A history of Tudor exploration in the first half of the 16th century, “a time when inventions and discoveries not only rivaled those of the ancients but exceeded them.”
It’s difficult to imagine the victor over the Spanish Armada as a small, backward island with little maritime experience, but that’s just what England was at this time. In his debut work, which opens with the journeys of Sebastian Cabot (1474-1557), Evans shows the driving force that made England great. Cabot’s voyage with his father, John Cabot, to the New World proved to be the spark that fed his love of discovery. King Henry VII was a great supporter of exploration, seeking to tap the global markets. Alas, his son, Henry VIII, was much more interested in reclaiming England’s lands in France, and ocean exploration in England foundered. In the early 1500s, Cabot moved to Spain, where he learned the art of navigation and mapmaking. He also learned to rely only on firsthand knowledge gained by carefully recorded observation. Lured back to England during the reign of Edward VI, Cabot updated the world map, indicating a passage to “Cathay” traveling north of Scandinavia. Seeing this as England’s route to the great riches of the East, he partnered with Richard Chancellor, a brilliant scholar and the first Englishman to master oceangoing navigation. In 1553, Chancellor and Sir Hugh Willoughby led three ships on an expedition to find the Northeast Passage. In 1551, to fund the expedition, the three men formed a pioneering joint-stock business, the Muscovy Company, a precursor to the East India Company. Evans fully investigates the story of the Muscovy Company’s voyage and examines what happened to the men and their ships.
A wonderful adventure story, especially for those in awe of men who dared to breach the wilderness 500 years ago.