‘World enough, and time’: Richard Hakluyt and the Renaissance Discovery of the World

An important quadricentennial took place on 23 November 2016: the 400th anniversary of the death of Richard Hakluyt (1552-1616). To mark the occasion, an international group of scholars gathered in Oxford for a conference ‘Richard Hakluyt and the Renaissance Discovery of the World’. In this blog post, Hakluyt@400 organisers, Professors Daniel Carey and Claire Jowitt, once more reflect on the #Hakluyt400 quatercentenary activities in Oxford and Wetheringsett.


Richard_HakluytHakluyt_signature

– Join the Hakluyt Society on www.hakluyt.com


England’s pioneering promoter of overseas exploration, commerce and expansion, Richard Hakluyt, assembled the largest selection of English travel accounts of the era, covering every area of activity around the globe. His book The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation is an astounding compilation of English voyages and discoveries up to his time and marks what we might call the beginnings of the great British historical adventure.

It first appeared in one large c.600,000-word volume in 1589, and then in a much-expanded and updated edition in three volumes between 1598 and 1600. The second edition extended to more than 1.76 million words, containing over 600 individual accounts of travel and exploration by various authors. Hakluyt divided the material into volumes by region, with each then ordered by chronology; its publication was by any reckoning, a truly immense literary and logistical achievement.

Many of the scholars who spoke at the conference are participants in a major international editorial endeavour to prepare the first-ever critical edition of the text, the Hakluyt Edition Project, led by Daniel Carey (NUI Galway) and Claire Jowitt (University of East Anglia), to be published in 14 volumes by Oxford University Press.

principal-navigations 1599

The conference was accompanied by two exhibitions: ‘Hakluyt and Geography in Oxford 1550-1650’ at his old college, Christ Church; and ‘The World in a Book: Hakluyt and Renaissance Discovery’ at the Bodleian Library. The programme as a whole, organised by Carey, Jowitt, and Anthony Payne (Hakluyt Society), involved a partnership between the Hakluyt Society, Christ Church, the Bodleian, and the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford.

The Hakluyt@400 events concluded on 27 November 2016 with the unveiling of a wall-plaque in Hakluyt’s honour at his final parish church of Wetheringsett, Suffolk—four hundred years and one day after his burial in Westminster Abbey.

Hakluyt plaque

The conference included sessions on themes such as ‘Hakluyt, Oxford, and Centres of Power’ that featured papers by David Harris Sacks, Anthony Payne, and Sebastian Sobecki. A similarly lively session on Hakluyt’s global perspectives in ‘the three corners of the world’ (a reference to Shakespeare’s line from King John) saw Nandini Das discuss ‘Hakluyt and India’, Felicity Stout focus on ‘Hakluyt and Russia’ and Bernhard Klein consider ‘Hakluyt and West Africa’. Taken together, the three papers revealed the transnational, international, and interconnected networks and dimensions of Hakluyt’s work.

Other sessions considered ‘Encounters, communication and technology’, ‘Theatres of war, near and far’, ‘Rival ambitions’, ‘Telling tales’, and ‘Influences and legacy’, and involved speakers representing an appropriately international group—given Hakluyt’s project—ranging from the UK to Ireland, the US, Australia, Canada, Spain, France, and the Netherlands.

The conference featured a keynote from the renowned historian Joyce E. Chaplin (Harvard) who offered an eco-critical reading of Hakluyt’s work, showing how nature was central to The Principal Navigations since God had made the world abundant and open for business (especially to the English). The conference ended with a very well-attended public lecture by historian and broadcaster Michael Wood. ‘Voyages, Traffiques, Discoveries: Stories from the Age of Exploration’, described cross-cultural encounters from Mexico and China and looked at what they tell us about Western ways of seeing the world beyond Europe and other cultures and civilisations—all still, as he put it, ‘burning issues in the 21st century’.

The range, depth, and diversity of the scholarship on display across all sessions was impressive (and gratifying to the organisers), a testament to the continued importance of studying colonial pasts in order to understand, and contribute to, post-colonial futures.

