After John Cabot's trip to North America in the early 1500s, it was nearly a full century before England began any real attempt at colonizing America. What were the important changes that took place in England that opened the way for the development of their colonial activity?
So much time passed between the voyages to the New World by Giavanni Caboto, the Italian-born explorer known in England as John Cabot, and British colonization of North America because the English Crown lacked the freedom of movement enjoyed by the preeminent power of the time, Spain. When Henry VII commissioned Cabot to explore North America, it was with the intent of securing territories and establishing colonies. Unfortunately for the English, though, they were mired in domestic turmoil as the House of Plantagenet was divided in the Wars of the Roses, and would become entrapped in one of history’s most protracted conflicts, The Hundred Years War, with France. While Spain, and Portugal, enjoyed unfettered access to the spoils of their conquests, England’s ability to project military and political power across the Atlantic was too hamstrung by those conflicts closer to home. The Spanish Navy was too powerful for the English to attempt to confront it, especially with its military assets wholly preoccupied by the wars with France. Over time, however, the English improved their maritime capabilities considerably, including through the introduction of more maneuverable sailing ships and the training of their officers and crews, and, by 1588, they were able to overcome Spain’s presumed naval superiority sufficiently to defeat the latter’s famed Armada. Once it had achieved command of the seas, and with the long conflict with France marginalized, the English were able to devote resources to colonizing North America.