Hakluyt@400 Quatercentenary programme Autumn 2016

This year is the 400th anniversary of the death of Richard Hakluyt (1552-1616) and the Hakluyt Society will mark this with an exciting programme of events in Oxford and at Hakluyt’s parish of Wetheringsett in Suffolk. Centrepiece of the Hakluyt@400 events will be the two-day international conference Richard Hakluyt and the Renaissance Discovery of the World, taking place in Oxford on 24-25 November (book your tickets here)

Two free exhibitions will accompany this interdisciplinary conference, both to be launched in October 2016: Hakluyt and Geography in Oxford 1550–1650 at Christ Church, Oxford, and The World in a Book: Hakluyt and Renaissance Discovery, at the Bodleian Library, Oxford. In addition, on Sunday 27 November there will be a commemorative service in All Saints Church, Wetheringsett, Suffolk. Read on for a detailed overview of events!


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Exhibitions

The two free exhibitions in Oxford will run from October to December 2016. On Friday 14 October, Hakluyt and Geography in Oxford 1550–1650 will be launched at Christ Church, Hakluyt’s old college, with a symposium on Renaissance scientific instruments and a reception. In November, events at Christ Church will include workshops on scientific instruments from the Christ Church collection by Dr Allan Chapman and Dr Stephen Johnston.

On Friday 28 October, The World in a Book: Hakluyt and Renaissance Discovery will be launched with a lecture (5:30pm) by William Poole (New College), introducing the books which heralded an era of exploration, discovery, and imperial expansion. The lecture opens a display at the Bodleian’s Weston Library of the works and collections of Richard Hakluyt. One of the greatest treasures of the library, the Codex Mendoza, once owned by Hakluyt, will be included in this exhibition.


Commemorative Service

At 10.30 a.m. on Sunday 27 November, there will be a commemorative service in All Saints Church, Wetheringsett, Suffolk, IP15 5PH, Hakluyt’s parish, which will be led by the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, with the dedication of a stone plaque in memory of Richard Hakluyt. This will be followed by a buffet lunch in the Village Hall with a programme of music and readings. There will be an opportunity for small groups of Hakluyt Society members to visit the surviving part of Hakluyt’s former rectory.

Members who wish to be present at Wetheringsett are asked to contact the Society (office@hakluyt.com) as early as possible to assist the planning of the local organisers.


Conference

The two-day conference, Richard Hakluyt and the Renaissance Discovery of the World, takes place on 24 November at the Bodleian Library, and on 25 November at Christ Church, Oxford. Twenty renowned experts on Hakluyt and early modern travel and exploration have accepted an invitation to speak at the conference. The keynote lecture on 24 November, “No Land Unhabitable, Nor Sea Innavigable“: Hakluyt’s Argument from Design will be delivered by Professor Joyce Chaplin (Harvard University). At the conclusion of the event on 25 November, a free to attend public lecture, Voyages, Traffiques, Discoveries, will be given by the well-known broadcaster and historian Professor Michael Wood (more info below).


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Full line-up

Keynote speakers

Professor Joyce Chaplin – Harvard University

Professor Michael Wood – The University of Manchester

Speakers

Professor Michael Brennan – University of Leeds

Professor Daniel Carey (organiser) – NUI Galway

Dr Heather Dalton – University of Melbourne

Professor Nandini Das – University of Liverpool

Professor Mary Fuller – MIT

Dr John Hemming – Hakluyt Society

Professor Claire Jowitt (organiser) – University of East Anglia

Professor Bernhard Klein – University of Kent

Professor Karen Ordahl Kupperman – New York University

Professor Emerita Joyce Lorimer – Tri University

Professor Ladan Niayesh – Université Paris Diderot

Professor Michael Leroy Oberg – SUNY-Geneseo

Anthony Payne (organiser) – Hakluyt Society

Professor emerita Carla Rahn Phillips – University of Minnesota

Professor Joan-Pau Rubiés – Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Professor Emeritus David Harris Sacks – Reed College

Professor Sebastian Sobecki – University of Groningen

Dr Felicity Stout – The University of Sheffield

Professor Michiel van Groesen – Leiden University


Registration and Bursaries

Registration for this two-day event costs £100 per person or £60 for members of the Hakluyt Society and for postgraduates. The fee includes coffee/tea, lunches, and a reception at Christ Church on the Thursday evening. Space is limited and early registration is advised.

