English Explorations 1497–1776

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Map Code: Ax00652

When the Venetian John Cabot, commissioned by Henry VII of England, discovered the coast of North America in 1497, it was the first European arrival in the North American continent since the Vikings. There would be no follow-up for over a century, when the Spanish moved north from the Gulf of Mexico and the French colonized the land around the Michigan lakes and deep into the continental interior. Further English exploration originated from the colonies in Virginia, Massachusetts, and the Carolinas. It would be a piecemeal affair, sponsored by local landowners (Lederer and Batts-Fallam in the 1670s), or groups of speculative investors (Gist and Howard-Salling in the 1740s) rather than the Crown. The exploration process was inhibited by poor relations between colonists and natives; frequent wars blocked inland movement and many explorers, like Needham and Nairne, died at Indian hands. By the 1750s, the colonial powers were clashing in the interior: near Pickawillany, Colonel George Washington engaged in reprisals against perceived French trespasses.

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