Thornton expedition

Last updated
Ferdinando I ordered an expedition in order to create a Tuscan settlement on the territory of modern French Guiana French Guiana in its region.svg
Ferdinando I ordered an expedition in order to create a Tuscan settlement on the territory of modern French Guiana

The Thornton expedition was a 1608 Tuscan expedition under Captain Robert Thornton, an Englishman, sent by Ferdinando I of Tuscany to explore northern Brazil and the Amazon River and prepare for the establishment of a settlement in northern coastal South America, which would serve as a base to export Brazilian wood to Renaissance Italy. The area that Thornton considered as a possible site of a Tuscan colony now lies in modern French Guiana, near Cayenne, [1] which would be colonised by France in 1630. The expedition was the only attempt by an Italian state to colonise the Americas. [2]


The Amazon region had been previously visited by numerous European explorers and traders over the course of the preceding century. Robert Harcourt sailed for Guiana in 1608, establishing an English base on the Wiapoco River which lasted a few years. [3] William Davies, a surgeon on the Thornton expedition noted that they expected to find the Amazon by sailing south from the West Indies until " shall see the Sea change to a ruddie colour, the water shall grow fresh, by these signes you may run boldly your course [ sic ]." [4]

Sailing from Livorno in September 1608, Thornton returned to the same port in the end of June 1609, reportedly completing the voyage without losing a man. [5] He brought back with him to Tuscany five or six natives, most of whom died of small-pox. Only one lived on at the Medici court for several years, and learned to speak Tuscan. [5] The natives often talked about the richness and fertility of their native land, speaking of a country rich in silver and gold. [5] Thornton himself corroborated these reports, and asserted that the country was rich in rosewood, wild sugar canes, white pepper, balsam, cotton and many other kinds of merchandise which would form an abundant commerce for the Tuscans. [5]

However, once back in Tuscany, Thornton found that Ferdinando I had died, and that his successor Cosimo II was uninterested in the establishment of a colony. Thornton was ready to sail back to the area between the rivers Orinoco and Amazon in the summer of 1609 with Italian settlers from Livorno and Lucca, but the project was scrapped. [6]

In the first years of the 17th century Ferdinando I of Tuscany evaluated the possibility of a colony in Brasil […] Ferdinando gave captain Thornton a caravelle and a tartane [for an expedition in 1608] […] Thornton sailed for one year: he reached Guyana and Brasil, exploring the Amazon and Orinoco rivers. […] In July 1609 he was back in Livorno, but in February of that year the Grand Duke died and in Florence nobody [after him] was still thinking about establishing an overseas colony.

Matteo Sanfilippo [7]

See also

Related Research Articles

House of Medici Renaissance Italian Banker family

The House of Medici was an Italian banking family and political dynasty that first began to gather prominence under Cosimo de' Medici in the Republic of Florence during the first half of the 15th century. The family originated in the Mugello region of Tuscany, and prospered gradually until it was able to fund the Medici Bank. This bank was the largest in Europe during the 15th century, and it facilitated the Medicis' rise to political power in Florence, although they officially remained citizens rather than monarchs until the 16th century.

Livorno Comune in Tuscany, Italy

Livorno is a port city on the Ligurian Sea on the western coast of Tuscany, Italy. It is the capital of the Province of Livorno, having a population of 158,493 residents in December 2017. It is traditionally known in English as Leghorn.

Tuscany is named after its pre-Roman inhabitants, the Etruscans. It was ruled by Rome for many centuries. In the Middle Ages, it saw many invasions, but in the Renaissance period it helped lead Europe back to civilization. Later, it settled down as a grand duchy. It was conquered by Napoleonic France in the late 18th century and became part of the Italian Republic in the 19th century.

Charles-Antoine Campion, italianized as Carlo Antonio Campioni was an Italian composer who was born in Lorraine. He was a prolific composer and represented a link between Baroque compositional methods and those of the Classical style.

Robert Dudley (explorer) engineer, cartographer

Sir Robert Dudley was an English explorer and cartographer. In 1594, he led an expedition to the West Indies, of which he wrote an account. The illegitimate son of Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, he inherited the bulk of the Earl's estate in accordance with his father's will, including Kenilworth Castle. In 1603–1605, he tried unsuccessfully to establish his legitimacy in court. After that he left England forever, finding a new existence in the service of the grand dukes of Tuscany. There, he worked as an engineer and shipbuilder, and designed and published Dell'Arcano del Mare (1645-1646), the first maritime atlas to cover the whole world. He was also a skilled navigator and mathematician. In Italy, he styled himself "Earl of Warwick and Leicester", as well as "Duke of Northumberland", a title recognized by Emperor Ferdinand II.

Grand Duchy of Tuscany Former Italian state (1569–1801; 1815–1859)

The Grand Duchy of Tuscany was a central Italian monarchy that existed, with interruptions, from 1569 to 1859, replacing the Duchy of Florence. The grand duchy's capital was Florence. In the 19th century the population of the Grand Duchy was about 1,815,000 inhabitants.

