A Gomerite hero - Namesake of America?
15th Century AD – 16th Century AD
Wealthy Welsh Tudor (Gomerite) dignitary after whom America may have been named.
Richard Amerik was the chief customs official in late 15th century Bristol.Of Welsh birth or extraction, his name was possibly derived from “ap Meriug”, or “son of Meurig.”
The case for America being named after him goes like this: Duty collecting having apparently been a lucrative occupation, Amerik was the principal investor in John Cabot’s transatlantic expedition of 1497. Cabot allegedly repaid the favour by naming the newly discovered continent in Amerik’s honour.
Cabot had been urged to discover new lands by HRH Henry Tudor. It’s thought he reached Newfoundland, landing at several points on the coast before returning to Bristol. No definitive record of the expedition survives, though it has been suggested that Amerik’s name may have appeared on Cabot’s maps because of his official status in Bristol, as well as his financial stake in the venture.
The following year the Florentine navigator Amerigo Vespucci landed in South America and explored the area around the mouth of the Amazon. He returned several years later, travelling down the coast to what is now Argentina.
The name ‘America’ first surfaces in 1509’s Cosmographiae Introductio by the Strasbourg cartographer Martin Waldseemüller. It is said that he believed Vespucci – and not Christopher Columbus- had discovered America and so named the continent for him.
This great debate is made all the more intriguing by the lack of certainty either way. Neither claim emerged until the 20th century and each was backed by historians with their own cultural axes to grind.
Amerik was proposed by Dr Basil Cottle – a Welshman who, like his hero, spent a lot of time in Bristol. Likewise Vespucci’s champion was another Italian, Alberto Magnaghi.
An expert on names, Dr Cottle asserted that if the Vespucci claim were true, then the continent would by convention have been called “Vespuccia.”
From a Welsh perspective, it’s nice to believe America should really be called ‘ap Meuriga’.
Curiously, Francis Bacon used styalized "A's" before and after the titles of his creations... AmerikA?
Sir Francis Bacon, in his book The History of the Reign of King Henry VI mentions that ...it is likely that the discovery first began where the lands did nearest meet. And there had been before that time a discovery of some lands, which they took to be islands, and were indeed the continent of America, towards the north-west. And it may be, that some relation of this nature coming afterwards to the knowledge of Columbus, and by him suppressed (desirous rather to make his enterprise the child of his science and fortune than the follower of a former discovery), did give him better assurance that all was not sea from the west of Europe and Africke. If Columbus knew about it in 1492, it's certainly possible that Cabot knew about it 5 years later in 1497.