery of America: The Northern Voyages . He has a good chapter on Cabot, and he retraces his route and landfalls. Morison’s writing is detailed but never boring – even quite funny sometimes.


Every Scandinavian up here in Minnesota knows who was first: Leif Erickson!

According to Terra Incognita by Rodney Broome, Columbus was sent (by a Johan Days of Bristol) a copy of a map which Cabot had made on his 1497 expedition before Columbus’s own third expedition in 1498.

He also says that research in the naval records in Madrid indicate that Cabot’s final expedition encountered, and were killed by, a Spanish force led by Admiral Alonzo Hojeda who was exploring along the Venezualan coast in the Summer of 1499.
Well, the Spanish apparently definitely encounterd some English ships, and Cabot’s were the only feasible ones to be in the area…

It’s a good little book, and although it does draw some dubious conclusions about some things, he does quote what appear to be reliable sources for the above points…

If you don’t say “North America”, but just The New World, then Portugal undoubtedly gets credit. One reason that the pope divided the world such that Portugal got Brazil was that they had discovered it. But what they had was worthless swamp, the Amazon delta flow. Plus all the off shore islands. But they were kept secret as the discoverers were in the navy and all non-commercial navigation information was jealously guarded.

I’d be interested in a cite “undoubtedly” showing Portuguese arrival in the New World prior to Cabot’s 1497 voyage.

Until recently, the “canonical” European discoverer of Brazil was Pedro Álvares Cabral, supposedly blown off-course in 1500 while on a voyage to India via the Cape of Good Hope (although this might have been a cover story). It now appears likely that Duarte Pacheco Pereira beat him by two years, but that’s still post-Cabot.

I agree that it’s tempting to believe in a pre-Treaty of Tordesillas landfall, which would help to explain the Portuguese desire to have the line pushed further West. Still, it would have been in their interest to have the line as far West as possible even without prior evidence of the New World.

Were you thinking of the claim that Sancho Brandão reached Brazil in 1341? My understanding is that the jury is still very much out on that one. Do you have a definitive source to justify the “undoubtedly” part?

It’s far from “undoubtedly”, but: