** European voyages of discovery -- Northern Europeans

European Voyages of Discovery: Northern Europeans

Figure 1.--This rather florid print depicts the departure from Bristol of father and son John and Sebastian Cabot on their first voyage of discovery (1497). We are unsure who the artist was, but a best we can deterrmnine it was a book illustration for Jessie Noakes, Virtue and Co, about 1906. Cabot lik several of the eraliest navigators was Itlalia, but he sailed for England.

English, French, and Dutch explorers followed in the wake of the Portuguese and Spanish (16th century). There appeared little interest among northern Europeans in dangerous voyages out into the Atlantic--until Spanish treasure ships began returning from America laden with gold and silver. Other northern Europeans noted the Portuguese ships returning from the East with valuable cargoes of spices, silks, porcelins, and other products. Throughout the 16th century there was a growing desire to share in this rich overseas bounty, but the power of the Spanish fleet and army limited the activities of the northern Europeans. Mixed it with the ecionomic matters were religious issues. Spain used its American wealth to help stamp out the Reformation. This behan to change when the English Sea Dogs began to interceopt the Spanish trasure ships. And than the English victory over the Spanish Armada began a major shift in the naval balance of power. Ther northern Europeans concentrated on North America, but did not find any fabulously wealthy Native American empires. England and France had been historic enemies. It is at this time, largely due to the Reformationon, that the Dutch entered European power politics. And there merchant fleet and colonies thast eould help it ward off invading Spanidsh and tahn French armies. At the time, it was Central and South America with their gold nd silver mines that was seen as the great prize of the sage of discovery. But ultimstely ity was North America thst brcame the most valuable prize. Scholars with their Mzrxist taine do not like addressing this issue because they don't like the answer. Abd that answer id basicallt becazuse the Noerth Americns foopted market capitalism and the Ltin Amdericans did not. SAnd the situation was even worse when in the 20th century the Latin Aericns becme enamored with Socialism.


The first important English explorer was Giovanni Caboto (1450-98), better known as John Cabot. He was Genoese. (Note the importance of the Genoese. As Venice defeated Genoa and limited its maritime commerce, many Genoese like Cabot and Cloumbus sought their fortunes in other countries.) Cabot set up as a merchant in Bristol. Soon accounts of Columbus' voyages reached England. Cabot with his navigational skills was commissioned by King Henry VII to explore the New World and find a passage to the Indies, the famed Northwest Passage. Cabot found Cape Breton Island off modern Nova Scotia and claimed it for England (1497). He explored the coast of Greenland in a second expedition (1498). The English watched in envy while Mary was queen, her husband was Phillip II of Spain. With the accession of Princess Elizabeth, however, this changed. Queen Elizabeth secretly authorized privateers to prey upon Spanish treasure ships and in the process not only seized important quantities of gold and silver, but accumulate increasing information about navigation and ocean seafaring. The English Sea Dogs (Drake, Hawkins, Raleigh, and others) were the bane of Philip's existence. Sir Francis Drake (1545?-96) was the greatest English explorers and one of its preminant naval heroes. Drake received his early training from Sir John Hawkins, a realative and participated in the raids on Spanish shipping. On one f thse fraids, Drake led a small party accross the Istmus of Panama for his forst view of the Pacific Ocean (1572). Queen Elizabeth, depite the fact England was at peace with Soain, approved and helped finance a secret expedition to target Spanish colonies along the Pacific coast of South America (1576). The Pacific at the time a virtual Spanish lake. Drake attacked Spanish cities from Chile north to Mexico and became known as El Drago. Drake and the Golden Hind reached Plymouth having curcumnavigated the globe (1580). The Spanish issued stinging diplomatic protests, but Queen Elizabeth knighted him. Not only were the English plundering his treasure fleets, but they were Protestants and Elizabeth was taking the English church in a decidedly Protestant direction. Philip's response was the Great Armada described above. The defeat of the Armada (1588) opened the way for more intensive English exploration and the founding of colonies. Henry Hudson (?-1611?) made four voyages if discovery primarily aimed at finding the Northwest Passage. On his third voyage (1609) he explored along the coast of North America 150 miles up what is now known as the Hudson River. On his fourth voyage abord the Half Moon (1610) Hudson still searching for the Northwest passage found what is now known as Hudson Bay where his crew mutined and Hudson and his son are believed to have perished.


The rich North Atlantic fisheries played an important role in early French explorations. French navigator Jacques Cartier may have sailed to to the waters off Newfoundland as part of a fishing fleet in the early 1500s. He may have also been involved with Giovanni de Verrazano's expeditions. King Francis I commissioned Cartier to find the Northwest Passage (1531). Cartier with two small ships and 61 crew members. After reaching Newfoundland, he discovered the Magdalen and Prince Edward islands and the Gaspe Peninsula, claiming them for France. before returning home. Cartier's accounts of his expedition created great interest in France and inspired many young men to persue their fortunes un North America. Francis I ordered a second expedition (1535). This time Cartier sailed up the St. Lawrence River founding Mont Real now known as Montreal. Rene-Robert LaSalle (1643-87) sailed to Canada to persue the enormously profitable fur trade (1666). Indians accounts of two great rivers (the Ohio and the Mississippi) intrugued him especially the possibility that one might flow into the Pacific. He began his search in 1667 and pusued it for sevral years without success. After returning to France, King Louis XIV granted him land and a trading post he opened made him one of the most powerful man in Canada. LaSalle returned to France again (1679) and Louis XIV approved an expedition to find and explore the Mississippi River. LaSalle sailed through the Great Lakes claining them for France and then lead a small excpedition down the Illinois River in canoes to the Mississippi River. They canoed the Mississippi River, but found it flowed into the Gulf of Mexico rather than the Pacific (1682). LaSalle claimed the Great Lakes and Mississippi Valley for France.

The Dutch

Beginning in the mid-16th century the Dutch became a major coimmercial and maritime power, becoming the financial center of Europe. This became possible with the defeat of the Spanish Armada (1588) and Spain's failure to supress Protestantism in the northern provinces of the Spanish Netherlands. Dutch explorers active uinnthe early 17th century included Duyfken, Gulden Zeepaert, Hartog, Houtman, Leeuwin, Pelsaert, Pera/Arnhem, Pool, Tasman, Vyanen, and Zeewulf. Hudson's third voyage was in part finaced by the Dutch (1609). The Dutch acquired an overseas empire which included New Amsterdam (New York), Caribbean islands, the Netherlands Indies (Batavia, Sumatra, and other islands), Cape of Good Hope, Ceylon (ousting the Portuguese), and Malacca (also ousting the Portuguese).


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Created: 2:20 AM 5/15/2021
Last updated: 2:20 AM 5/15/2021