This conference and the commemoration of Hakluyt in 2016 more broadly, provided an opportunity to appreciate fully Hakluyt’s influence and legacy. By offering advice on English colonial and imperial projects to the most powerful figures in the land, including Elizabeth I and James I, and career politicians such as William Cecil, Lord Burleigh, and his son Robert, Hakluyt established himself as one of the chief architects of what was to become a global, oceanic, and mercantile British empire.

Likewise, the series of events enabled us to better understand the ways in which the genre of the travel writing collection, which Hakluyt pioneered in England, was crucial to creating a climate that supported English ambitions for exploration, trade, and expansion. Hakluyt’s editorial labours were thus foundational in developing for the English nation a central role in a global economy.

Readers interested in Hakluyt’s legacy, through the work of the Hakluyt Society (established 1846), can find out further information about activities and publications at: http://www.hakluyt.com/. Further details about the project to publish a scholarly edition of The Principal Navigations can be found at: http://www.hakluyt.org.

NOTE: This report first appeared in the Bulletin of the Society for Renaissance Studies, April 2017. SRS supported the attendance of ten postgraduate and early career scholars at the conference through fee-waiver bursaries. Reproduced with permission of the Society.

 

Neither “Middle Ground” nor “Native Ground”: Reading the Life of Goggey, an Aboriginal Man on the Fringes of Early Colonial Sydney

The Hakluyt Society is pleased to announce that its 2017 Essay Prize has been awarded to Annemarie McLaren, a doctoral candidate at the Australian National University, Canberra. As runner-up in this year’s competition, an Honourable Mention is awarded to Cameron B. Strang (University of Nevada, Reno, USA), for his essay: “Coacoochee’s Borderlands. A Native American Explorer in Nineteenth-Century North America”. Annemarie McLaren will be awarded a cash prize of £750 for her winning essay. Both the winner and runner-up will also receive one-year free membership of the Society. In this blog post, McLaren reflects upon the research that went into her prize-winning essay, “Neither ‘Middle Ground’ nor ‘Native Ground’: Reading the life of Goggey, an Aboriginal Man on the Fringes of Early Colonial Sydney”.


Richard_HakluytHakluyt_signature

– Join the Hakluyt Society on www.hakluyt.com


When so many Aboriginal lives slipped through the cracks of colonial records in the early decades of Sydney, the fact that one Dharawal man’s life could be traced in fragments offered exciting opportunities. From 1802 to 1836 ― a period closely following on from the arrival of the colonists in 1788 ― Goggey could be traced in journals, letters, newspapers, diaries and petitions. So his life offered an opportunity to consider how one Aboriginal man negotiated a rapidly changing world.

Yet his archival traces also offered considerable conundrums, and Goggey, the subject of my essay for the 2017 Hakluyt Society Essay Prize, has proved to be a bubbling, provocative current throughout my doctoral candidacy, part of a process of considering and re-considering, of stumbling upon and searching for sources, and of dialogue with different colleagues at the Australian National University and beyond.

A native family of New South Wales sitting down on an English settlers farm Earle
‘A native family of New South Wales sitting down on English settlers farm’, depicts an Aboriginal man, his wife and a child, near a settler’s farm in early colonial Sydney’s immediate hinterland. Scenes like this would have been common near some of the farms of the Nepean districts, places in which Goggey was found.
Augustus Earle, c.1826 – National Library of Australia, NK12/45.

 

Goggey was a husband to several wives, a father, and a clan leader. He was an enforcer of laws, and he was also a man who broke them. He fostered relationships with colonists as well as various Aboriginal people, and he harboured with black and white equally.

Goggey could speak some English and use a gun; was the lead guide on an expedition in the difficult country of the Blue Mountains in 1802; welcomed Governor Macquarie to ‘his’ country in 1810; was asked to attend court in 1814 to give information about the murder of Aboriginal women and children by colonists; was listed as a ‘wanted’ and possibly dangerous man in 1816; and was then awarded an inscribed brass plate denoting him as an Aboriginal ‘chief’ in 1817 – just to name a few of the episodes my essays considers.