A number of fee-waiver postgraduate bursaries are available, due to an award from the Society for Renaissance Studies. If you wish to apply for a bursary, please contact Professor Claire Jowitt (c.jowitt@uea.ac.uk) by 31 August 2016.

All postgraduates who register to attend the conference are entitled to a 50% reduction in membership of the Hakluyt Society for one calendar year (to £15.00). To join using this offer, please see http://www.hakluyt.com/hak-soc-membership.htm and also send confirmation of your registration to attend the conference to office@hakluyt.com.

To book your place, click here.


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Hakluyt Society Essay Prize 2017

The Hakluyt Society is pleased to announce the 2017 edition of the

Hakluyt Society Essay Prize

For the third year in succession, the Hakluyt Society awards its annual Essay Prize(s) of up to a total of £750. The prize or prizes for 2017 will be presented, if possible, at the Hakluyt Society’s Annual General Meeting in London in June 2017. Winners will also receive a one-year membership of the Hakluyt Society. The Society hopes that the winning essay will be published, either in the Society’s online journal or in a recognised academic journal.

Prize winners agree to acknowledge the receipt of their award in any future publication of the Prize essay. In addition, they will be expected to contribute to the Society’s public dissemination as appropriate. This may include, but is not limited to, presenting a paper at a Hakluyt Society symposium (in which case travel expenses within the UK will be reimbursed) and contributing to the Hakluyt Society blog (for previous winners, see here and here).


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Eligibility criteria

The competition is open to any registered graduate student at a higher education institution (a university or equivalent) or to anyone who has been awarded a graduate degree in the past three years. Proof of student status or of the date of a degree must accompany any submission. Allowance can be made for maternity leave.

 Scope and subject matter

Before considering the submission of an essay, entrants should visit the Hakluyt Society’s website (www.hakluyt.com) to make themselves aware of the object of the Society and the scope and nature of its publications. Essays should be based on original research in any discipline in the humanities or social sciences, and on an aspect of the history of travel, exploration and cultural encounter or their effects, in the tradition of the work of the Society.

Essays should be in English (except for such citations in languages other than English as may appear in footnotes or endnotes) and between 6,000 and 8,000 words in length (including notes, excluding bibliography). Illustrations, diagrams and tables essential to the text fall outside the word count. Submissions should be unpublished, and not currently in press, in production or under review elsewhere.

Submission procedures and deadline

Essays should be submitted as email attachments in Word.doc format to Richard Bateman, Administrator of the Hakluyt Society, at office@hakluyt.com by 30 November 2016. The entrant’s name, address (including preferred email address), institutional affiliation (if any, with date of admission), and degrees (if any, with dates of conferment) should appear within the body of the email, together with a note of the title of the submitted essay. The subject line of the email should include the words ‘HAKLUYT SOCIETY ESSAY PRIZE’ and the author’s name. By submitting an essay, an entrant certifies that it is the entrant’s own original work. A copy of these instructions can be downloaded here: Essay Prize 2017.

Selection procedure

The Judging Panel encourages innovative submissions that make an important contribution to knowledge, or a critical or methodological contribution to scholarship. The Panel and selected reviewers will pay attention to the analytical rigour, originality, wider significance, depth and scope of the work, as well as to style and presentation. The Panel comprises selected academic faculty from among the Hakluyt Society’s Council, including the Editorial Board of The Journal of the Hakluyt Society.

The Prize Committee reserves the right not to award a prize, if no submission is judged to be of sufficient merit. The Committee’s decision will be announced in April 2017.

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How to read Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations (1598-1600)?

