Tudor and Early Stuart Voyaging

Tudor and Early Stuart Voyaging

Tudor and Early Stuart Voyaging

Tudor and Early Stuart Voyaging

Excerpt

For the first sixty-five years of the Tudor dynasty the story of English voyaging is sketchy and inconclusive. The impetus of a glowing beginning toward the end of the fifteenth century was not kept up, and for most of the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII English seafaring remains rather primitive, scanty alike in performance, organization, and records. Yet this era may be looked upon as the seedtime for the heroic age that was to follow, to bear fruit in the reign of Elizabeth.

There had, indeed, been for long a respectable maritime tradition in such ports as Bristol, where a trade in wines had for centuries existed with Bordeaux, as well as commerce with Seville in olive oil and Cordova leather and, more recently, with Iceland for fish in exchange for cloth. It was probably out of the last of these that the search for islands and lands to the westward began.

It is now thought that land (the "isle of Brasil," as they named it) was discovered by the English in the west, perhaps before Henry VII won the battle of Bosworth Field, though it may have been lost sight of again or, alternatively, kept secret as a valuable base for a fishery. There were voyages in search of it in 1480 and 1481, and the latter may have been successful--perhaps in finding Newfoundland and the Banks.

Into this setting came the Italian Giovanni Cabot, perhaps from Venice about 1486 or, possibly, it is now thought, from Spain in 1493 or 1494. He found that the leading families in Bristol, the Jays and Thornes and Eliots, were already engaged in western voyaging. It is still a matter for discussion whether Cabot joined with them as early as about 1490 or as late as 1494 . . .

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