But Goggey was also an enigmatic, mercurial figure, one who could be violent as well as charming, one who could be found enraged as well as dancing by fires in the moonlight.

I have been thinking about Goggey for several years now, and he has become key to my exploration of the ongoing cultural negotiations and the processes shaping Aboriginal-colonial relations in early colonial New South Wales; including the performance of authority, the continuing ways in which material culture mediated the changing social fabric, and the diffuse processes by which guiding relationships developed. As my knowledge of the shifts in Aboriginal-Colonial relations deepened, my mind would flick back to Goggey, trying to integrate whatever new understanding I had reached with what was known about his life.

With a life embroiled in so many of the key inter-cultural developments in the colony, considering Goggey’s life, the archives in which he could be found, and the negotiations they record or suggest, has richly shaped my understanding of the ways in which cross-cultural interactions unfolded in the colony as well as the ways in which power could operate.

It has prompted me to consider ‘models’ of interaction and the theoretical underpinnings of inter-cultural power in colonial contexts, and to examine ideas surrounding “Middle Grounds” and “Native Grounds” in the context of early colonial New South Wales.

SLV_Parramatta-New-South-Wales
‘Parramatta, New South Wales’, illustrates a growing urban centre surrounded by pastoral land. This place, 15 miles west of port town at Sydney Cove, was the home of the ‘Annual General Assembly of the Natives’, where Goggey is said to have sat at the head of his ‘tribe’.
Joseph Lycett, 1824 – State Library of Victoria, 30328102131561/12 

 

Curiously, I never intended to write about Goggey. Yet as a key figure in an expeditionary account I was considering, and having come across more sources in which he appeared in intriguing ways, I did look for more. This was a useful task, but not as useful as repeated stumbling upon him while searching through archival material. This was a lesson in the fickleness of the archive (as well as in poorly catalogued items), but also suggested something about the nature of entanglement in this colonial context, and that some historical investigations demand ambitious, wide-ranging, even peripheral reading ― or perhaps some degree of serendipity.

Reading Goggey’s life has also been a lesson in the value of collegiality. It was over coffee with a later-stage doctoral candidate that I received reading suggestions of more contemporary anthropology, while I had focused on reading ‘classics’ from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

These readings helped shaped the conceptual and imaginative tool-kit necessary in confronting evidence of a strong-willed, emotive and sometimes violent man, as well as the capacity to consider the ways in which relational economies ― and in fact what was considered of ‘value’ at all ― had many different configurations in the cultural complexities of early colonial New South Wales.

I am grateful to the Hakluyt Society for awarding this piece the 2017 Essay Prize. I am also grateful to those who read this essays in various drafts, and for their words of encouragement and advice along the way.


Annemarie McLaren is a third-year doctoral candidate in history at the Australian National University. Her research considers the ongoingprofile_2 Annemarie McLaren cultural negotiations between Aboriginal people and Europeans in early colonial New South Wales in a project titled ‘Negotiating Entanglement’. Annemarie has been participating in a three-year  post-graduate training scheme of the Consortium of Humanities Centres and Institutes funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. She is co-editing a book (tentatively) titled Indigeneity: Claims, Relationships, and Concepts Between the Disciplines (expected 2018). She is also the Associate Review Editor of the Aboriginal History Journal.

Vacancy: Administrator of the Hakluyt Society (application deadline: 5 May 2017)

THE HAKLUYT SOCIETY 

ADMINISTRATOR

The Hakluyt Society, founded in 1846, publishes scholarly editions of primary sources on voyages and travels to a wide membership and readership, academic and international. On the retirement of its Administrator after 15 years, the Society seeks to fill the position from late September 2017.