A long-time reader and analyst of Richard Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations, Voyages and Discoveries of the English Nation (3 vols. London: 1598-1600), Professor Mary C. Fuller (MIT) is one of the best-placed persons to offer advice on how to read this founding document of English national identity. She did just that at the Hakluyt Society‘s 2016 Annual Lecture held at the University of Notre Dame‘s London campus on 21 June.

Addressing a captivated audience of Hakluyt Society members and their guests present at the 2016 Annual General Meeting, Professor Fuller singled out for analysis the geographical categories contained in Hakluyt’s collection of travel account as well as the multiple identity categories found in the patchwork of texts. In this blog post she highlights the main thrust of her argument.


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MF: For me, one of the great challenges of working on Hakluyt’s collection has been finding productive ways to apply the tools of textual analysis – “literary criticism” – to a work that is not at all a “literary” text (or if it is, only in scattered moments), and which has both many discrete authors and one fairly taciturn editor.  My Annual Lecture gave an overview of some lines of approach; I’ll describe a few of them here.

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Mary Fuller (MIT), Experiments in Reading Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations (1600). Hakluyt Society Annual Lecture, 21 June 2016, University of Notre Dame London Campus.

Principal Navigations (1598-1600) [Hakluyt Society Extra Series, Nos. 1-12] is organized by geography:  each of Hakluyt’s three volumes groups together voyages to particular parts of the globe.

It’s been my hypothesis – and an underlying principle of a forthcoming book I’ve been writing on Principal Navigations – that this organizing scheme creates categories that are meaningful for interpretation, both because the voyages themselves often shared common externalities and because these categories are an especially visible intervention by an author who is otherwise relatively hard to find in his book.

Starting from that idea, I’ve found that each section of Principal Navigations may bring certain topics and problems to the fore.

For instance, travellers to the Levant often engage a dimension of time, whether by registering perceptions of change in the physical or cultural environment over a long period, or by deferring to pre-existing practical or textual traditions.  Hakluyt himself describes this part of the collection, uniquely, in terms of its temporal shape: so we could say that the Levant, as a category in the collection, has a distinctive property that we don’t see in representations of other regions.

The regional categories created by Hakluyt as editor are also interesting when they don’t track physical geography. A series of trading voyages with West Africa, beginning in the 1550s, can be found under the heading of “voyages without the straits of Gibraltar” in the second half of volume 2, which is generally devoted to “voyages to the south and southeast”. Although Hakluyt’s introduction to the volume focuses on voyages around Africa, to India and beyond, voyages to West Africa actually account for the largest share of pages in these extra-Mediterranean materials.  As with voyages to the Levant, some regularities of practice and recording emerge when we read them as a set.

But this is by no means all the collection has to offer on West Africa.  Many documents found in Hakluyt’s third volume, devoted to the Americas and other voyages to the West, also have something to say and include very significant information:  for instance, John Hawkins’ attempts at imitating the Spanish trade in Africans as slaves.  Following physical geography across the landscape of Principal Navigations begins to generate new questions and observations about Hakluyt’s conceptual map and those of his voyagers and authors.

The other geographical category I’d highlight – if we can turn from physical to political or human geography —  is the ubiquitous one of Hakluyt’s title:  these are the navigations of the English nation.  Hakluyt’s collection has been described as a founding document of national identity.  But no work of this complexity can offer a simple version of identity.

From the shifting boundaries of England and English-ness in the older materials of volume one, to the changing membership of the first-person plural in Hakluyt’s narratives of siege, warfare, encounter, and simple travel, Principal Navigations gives us a window into how its many versions of “us” were shaped, both in rhetoric and practice.

In the wake of the referendum vote to take Britain out of the EU, this topic of collective identity seems especially timely.

Mary Fuller.

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Mary C. Fuller is Professor of Literature and Head of the Literature section at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She has published numerous essays and books on accounts of early modern travel including Remembering the Early Modern Voyage:  English Narratives in the Age of European Expansion (Palgrave, 2008).

