English Exploration in North America

The earliest English expedition to the North American mainland was John Cabot’s expedition to find a Northwest Passage to the Indies. Cabot was an Italian whose actual name was Giovanni Caboto. He landed on Newfoundland in 1497 and claimed it for England. The Spanish argued, however, that the Treaty of Tordesillas, which essentially divided ownership of the New World between Spain and Portugal, meant the territory Cabot claimed actually belonged to Spain. Despite these Spanish claims, the English continued to send expeditions to the New World. John Cabot died during his second voyage to North America. In 1508, his son Sebastian also sailed for England in search of a Northwest Passage to the Indies. Sebastian Cabot sailed along the coastline of North America from Cape Hatteras to near the Arctic Circle, but he, too, failed to find a Northwest Passage. For almost seventy years, the English monarchy sponsored no voyages to the New World. Not until Martin Frobisher’s expeditions, again seeking a Northwest Passage in 1576, 1577, and 1578, did the English monarchy seriously begin to sponsor New World ventures again. In 1578 and 1580, the English sent two more expeditions to the New World. These expeditions were different from the Cabots’ and Frobisher’s, because they were colonizing expeditions. The 1578 expedition was led by Humphrey Gilbert, the 1580 expedition by Walter Raleigh. Both failed because of a lack of supplies and England’s war engagements back home. Between 1497 and the early sixteenth century, the English did participate in smaller ventures in the New World. During this time, the British and Portuguese formed an alliance to explore North America, an alliance that yielded little benefit for either. These largely fishing expeditions were made up primarily of sailors and merchants from Bristol, England, although the expeditions were often led by Portuguese pilots. Small business ventures rather than large national ventures, these voyages are important because they were the first contacts between Europeans and native peoples in the northeastern part of the North American continent. North American Exploration, 1500 1700. While the British settled the Atlantic seaboard, the interior of North America was largely explored by the French and Spanish. The above map shows the routes and dates of major European expeditions that explored the continent in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. (Carto-Graphics) In many ways, the immense success of Spanish exploratory and Catholic religion expeditions in the New World in the early sixteenth century convinced the English that they had to increase their own colonization efforts. The English wanted to counter the Spanish Catholic influence in the New World with their Protestant influence, and they also wanted to be able to compete economically and politically with the Spaniards. The establishment of the first permanent English settlement in Jamestown in 1607 offers an example of how the English planned to settle the New World. The English plan was to have the Virginia colony produce enough foodstuffs and other raw materials for itself and additional food and materials for export to England, in exchange for which the colonists would receive clothing and other goods. England’s colonization plan was not particularly successful because the English colonists could trade with local Native Americans in order to obtain food and other goods. The English Come to North America Age of EXploration and Colonization Age of EXploration and Colonization

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