The appointee will contract with the Society to provide a range of administrative services for a fee in the region of £30,000 per annum (subject to annual review). These will include dealing with subscriptions and other membership records, handling day-to-day financial matters (in support of the Honorary Treasurer), servicing meetings of Council, assisting working groups established by Council, and collaborating with the officers to further the Society’s aims and maintain the service provided for members. In recent years the Society has expanded its range of activities and the Administrator will be expected to be active and supportive in advancing this developing phase in the life of the Hakluyt Society.

A wider impression of the Society can be found from its website (www.hakluyt.com), where (at www.hakluyt.com/PDF/adminadvert.pdf) there is further information on the duties of the position, on the competencies expected of the Administrator, and on how to apply.

The deadline for the receipt of applications is 5 May 2017 and it is expected that interviews will be held in London on 14 June 2017.

Hakluyt banner logo


@HakluytSociety – Become a member at www.hakluyt.com – #HakluytKent

CFP – Hakluyt Society Symposium 2017: Trading Companies and Travel Literature, 11-12 September 2017

BewindhebbersSLIDE1-1000x400Call for Papers

The Hakluyt Society Symposium 2017:

Trading Companies and Travel Literature

11-12 September 2017

Chatham Historic Docks, University of Kent

Hakluyt banner logo


Speakers confirmed: Prof Jyotsna Singh (Michigan State University), Prof. Michiel van Groesen (Leiden University), Prof Margaret Hunt (Uppsala University), Prof Nandini Das (University of Liverpool), and Dr Djoeke van Netten (University of Amsterdam).


The exploration of travel literature across its myriad forms has greatly stimulated the ways we understand the global history of the early modern world. Yet, in spite of the great array of recent studies in this field, there has been only limited engagement with the place of travel literature within histories of one of the key protagonists of overseas trade, cross-cultural exchange, and empire – the trading company. From the sixteenth to the early nineteenth century, European trading companies traversed the globe in search for goods, profit, and knowledge. The overseas experiences of many travellers were published upon their return to Europe, either privately or by their employer. Even so, the vast bulk of descriptions streaming into company headquarters was never published and remains a largely untapped resource.

This conference brings together travel literature and trading companies by exploring how the various European companies collected, created, curated, protected and utilised material relating to travel and discovery around the world. Set in the historic environment of the University of Kent’s Medway campus, the Hakluyt Society Symposium 2017 joins together senior experts and early career researchers to engage in cross-disciplinary conversation. In line with the core activity of the Hakluyt Society, the symposium will include an editorial workshop focused on editing and publishing scholarly editions of travel literature. Contributions from postgraduate researchers are particularly encouraged.


Prospective speakers are invited to submit proposals of no more than 300 words for 20 minute papers, along with a brief bio statement. Potential topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • The ways manuscript and printed material created by companies can help us understand the early modern ‘globalising’ world
  • Secrecy, forgery and fraudulent material
  • Companies as vehicles through which ideas and images about the world circulated in Europe
  • How ideas originating in manuscript form within companies came to circulate in print
  • The relationship between trading companies and non-corporate groups (other merchants; missionaries; diplomats; Crown-sponsored overseas enterprise, etc.)
  • How non-corporate organisations sought to collect/protect/utilise travel literature
  • Non-European voices and agency in (the production of) travel literature

The Hakluyt Society will make available a number of travel bursaries to postgraduate and early career applicants with limited or no alternative access to funding – if you would like to apply for a bursary please indicate this when sending your abstract and explain your reasons for applying.
Please send your abstracts to hakluytsymposium@gmail.com by 30 April 2017.

Organisers: Dr Aske Brock (University of Kent), Dr Edmond Smith (University of Kent/ The Hakluyt Society), Dr Guido van Meersbergen (University of Warwick/ The Hakluyt Society)


@HakluytSociety – Become a member at www.hakluyt.com – #Hakluyt400

 

The Armada of the Strait: James P.R. Lyell and the Relación of Pedro de Rada

The publication of Carla Rahn Phillips’ The Struggle for the South Atlantic ensured that the Relación by the sixteenth-century Spanish clerk Pedro de Rada is now for the first time made available in print. Only acquired by a public institution in 1999, the Relación had a long and still little-known life in private hands. In this blog post, the independent specialist in antiquarian books and Hakluyt Society Council member Anthony Payne sheds light on this story by focusing on the manuscript’s twentieth-century owner, the British solicitor and bibliophile James P.R. Lyell.