Currently she is working on a new book provisionally entitled Geographic Information in the Age of Drake:  Richard Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations of the English Nation (1600).  With Matthew Day, she is editing Volume 9 of the new 14-volume critical edition of The Principal Navigations (Oxford University Press). Professor Fuller will be a visiting fellow at Balliol College, University of Oxford, this fall.


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Author’s View: The ‘Joys’ of editing the Banks Iceland and North Atlantic papers

The recent publication of Sir Joseph Banks, Iceland and the North Atlantic 1772-1820. Journals, Letters and Documents (Hakluyt Society Third Series No. 30) is the result of more than two decades of researching, translating, annotating and editing. In this longread, editor Anna Agnarsdóttir goes back to her days as a graduate student at the LSE to trace the long and winded road she traveled over the many years that led to this edition, taking her from Britain to Iceland, Canada, the United States, and back. After a series of reflections that will strike many readers as familiar – “Research means travel”; “Transcribing is much like learning a foreign language”; “Primary sources live forever” – she reminds us also of the prosaic limitations to spending one’s summers following in the footsteps of one’s subject, namely having family members who prefer sunnier climes.


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Editing the Banks Iceland correspondence was a joy – now that it is finished and I look back on the experience. It all began last century when I was at the London School of Economics working on my doctoral thesis on Anglo-Icelandic relations 1800–1820. I was in the Botany Library of the Natural History Museum looking at the Banks Iceland correspondence preserved there. The curator said I must meet Harold B. Carter. Harold was an Australian research scientist who had become interested in Banks – after all Banks is very well-known as “the Father of Australia”; he adorned the $5 bill at the time – and before leaving Sydney for England Carter had published two hefty volumes of Banks Correspondence dealing with wool and Merino sheep, a joint interest of Banks and George III.

Harold was in the process of founding The Banks Archive Project, under the joint auspices of the Royal Society and the Natural History Museum in London. He had been mapping out how Banks’s role was reflected in his correspondence and had identified 21 main themes, one of them being the Iceland correspondence. On the completion of my thesis Harold suggested I take on the editing of these documents. I was of course delighted to be immediately involved in a new project, and a prestigious one for a young Icelandic historian. However, at more or less the same time I was lucky enough to be appointed to a tenured position as a lecturer at the University of Iceland and thus entered academic life full-time with all that that entails. The expectation of publishing at least the equivalent of one article a year and giving a few public lectures put this huge project on the back burner, as it was obviously going to take a long time to complete.

Thus I have spent most of my professional life with Banks when I had some spare time and during sabbaticals. He has always been lurking in the background. Editing primary sources and actually writing history are quite different processes. Apart from my thesis I regard this volume as a great achievement. Why? Because this is first and foremost a collection of primary sources – and primary sources do not have a sell-buy date. They – unlike us – live forever, waiting for future generations to interpret them. Almost everything else I have written will become obsolete with the passing of time and new research.

The editing of this volume has thrown up a lot of challenges. As Banks had no direct heirs, his papers were sold at auction to collectors and archives all over the world; what Banks scholars call ‘the great dispersal’. For example the journal he wrote while in Iceland can be pieced together by going to the archives in Maidstone, Kent, and in Montreal, with additional memoranda in the Natural History Museum. The repositories with the actual Iceland correspondence are about twenty. This meant travel. It is simply not enough to work from a photocopy, you have to see and feel the original document. I am happy to say that I managed to visit all the repositories housing Icelandic Banks material, except for Canberra and Adelaide in Australia, and even went twice to San Francisco, which has an exceptionally large collection of Banks material. But repositories containing sources necessary for background for the annotations added many more archives to the list and I have no idea how many times I visited the Rare Book Room in the British Library (my favourite place to work) to trace elusive information for the notes. All great fun of course.