Ferdinando I de Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany Grand Duke of Tuscany

Ferdinando I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany was Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1587 to 1609, having succeeded his older brother Francesco I.

Philip Mazzei American diplomat

Filippo Mazzei was an Italian physician, winemaker, and arms dealer. A close friend of Thomas Jefferson, Mazzei acted as an agent to purchase arms for Virginia during the American Revolutionary War.

Primary elections were first introduced in Italy by Lega Nord in 1995, but were seldom used until before the 2005 regional elections.

Marco Amelia is an Italian former professional footballer who played as a goalkeeper. Now a coach, he most recently served as head coach of Serie D club Vastese.

Giuseppe Maria Orlandini was an Italian baroque composer particularly known for his more than 40 operas and intermezzos. Highly regarded by music historians of his day like Francesco Saverio Quadrio, Jean-Benjamin de La Borde and Charles Burney, Orlandini, along with Vivaldi, is considered one of the major creators of the new style of opera that dominated the second decade of the 18th century.

Antonio Bueno was an Italian painter of Spanish origin, who acquired Italian citizenship in 1970. He was born in Berlin while his journalist father was posted there by the newspaper ABC of Madrid.

In the 2015–16 season, Associazione Calcio Milan was competing in the Serie A for the 82nd time, as well as in the Coppa Italia. It was their 33rd consecutive season in the top flight of Italian football. Milan have finished in seventh place in the national league, failing to qualify in the European competitions for a third season in a row. Milan also reached the final in the Coppa Italia, losing to rival team Juventus.

<i>Fontana dei mostri marini</i>

The two fontane dei mostri marini are located in the Santissima Annunziata plaza in Florence.

The following is a timeline of the history of the city of Prato in the Tuscany region of Italy.

Ferdinando Giorgetti was a composer, violinist, educator and Italian publicist.

Italy and the colonization of the Americas

Italy and the colonization of the Americas was related to: 1) Italian explorers and colonizers serving for other European nations; 2) The role played by the Roman Pontiff in Christianizing the New World and resolving disputes between competing colonial powers; 3) Limited attempts to create a colony in the Americas, by the Grand Duchy of Tuscany in the early 1600s and by an Italian Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller of Malta.

Luigi Ferdinando Casamorata was a composer and Italian music critic.

The LVCI company (full title Imperial-regia società privilegiata delle strade ferrate lombardo-venete e dell'Italia Centrale was a private railway company that, from 1856 to 1859, had the concession for the construction and operation of the railway network in the Kingdom of Lombardy–Venetia and central Italy.

Massimo Fagioli Italian film director, screenwriter, author and psychiatrist

Massimo Fagioli was an Italian psychiatrist and psychotherapist. He is best known for his “Human Birth Theory” which aims to define the roots and causes of mental illness in order to propose a structure for diagnosis and psychotherapeutic cure. Fagioli drew his theory from a theoretical framework that encompasses both the physiology of birth and the beginning of human thought. He is also known for the “Analisi Collettiva”, a form of psychotherapeutic group practice that he ran continuously for more than 40 years between January 1975 and December 2016. His medical theory and practice represent the core of “Il sogno della farfalla” psychiatric periodical.


  1. Ridolfi, R. Pensieri medicei di colonizzare il Brasile p. 14
  2. Ridolfi, R. Pensieri medicei di colonizzare il Brasile, in «Il Veltro», Roma, luglio-agosto 1962, pp. 1-18
  3. Hakluytus posthumus or Purchas His Pilgrimes, Samuel Purchas, volume xvi, 1625, reprinted 1906
  4. Amazon Sweet Sea, Nigel J. H. Smith, University of Texas Press, 2002
  5. 1 2 3 4 John Temple Leader, Life of Sir Robert Dudley, Earl of Warwick and Duke of Northumberland : Illustrated with letters and documents from original sources, collected by the author, and hitherto inedited (1895)
  6. Ridolfi, R. Pensieri medicei di colonizzare il Brasile, in «Il Veltro», Roma, luglio-agosto 1962, p. 12
  7. Matteo Sanfilippo (2008-06-23). "Gli italiani in Brasile" (in Italian). Archivio Storico dell'Emigrazione Italiana. Retrieved 28 March 2010. Nei primi anni del Seicento Ferdinando I di Toscana ...valuta la possibilità di una colonia brasiliana...Ferdinando fa armare una caravella e una tartana nel porto di Livorno e le affida al capitano Thornton...Thornton naviga per quasi un anno: approda in Guyana e in Brasile, esplora il Rio delle Amazzoni e l’Orinoco, rientra facendo tappa alla Caienna e a Trinidad. Il 12 luglio 1609 è di nuovo a Livorno, 7 febbraio di quell’anno il granduca è morto e a Firenze non si pensa più alla possibilità di fondare una colonia...oltreoceano.