Richard_HakluytHakluyt_signature

– Join the Hakluyt Society on www.hakluyt.com


A source of great satisfaction for an antiquarian bookseller is to discover a rarity and to see a major work of scholarship result from its acquisition by a research library. One such instance for me was the Hakluyt Society’s publication in December 2016 of The Struggle for the South Atlantic: The Armada of the Strait, 1581–1584, splendidly translated and edited by Carla Rahn Phillips from the Spanish manuscript Relación of Pedro de Rada, now in the Huntington Library, San Marino, California (MS HM 59416).

The Huntington purchased this from the antiquarian booksellers Bernard Quaritch Ltd in 1999, when I was one of the company’s directors. We had bought the manuscript shortly beforehand from another book dealer in London and, as soon as I had catalogued it, we offered it for sale as item 167 in our Catalogue 1257. It was promptly ordered by Bill Frank, the Huntington’s Curator of Hispanic, Cartographic and Western Historical Manuscripts, and was delivered to the library as soon as we received an export licence.

Professor Phillips has identified the 1742 ownership inscription of one Pedro de Chópite (possibly from the Basque country) in the manuscript, but this apart, nothing is known of its history until the twentieth century when it was acquired by James P.R. Lyell (1871–1948), whose distinctive bookplate is affixed to the margin of the first leaf.

A solicitor by profession, Lyell was a distinguished book collector and bibliographer. He developed an especially close relationship with Oxford’s Bodleian Library, which is marked by the bequest of one hundred of his medieval manuscripts to the library and his endowment of the Lyell Readership in Bibliography at Oxford.

At a talk he gave in 1939 on ‘books and book collecting’, Lyell recalled that ‘I began collecting at school – nibs and postage stamps’. He sold his stamps to eke out his father’s allowance as an undergraduate at University College London, and next, while training to become a solicitor, began to collect books, attending his first auction, at Hodgson’s rooms, in 1891. ‘Book-hunting’, the Oxford historian David Ogg remarked, then became Lyell’s ‘absorbing hobby, and if he parted from time to time with some of his treasures he knew there were always others waiting to be tracked down by the discerning collector’.

Early printed books were Lyell’s first interest. In 1914 he chanced to buy at Hodgson’s a copy of the Complutensian Polyglot, the magnificent six-volume Bible printed in Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic at Alcalá de Henares in 1514–17. When he got home from the sale, Lyell said, ‘I found that I had been fortunate enough to secure at a war-time price one of the most famous books in the world’, and it sparked a deep engagement in all books Spanish that led him to collect almost exclusively in that field for the next dozen or so years.

Not only did Lyell collect, but he learnt Spanish, travelled to Spain, and published a biography of the sponsor of the Complutensian Polyglot, Cardinal Ximenes, Statesman, Ecclesiastic, Soldier and Man of Letters with an Account of the Complutensian Polyglot Bible (London: Grafton, 1917), as well as a major study of Early Book Illustration in Spain (London: Grafton, 1926), which became the standard authority on the subject (in 1997 it appeared in a Spanish edition with updated notes). In time Lyell formed the largest private collection of Spanish books in Britain, but in 1927 he decided to move from London to Oxford and parted with most of its rarities, notably the works illustrated with woodcuts.

