Richard Amerik-Named America?


3. America may have taken its name from a Welshman.
According to research conducted by an English College professor, America did not take its name from Amerigo Vespucci, but from a senior collector of Customs at Bristol, the main port from which English voyages of discovery sailed in the late 15th century. Dr. Basil Cottle, who is himself of Welsh birth, tells us that the official was Richard Amerik, one of the chief investors in the second transatlantic voyage of John Cabot, which led to the famous navigator receiving the King's Pension for his discoveries.

John Cabot landed in the New World in May 1497, becoming the first recorded European to set foot on American soil. As far as Amerik's Welsh connection is concerned, the word "Amerik" itself seems to be derived from ap Meuric, Welsh for the son of Maurice. (The later was anglicized further to Morris). There was a large Welsh population in Bristol in the late 15th century.

Because Cabot's voyages were made before the year 1500, they pre-date Amerigo Vespucci's interest in the New World. Professor Cottle reminds us that new countries or continents are never named after a person's first name, always after his or her second name. Thus, America would have become "Vespucci Land" if the Italian explorer really gave his name to the newly discovered continent (i.e. Tasmania, Van Dieman's Land, Cook Islands, etc.). It seems that countries or territories are named after first names only when the name is that of a royal personage such as Prince Edward Island, Victoria, etc.).

John Cabot, father of later more-famed explorer Sebastian Cabot, was the English name of the Italian navigator whose voyages in 1497 and 1498 laid the groundwork for the later British claim to Canada. He moved to London in 1484 and was authorized by King Henry VII to search for unknown lands to the West. On his little ship Matthew, Cabot reached Labrador and mapped the North American coastline from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland. As the chief customs official in Bristol, Richard Amerik could well have had his name attached to these maps; so the newly discovered continent, in England at least, became known as "Amerik's Land." We have to remember that Vespucci's voyages did not lead to the exploration or mapping of North America, maps of which were mainly British.

Vespucci had met and been inspired by Columbus. His voyages in 1499-1500 and 1501-1502 took him along the coast of South America where he discovered the Rio Plata. He discovered that the coast was that of a continent and not part of Asia (as John Cabot had thought). It was suggested in 1507 (the year Vespucci's discoveries were published) that the new lands be called America, but the name was only applied to South America, and it could very well have been taken from that already given the more northerly regions explored and mapped by Cabot. The voyage of the "Matthew" was recreated in 1997 when it sailed from Bristol to New England.

    • Fyrefox

      By Fyrefox

      Intriguing!  I'm glad that my country is not called "Vespucci Land." That sounds like an amusement park!  😺