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The Many Landfalls of John Cabot

The Many Landfalls of John Cabot

Copyright Date: 1997
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    The Many Landfalls of John Cabot
    Book Description:

    Pope contrasts what we know about Cabot with what we think we know, and shows how the invention of various traditions has shaped debates about his landing in North America.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8169-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-2)
    Peter Pope
  5. 1 An Introduction
    (pp. 3-10)

    The old song parodies the subject of this book: when, how, and why Canadians and Newfoundlanders have claimed John Cabot as their own. Johnny Burke wrote this satirical ballad (if he actually wrote it) within the context of a particular Newfoundland debate about Cabotʹs landfall, ʹtwixt his Lordship and the Judge,ʹ that is, between the Roman Catholic Bishop of St Johnʹs, Michael Howley, and the jurist and eminent historian of Newfoundland, Daniel Prowse. (The Presbyterian churchman, Dr Moses Harvey, took a dissenting view.) These were among the most audible voices in the quadcentenary squabble over Cabot in 1897, but Newfoundlanders...

  6. 2 Everything We Know about John Cabot
    (pp. 11-42)

    Five hundred years is a long time. The handful of contemporary documents that shed light on the explorations of the man we remember as John Cabot are half a millennium old. A number of factors conspire to limit our historical access to his celebrated voyage of 1497. He was a peripatetic Venetian who arrived in England only a few years before his famous voyage in 1497. The fishermen who actually exploited the coasts that Cabot explored led unglamorous lives; they went about their business unnoticed and their affairs are, largely, forgotten. Mariners in this period were not, typically, literate and...

  7. 3 Legends of Sebastian
    (pp. 43-68)

    For centuries, the name ʹJohn Cabotʹ was obscure, forgotten in most chronicles, known to few historians and confused by most with his son Sebastian. This is not to say that his voyage was forgotten. Even if memories of the voyages of 1496, 1497, and 1498 were mixed up, one with another and with a voyage that Sebastian made to Labrador in 1508, the fact that a pilot named Cabot had mounted an early transatlantic expedition from Bristol was remembered.² What is more, this was remembered as a precedent: the basis of British claims to North America. The great eighteenth-century conservative...

  8. 4 The Many Landfalls
    (pp. 69-90)

    The limitations and ambiguities of the documents relating to John Cabotʹs voyage of 1497 have provided ample opportunity for several centuries of scholarly quarrel. For almost four hundred years, confusion reigned over the simple questions of who led the expedition and when, or even if, it took place. An early modern consensus about the coast explored fell apart in the late eighteenth century, with the first claims for a specific landfall, that first glimpse of North America that post-medieval Europe was supposed to have had. A century later, the 1897 quadcentenary became the occasion for intense dispute about the landfall,...

  9. 5 Traditions of Invention, 1897: Columbus, Cartier, and Cabot
    (pp. 91-126)

    The ideological additives in John Cabotʹs centennial birthday cakes make the literature on his voyage hard to digest, especially in the large servings common around 1897. This literature is, nevertheless, worth sampling, if only the better to understand public memory of this event. Besides helping us to deal with the flummery that has come our way during the five-hundredth anniversary, the origin of public myth about the many landfalls may teach us as much about the construction of our national identities as the event itself.² Eric Hobsbawmʹs concept of ʹinvention of traditionʹ is particularly relevant to such cases when, as...

  10. 6 The History of Discovery
    (pp. 127-158)

    The modern mass nation state that emerged in the eighteenth century differs profoundly from earlier states. Modern nationalism, the identification of the citizen with the state, facilitates social control and replaces, in a sense, the patriarchal authority that once gave order to a society based on rank and deference. Benedict Anderson argues that modern nationalism arose first in the invented ʹcreoleʹ communities of the New World and that the nationalism of the French Revolution, for example, was an echo of the more original nationalism of the American Revolution.² But Linda Colley traces the gradual construction of modern British nationalism from...

  11. 7 A Memory Perpetual
    (pp. 159-178)

    In the early sixteenth century, Europeans were surprisingly uninterested in the New World. When they did think about it, they usually thought of the southern continent of Amerigo Vespucci and only rarely of the continent on the other side of the North Atlantic, newly descried.² John Rastell was one of the few Englishmen of Cabotʹs time for whom this was more than a nine daysʹ wonder; indeed he was the first to use the term ʹNorth Americaʹ In his short and merry theatrical interlude, he bemoaned the Spanish precedent set in lower latitudes by Christopher Columbus. Although intrigued by news...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 179-228)
  13. Credits and Permissions
    (pp. 229-230)
  14. Index
    (pp. 231-244)