An allied bibliophilic pursuit of Lyell’s was his collection of books on the Spanish Armada (‘a very fine one’ he considered it). Research on this was the basis for the B.Litt. thesis awarded to him in 1932, aged sixty-one, as a member of New College, Oxford. He later sold the collection to Thomas W. Lamont, a partner in Pierpont Morgan & Co., who then presented it to Harvard.armada-straits

It can readily be appreciated, therefore, that Lyell’s acquisition of the manuscript of Pedro de Rada’s Relaciónreflected not only his interest in Spanish books but also in the naval history of the 1580s. I have not been able to discover when or where Lyell obtained it – it was perhaps on one of his visits to Spain, or maybe in the London trade, for example, from the leading booksellers, Maggs Brothers, who handled much high-quality Spanish material in the 1920s. Nor is it clear whether Lyell disposed of it during his lifetime or not. From the mid-1930s his focus turned to medieval manuscripts and these constituted the principal element in the collection dispersed after his death in 1948.

Items not bequeathed to the Bodleian, or bought from Lyell’s executors by the Bodleian (and a few by the National Library of Scotland), were acquired by Quaritch in 1951 and many, but not all, were included in Quaritch’s Catalogue 699, issued in 1952. Rada’s manuscript is not among those in the catalogue. It is possible that it was among Quaritch’s other, uncatalogued, purchases from Lyell’s collection, but this cannot be established from the firm’s surviving records for this period. It seems equally likely that Lyell sold it during the 1930s as his collecting interests developed in new directions.*


Anthony Payne is an antiquarian bookseller and past Vice-President of the Hakluyt Society. Besides his work in the antiquarian book market, Anthony Payne is engaged in historical research and has lectured at Princeton University, the University of York, the Warburg Institute, the National Maritime Museum, Gresham College and University College London. He is currently working on a major bibliographical study of Richard Hakluyt (1552–1616) and has previously published a short introductory survey, Richard Hakluyt: A Guide to His Books and to Those Associated with Him 1580–1625 (London: Bernard Quaritch Ltd, 2008).

* In compiling this blog I have referred to the biography of Lyell by Dennis E. Rhodes in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, which concludes that ‘he was a self-taught bibliophile and scholar of extraordinary enthusiasm and discrimination, and one who deserves to be remembered not only by Oxford but by the whole bibliographical world’. I have also drawn on Lyell’s posthumously published talk, ‘Books and Book Collecting’, Bodleian Library Record, vol. 3 (1951), pp. 278–81; R. W. Hunt, ‘The Lyell Bequest’, Bodleian Library Record, vol. 3 (1951), pp. 68–72; Maurice L. Ettinghausen, Rare Books and Royal Collectors: Memoirs of an Antiquarian Bookseller (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1966), pp. 76–8; and Albinia de la Mare’s introduction to her Catalogue of the Collection of Medieval Manuscripts Bequeathed to the Bodleian Library Oxford by James P. R. Lyell (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971).

@HakluytSociety – Become a member at www.hakluyt.com – #Hakluyt400

The Armada of the Strait, 1581-1584: Disastrous beginnings of an ill-fated enterprise

The latest Hakluyt Society publication, The Struggle for the South Atlantic: The Armada of the Strait, 1581-84, edited by Professor Carla Rahn Phillips, documents the story of The Armada of the Strait which sailed under Don Diego Flores de Valdés in 1581–4. The armada set out from south-western Spain in the fall of 1581, with twenty-three ships and 3,500 people on board. During its three years’ voyage, hundreds of people would drown in shipwrecks and hundreds more perished from disease and privation.

The first of such shipwrecks occurred in October 1581, just a few days after the departure of the armada from Sanlúcar de Barrameda, bound for Brazil. In this post, Professor Rahn Phillips introduces us to one of the most thrilling passages of the Relación of chief scribe Pedro de RadaThe excerpt is a translation from fols 4r–5r of the original manuscript, now held in the Huntington Library [1].


Richard_HakluytHakluyt_signature

– Join the Hakluyt Society on www.hakluyt.com


[f. 4r] … Tuesday, the 3rd of October [1581], the eve of San Francisco, when we had sailed about 35 leagues from San Lucar, there began to be such strong wind from the south and south-west, with much shifting of the cargo, and things looked bad, so that it was indispensable that the armada take down its sails and heave to, until Friday, the 6th of the aforesaid, when the weather had such force that the galeaza capitana had to jettison some things, which was done.