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Anna Agnarsdóttir (ed.), Sir Joseph Banks, Iceland and the North Atlantic 1772-1820: Journals, Leters and Documents (London: Hakluyt Society, 2016). #BanksIceland

Thankfully the groundwork for the rules of editing had been laid by Harold Carter, supplemented by Hakluyt Society conventions. In 1990 Carter had stated that ‘the arrangement of the text’ should be as ‘near as possible to the original letter even in the matter of paragraphs and identations.’ This I followed faithfully. Carter had also sorted all the Banks letters and listed what he considered to be Iceland letters. Later I decided to take on the Greenland, Faroese and Norwegian ones – as they did not seem to fit anywhere else and the idea of the Banks Archive Project is to publish the Banks correspondence in toto (18 volumes so far published and more in the pipeline).

During these two decades the PRO became the TNA, the Danish and Icelandic archives decided to change their filing system and full stops in abbreviations quietly disappeared. A project taking more than two decades invariably means it will be chock- a-block with inconsistencies. This is where my invaluable Hakluyt Society editor, Gloria Clifton, came in (how many e-mails we have exchanged is a matter of research in itself) whose eagle eye and meticulous work spotted a lot of discrepancies, rectified in time for publication. She also queried some notes, thus saving me from embarrassing mistakes, helped me with the index, did all the formatting, put everything in order etc.

Eighteenth and early nineteenth century handwriting can be difficult to decipher: in Iceland Gothic script was the favoured norm, preferably in Danish, while Banks’s handwriting, spelling etc., steadily worsening as the gout spread, and can charitably be said to be a challenge. In fact deciphering a letter is a lot like learning a foreign language – suddenly it makes sense. Though not surprisingly a word here or there proved to be indecipherable or illegible due to the paper having faded or been torn.

Most of the fun proved to be in the annotation. I certainly learnt a lot. A book like this needs more expertise than any one person can be expected to have. Despite having learnt Latin extensively at my Reykjavík grammar school my Latin was not up to translating these letters – almost all the Latin letters being written by learned eighteenth-century Icelanders – English not being in use in Iceland at the time. The great expert Professor Charles Burnett (Warburg Institute) translated the Latin letters into elegant English while I attempted the other languages and then got specialists to look them over. Unlike Banks geology and botany were not my favourite subjects at school, but thanks to Professor Leifur Símonarson and Dr David Hibberd I am pretty confident that these notes will not disappoint.

Names are notoriously the most difficult to decipher. Banks, a poor speller, mentioned one ‘Juin’. Who was he? Well, the name of course was misspelled. Probably a man called Nicolas Jouin, a Jansenist pamphleteer found in French records. Former Hakluyt Society President Will Ryan found another headache, a man Banks called Wheatley who turned out to be Whately, such identification was not an easy task. What I personally found most difficult to annotate was Banks’ journey up the Western Isles to Scotland, where I have never been. I have berated myself since in not taking a summer holiday there during the past two decades and following in Banks’s footsteps, but my daughters preferred sunnier climes.annaa

Decisions have to be taken as to what words the general reader will not understand and thus need a note. The nature of editing is that you can go on and on. Finally, I said that’s it! And here is it, all 707 pages of it.

Anna Agnarsdóttir


Anna Agnarsdóttir is Professor of History in the Department of History and Philosophy at the University of Iceland, Reykjavik. She has published on Icelandic history, exploratory voyages in the North Atlantic, and global encounters more widely. She is the editor of Sir Joseph Banks, Iceland and the North Atlantic 1772-1820: Journals, Letters and Documents (London: Routledge for the Hakluyt Society, 2016).


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The Series Editor’s View: Or, What Hakluyt Society Series Editors Do

What do Hakluyt Society Series Editors do? On this blog, editors of individual volumes regularly speak about the books published in the Publications of the Hakluyt Society series. Less well-known are the sustained efforts made by the Society’s series editors during the long gestation process of a volume from the proposal stage to being guided into print. The Society currently benefits from the excellent, voluntary labour of two Honorary Joint Series Editors, Professor Joyce Lorimer and Dr Gloria Clifton. In this post, the latter shines her light on her work as a series editor and in particular the experience of overseeing the recent publication of Joseph Banks, Iceland and the North Atlantic, 1772-1820.


