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John Cabot Lesson for Kids: Facts & Biography

Instructor: Jenny Homer

Jenny has masters' degrees in public health and public administration.

This lesson describes the life of John Cabot, an Italian who sailed for England in 1497. Cabot was looking for a faster way to get to Asia from England, but ended up finding a whole new land - Canada.

Who is John Cabot?

When we think of traveling today, we use maps and GPS devices to help us know where we are and how to get where we need to be. But hundreds of years ago, when people from Europe first started exploring North and South America, they didn't have the tools we do today. They didn't even know there was a North or South America!

John Cabot was a brave explorer who traveled west from England in the late 1400s to go to Asia. When he crossed the Atlantic Ocean he found himself in a totally new place - where Canada is today.

John Cabot's Early Life

John Cabot was named Giovanni Caboto when he was born in Italy in 1450. He spent time in Venice, Italy, and worked for a trading company. Cabot learned a lot about navigation, or finding how to get some place on a ship. Cabot and his family moved to England.

Around this time, Christopher Columbus made his trip for Spain in 1492 to the Americas. Cabot and Christopher Columbus both thought there was a shorter way to get to Asia by going west from Europe. Up until then, you had to go east on a very long trip.

The king of England, Henry VII, wanted to make sure Spain was not the only country finding new land. On March 5, 1496, he gave permission to Cabot and his sons to look for land.

This letter from King Henry VII in 1496 tells John Cabot he can sail to find new lands.
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John Cabot at Sea

Cabot first left Bristol, England, on one ship. Pretty soon after sailing, the ship had to turn around and go back. There was bad weather, the crew did not get along, and there wasn't enough food.

So the next year in May 1497, Cabot tried again. This time, he left Bristol with 18 men on a ship called the Matthew. After going northwest, the ship landed on June 24. It is thought that Cabot was somewhere on Canada's east coast near Newfoundland. He and the crew looked around and said the land was England's. They did not see any people, but they thought it looked like someone might be living nearby. The Matthew got back to England on August 6, 1497.

Canadian stamp showing Cabot
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