And the weather worsened so much on this day that eight navios from the armada could not be seen. And the next day, Saturday the 7th, we found ourselves so off course that, though we were not ten leagues from the Baya de Cadiz, the pilots did not know where they were, and thus there were a thousand variations amongst them, until the capitana saw the land of Rotta downwind, and we found ourselves blown so far to leeward that, given the force of the weather, it was greatly feared that we would not be able to enter the Bayya de Cadiz.

phillips-map

And thus we sailed toward it with great difficulty, close to the wind because the wind and sea were excessive, the galeaza capitana entering with another fifteen naos that were going with her. In sight of the city of Cadiz, the nao named Nuestra Senora de Guia whose captain was Martin de Quiros, went to the bottom in a trice, and all who were on her drowned, which was the greatest misfortune to see without being able to succour even a single man, although it was four in the afternoon; and 150 men and some women and children settlers were on this nao.

armada-straits

[f. 4v] This day, the navio named Nuestra Señora de Buena Esperanza, on which Pero Estebanez de las Alas sailed as captain, was lost near Roctta, which it could not get round. The captain himself and one hundred other persons from this navio were drowned. This same day the navio named San Miguel was lost, whose Captain Hector Abarca was drowned with another eighty persons. This same day the nao named Sancti Yspiritu was lost near the Rio del Oro in El Picacho. The captain and owner was Juanes de Villaviciossa Lizarza, who had remained in San Lucar and did not go on the expedition, because he was given too little money as subsidy; and Captain Alvaro Romo sailed in her and was drowned with another 120 persons.

The nao almiranta, in which Diego de la Rivera sailed, entered into the bay the next day, Sunday the 8th of October, after nearly being lost next to Arenas Gordas. Another two naos entered San Lucar with great difficulty, one in which Don Alonso de Sotomayor sailed, and the other with Captain Gutiere de Solis. The latter was taken to the Cassa de la Contratacion in Seville under arrest, because he had left the nao before it entered into the port. Another nao entered Guelba, with its captain Jodar Alferez.

This incident and misfortune caused great pain and grief to all in the armada, and General Diego Florez felt it very much, because, besides the loss of so many people, provisions, artillery, and other munitions, many captains and [f. 5r] high-ranking dependents of his were drowned.

[1] Note that the spelling of place names, etc. follows the original manuscript. Spanish words that should have accents do not have them in the original text, so they are not added in the translation. Ship names and types are, however, placed in italics, for the sake of clarity if not consistency.

Carla Rahn Phillips, Union Pacific Professor  in Comparative Early Modern History (Emerita), retired from the University of Minnesota in 2013. She has  published numerous books, articles, and book chapters on the social and economic history of Spain and its maritime connections in the early modern world, including Six Galleons for the King of Spain (1986)The Treasure of the San Jose (2007), and (with William D. Phillips Jr.)The Worlds of Christopher Columbus (1993), and A Concise History of Spain (2010, 2nd ed. 2015).


@HakluytSociety – Become a member at www.hakluyt.com – #Hakluyt400

Personal conflict in the Armada of the Strait: Sarmiento versus Flores

In The Struggle for the South Atlantic: The Armada of the Strait, 1581-84, Professor Carla Rahn Phillips provides the first edition in any language of Pedro de Rada’s Relación, the hitherto unknown report written by the chief scribe of the Armada of the StraitThe Struggle for the South Atlantic contains a detailed eyewitness description of this ill-fated expedition, yet it contains more. In a recent interview, the Hakluyt Society Blog asked Professor Phillips about the troubled relationship between Don Diego Flores de Valdés, the Captain General of the Armada, and Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa, governor-designate of the future colony at the Strait, as well as about the importance of the discovery of Rada’s manuscript.