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When and how did you become Hakluyt Society Series Editor?

I first became a series editor in 2008, after about a year’s apprenticeship as an assistant editor, in which I took on the role of preparing the report for Council on progress with volumes. I already had some experience as an editor of some of the catalogues published by the National Maritime Museum, where I was a curator. Since then I have edited the Society’s annual lectures and worked closely with volume editors in preparing travel accounts for publication. I focus on the 18th to 20th centuries, while my fellow series editor, Professor Joyce Lorimer, concentrates on earlier periods. So far the published volumes for which I have been solely responsible are the two volumes of Australia Circumnavigated edited by Kenneth Morgan (2015) and Anna Agnarsdottir ‘s Sir Joseph Banks, Iceland and the North Atlantic, 1772-1820 (2016).

What does the Hakluyt Society Series Editor do? 

The role of Hakluyt Society series editors may seem a bit of a mystery. Why are they needed in addition to the editors of individual volumes? Briefly, series editors try to put themselves in the place of readers. They read the final draft text and ask questions of the volume editor if they find anything they think is not clear, or if they notice any inconsistencies. They check that text, notes and references are presented in a standard format, as well as that all the maps and illustrations are of reasonable quality and are listed at the start of the book. If a work has been translated into English, they try to ensure that the translation reflects the flavour of the original, while securing a readable text. Beyond their responsibility to readers the series editors also check that copyright permissions have been secured.

Did the Sir Joseph Banks, Iceland and the North Atlantic raise any particular problems?

Most of the problems with presenting this material had to be faced by the volume editor, such as the difficulty of reading Banks’s handwriting – especially as he grew older – and translating the letters he received from a number of other languages into English. Help had to be found for some of these. As the foreign language letters were in a minority the series editor agreed that the original text as well as the translation should be given, so that readers with a knowledge of other languages could check for themselves. The series editor was also involved in deciding how best to present Banks’s statistical material. One difficulty for which there was no easy answer was the size of the volume, at around 700 pages in all. The material could not easily be divided logically into two similar-sized volumes and it really did belong together. We trust that our members, who have been sent the Banks volume last month, will agree.

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Gloria Clifton is Honorary Joint Series Editor of the Hakluyt Society, Emeritus Curator of the National Maritime Museum, and former head of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. She is an Individual Member of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and editor of Directory of British Scientific Instrument Makers 1550-1851 (1995), and Treasures of the National Maritime Museum (2009, with Nigel Rigby). She is also the author of Professionalism, patronage, and public service in Victorian London: the staff of the Metropolitan Board of Works, 1856-1889 (1992).


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Essay Prize Series part 4: European Conceptualisations of Southeast Asian Sexual Diversity, c. 1590–1640

The 2016 edition of the Hakluyt Society Essay Prize competition attracted submissions from the UK, US, Australia, Russia, and Luxembourg. The academic committee, consisting of Professors Daniel Carey, Felipe Fernández­ Armesto, Peter Hulme, Claire Jowitt, Joyce Lorimer, and Sebastian Sobecki, has selected Nailya Shamgunova‘s essay European Conceptualisations of Southeast Asian Sexual Diversity, c. 1590–1640 as this year’s winning entry Ms Shamgunova will receive the award worth £750 at the Hakluyt Society’s 2016 Annual General Meeting, held in London on 22 June. Ahead of this event, she is glad to share the main conclusions of her prize-winning research on this platform, focusing on the contested issue of “sodomy” in seventeenth-century Anglophone travel writing. 


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** Missed this year’s competition? Watch the Hakluyt Society’s website and social media channels, as the call for submissions for the 2017  Hakluyt Society Essay Prize will be announced shortly **

My research focuses on the study of sexual diversity in a transcultural context. The ways in which people from different cultures understood each other’s sexual practices are fascinating. I used Anglophone travel accounts that refer to ‘sodomy’ in Southeast Asia in order to uncover some of the processes through which knowledge of Southeast Asian sexual practices was disseminated and adapted to an Anglophone worldview. I read primary travel accounts alongside other writings referring to sodomy – from medical texts and legal acts against sodomy to new editions of Aristotle and general cosmographies.

