Logo   European Explorers of New England
(Continued from Pre-History)



Vikings & Vinland

Historians think that the Vikings were the first Europeans to explore North America's shores, but there is evidence, none of it conclusive, that the discoverers may have been Irish, Spaniards, or Portuguese.

But we know that the Norse came to this area about the year 1000 CE, and may have founded settlements in the land they called Vinland. Though the land was fruitful, the settlers found it hard going, mostly because the indigenous peoples fought the settlers ferociously.

The great Nordic leaders did not judge the land to be worth the deaths of many of their people, so they withdrew to their more easily ruled settlements in Greenland and Iceland.

Columbus, Cabot & More

By the time the intrepid Columbus set out on his epoch-making voyage 500 hundred years later (1492), Europe had become ready to profit from discoveries of new lands.

Columbus was followed by other explorers, including Giovanni Caboto (known as John Cabot), who sailed under the English flag in 1497 and claimed all of what would become New England for his master, King Henry VII.

Then there was Giovanni da Verrazzano, another Italian explorer sailing for François I, King of France. Verrazzano sailed the coast of North America between Cape Fear, North Carolina and Newfoundland, documenting New York Bay and Narragansett Bay in 1524.

The English Claim

It took a century before the English monarch was ready to exploit his claims. During the early 1600s, expeditions were sent out under Sir Humphrey Gilbert, Bartholomew Gosnold, Martin Pring, and George Weymouth. These brought back useful intelligence on the new land (and Weymouth brought back a Native American named Squanto, who learned English before returning to his homeland), but it was Sir John Smith who studied the land seriously with an eye to colonization, and who gave it the name New England.

—by Tom Brosnahan

Next: Colonial New England

New England Pre-History

The Explorers

Colonial New England

The Boston Tea Party

Timeline of New England History

New England Geology

New England History

  Paris Girls Secret Society, the new novel by Tom Brosnahan


Monhegan Island ME

Explorers sailed along the
rockbound New England coast....

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