The broader context of my study is the issue of contact between ‘European’ and ‘non-European’ societies and how European understandings of those ‘non-European’ societies were constructed. Although its definition goes beyond Edward Said’s original thesis, the term ‘Orientalism‘ has been used to label the argument that European observers constructed an image of a non-European society to deliberately present it in a negative light.  I would like to counter and nuance these arguments in relation to the supposed ‘exoticising’ of non-European bodies (see Schmidt: 2015).

This study of Anglophone views on Southeast Asian sexual diversity offers the hypothesis that Anglophone observers of the region did not use ‘sodomy’ as a tool to represent local societies as inferior nearly as much as they could have done in the context of the realities of regional sexual diversity. Placing their works in the context of the wider Anglophone discourse on the connection between sodomy and nature in discussions of both the human body and political authority shows that that discourse possessed the necessary tools to read local sexual practices in a more negative light. Rather, a process of cultural translation of local practices into notions and anxieties about sodomy in wider Anglophone discourse took place.

My argument can be demonstrated using a case study of Anglophone explanations of practices of genital modification among men in Pegu and Siam. A large number of travel accounts pay special attention to ‘penis bells’, which the local men supposedly wore. The chief way of conceptualising penis bells was as a measure of prevention of sodomy, sanctioned by the local authorities. Both Ralph Fitch [See: Hakluyt Society Extra Series, 1-12] and Jan Huygen van Linschoten [See: Hakluyt Society First Series, 71-72) stated that the custom was ‘ordained’, and Francis Pretty elaborated, saying that ‘this custome was granted at the request of the women of the Countrey, who finding their men to be giuen to the fovvle sinne of Sodomie, desired some remedie against that mischiefe, and obtained this before named of the Magistrates’.  A later account by Thomas Herbert explained that ‘they haue beene (in foregoing times) wicked Sodomites; which filthy sinne was since corrected by a Queene Rectrix’, who, ‘vpon paine of death’, commanded her subjects to wear the bells.

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The inhabitant from Pegu is the seated figure on the far left. Source: Linschoten, Itinerario, voyage ofte schipvaert van Jan Huygen van Linschoten, naer Oost ofte Portugaels Indien (Amsterdam: 1596)

These accounts share the idea that some form of legislation was implemented by local authorities and rulers to prevent sodomy, and that it was effective, rather than the fact that Southeast Asian people were simply ‘sodomites’ and thus somehow inferior. Elsewhere in European discourse, such legislation was associated with ‘civilization’. As Richard C. Trexler argues, Garcilaso de la Vega [See: Hakluyt Society 1st Series, 41 and 45] and Antonio de Calancha presented the Incas as a civilizing imperial force, which stamped out previously prevalent sodomy in the Andes.  By representing a local authority as opposed to sodomy, Europeans could both emphasise that the role of civilization is to eradicate vice and that eradicating vice validated a society’s claim to be civilized. A similar process was happening in the descriptions of Southeast Asia. As there are no known indigenous sources that confirm the role of bells as measures for preventing sodomy, it remains unclear whether Anglophone authors were trying to translate local sexualities into their own terms or simply provide a rationale behind an unfamiliar practice.

However, the emphasis on the role of authority in eradicating sodomy, rather than on sodomy itself, is significant. It is a way of presenting the society in question in a less negative light.  A different explanation behind the practice, such presenting it as a marker of social identity, would have been more damaging to Pegu in Anglophone eyes. Prevention of sodomy allowed Anglophone authors to rationalise the practice in a way which was sensitive towards the local people.

One of the most interesting things to come out of my research was that when it comes to ‘sodomy’, it is very difficult to establish the boundaries of ‘Europe’ vs ‘non-Europe’ in the first place – for example, the most ‘sodomitical’ nations in Anglophone discourse were the Italians and the Ottomans. However, the role of religion in the process of formation of these stereotypes is ambiguous. Establishing the cultural boundaries of ‘sodomitical nations’ offers an alternative view of the notion of Europeans necessarily exoticising ‘non-European’ bodies and sexual practices. Exploring these notions further is the main purpose of my future research.


Nailya Shamgunova (University of Cambridge) did her B.A. in History and M.Phil in Early Modern History at the University of Cambridge, where she is due to start a PhD on Anglophone concepts of Ottoman sexual diversity this October. She is interested in various aspects of the early modern period in a transcultural context and has presented her work at a variety of academic venues. Nailya has volunteered for a Russian LGBT organisation and enjoys reading contemporary world literature in her spare time.


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Sir Joseph Banks, Iceland and the North Atlantic 1772-1820: Journals, Letters and Documents

The Hakluyt Society proudly announces the upcoming publication of Sir Joseph Banks, Iceland and the North Atlantic 1772-1820: Journals, Letters and Documents, edited by Professor Anna Agnarsdóttir. This long-anticipated volume, which is about to appear as part of the Hakluyt Society’s Third Series, will be distributed for free to all members of the Hakluyt Society. In this post, Professor Agnarsdóttir discusses the significance of Banks’ scientific expedition to Iceland and its aftermath. You can hear her speak at two launch events later this month, hosted by the Royal Society, and Lincoln Cathedral, respectively.


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After the successful Endeavour voyage [Hakluyt Society Extra Series 34], Sir Joseph Banks was due to sail on James Cook’s second voyage to the South Seas. Unhappy with the accommodation, Banks withdrew and sailed with his twenty-strong party to Iceland, thus leading the first British scientific expedition to this remote island in 1772. Thus began Banks’s association with Iceland.

This volume contains the Iceland journals of Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820) – including an account of his ascent of the volcano Hekla – and his servant James Roberts. Secondly, all extant documents regarding Banks and the North Atlantic (concerning the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Norway) from preparations for his expedition to his death in 1820 have been collected from repositories worldwide.

The bulk of the documents falls into two categories: the 1772 Iceland expedition and the Napoleonic Wars period 1807-1814. The latter illuminate how Banks acted as a powerful protector of the Icelanders, with his detailed plans for annexing Iceland to the British Empire. This, he believed, would be a humanitarian solution to the plight of the Icelanders, cut off by the Royal Navy from their mother country, Denmark. A great many documents deal with “The Icelandic Revolution” of 1809, when a British trading expedition, granted a license to trade in Iceland by the Privy Council, seized power. Iceland was proclaimed an independent country, under the protection of Great Britain.

Although this was ended by the intervention of a British sloop-of-war, the following year George III placed the Danish dependencies in the North Atlantic in a state of neutrality and amity with England and free trade was established between them and Britain. Iceland was thus placed under the protection of Britain, the Iceland trade being regulated by the Board of Trade, and a British consul was appointed to the island. A great many letters relate to trade and the difficulties experienced both by British and Iceland merchants during the Napoleonic Wars, for instance the question of neutral trade, the British licensing system, and the capture of merchant vessels. These documents are important sources not only for Icelandic history but also for Georgian Britain during the Napoleonic Wars.

Anna Agnarsdóttir is Professor of History in the Department of History and Philosophy at the University of Iceland, Reykjavik. She has published on Icelandic history, exploratory voyages in the North Atlantic, and global encounters more widely. She will participate in a panel discussion entitled Banks in the Land of Ice and Fire hosted by the Royal Society on 26 April 2016, which the public is free to attend. On 28 April, she will give a free lecture entitled Sir Joseph Banks in Iceland and the North Atlantic in the Wren Library at Lincoln Cathedral. Both events are sponsored by the Hakluyt Society.

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Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820). Source: http://visitlincoln.com/whats-on/sir-joseph-banks-in-icland-and-the-north-atlantic

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