Richard_HakluytHakluyt_signature

– Join the Hakluyt Society on www.hakluyt.com


To start, could you say something about the personal conflict at the heart of the Armada of the Strait?

CRP: Like any large enterprise, the Armada of the Strait was bound to have a range of personalities and a certain amount of disagreement and friction among its participants. Nonetheless, one ongoing clash all but defined the Armada of the Strait: the enmity between Pedro Sarmiento, governor-designate of the colony to be planted at the Strait, and Don Diego Flores de Valdés, captain general of the armada as a whole. Their continual wrangles began during the planning stages of the armada in 1581 and continued after the expedition ended in 1584.

Historians know quite a bit about their disagreements, and virtually everyone who has written about the voyage has taken the side of Sarmiento. The likely reason is that Sarmiento wrote much of the documentation published up to now, endlessly arguing his own side of the story; praising his own actions; and accusing Flores of numerous character flaws, mistaken judgment, evil intent, incompetence, and fraud. In the published historical accounts that mention the voyage and the attempt to plant a colony at the Strait, Sarmiento emerges as a hero — flawed, as all heroes are — but a hero nonetheless. Flores emerges as a villain — or at best, as an inept foil for Sarmiento’s heroic actions.

Yet until recently Pedro de Rada’s ‘Relación’ has remained unknown..

CRP: Exactly! As the expedition’s chief scribe, Pedro de Rada wrote thousands of pages of official documentation. Philip II requested all of these records shortly after Flores returned to Spain in July 1584. However, Rada had also written a Relación or report covering the entire voyage, with copies of various official documents appended. This detailed first-hand account remained in private hands until 1999, when it was acquired by the Huntington Library and made available to the research community. 

Rich in detail and human drama, Rada’s Relación provides a unique perspective on the events and personalities involved in the Armada of the Strait. Until it surfaced, the Armada  was known largely from the point of view of Sarmiento, whose version of events overwhelmed all other voices regarding the armada and influenced generations of historians. Important in this respect was that, in 1895, the Hakluyt Society published translated excerpts from Sarmiento’s voluminous writings, edited by Clements R. Markham. By contrast, Pedro de Rada’s Relación provides the reader with an official, dispassionate voice to contrast with the self-serving accounts by Sarmiento.

brazil-capitanias-teixeira-1574-1585-hs
Luís de Texeira, Map of the Captaincies of Brazil (c. 1574). Biblioteca de Ajuda, Lisbon

Reading Rada’s Relación against existing documentation, what new conclusions can be drawn about the Armada of the Strait?

CRP: Rada’s Relación clearly shows how the most meticulous plans for overseas ventures could be wrecked by the hazards inherent in sailing into largely unknown waters, yet also how those plans could  be jeopardized by personal conflicts that had entirely human causes. In modern histories of early exploration and colonization, mention of personal antagonisms is generally avoided as a petty distraction from the central, heroic narrative. Likewise, Rada’s laconic account only hints at the ongoing clash between Flores and Sarmiento. Nonetheless, by reading Rada’s journal in the light of the extensive Spanish documentation about the preparations for the voyage, we can understand the difficulties posed by the enmity between Sarmiento and Flores and appreciate what the expedition was able to accomplish despite that enmity.

The Relación chronicles an expedition that was launched with extraordinary effort at a critical period in Spanish exploration and colonization. Despite all the careful planning that preceded its departure, the armada suffered more calamities than many other expeditions, partly due to chance, but also due to the irrational schemes of Pedro Sarmiento, whom so many historians have praised as a visionary hero.

Pedro de Rada’s Relación, together with a selection of instructions and reports pertaining to the Armada of the Strait, are now made available for the first time, in English translation, by Professor Carla Rahn Phillips for the Hakluyt Society. Order your copy here.


Carla Rahn Phillips, Union Pacific Professor  in Comparative Early Modern History (Emerita), retired from the University of Minnesota in 2013. She has  published numerous books, articles, and book chapters on the social and economic history of Spain and its maritime connections in the early modern world, including Six Galleons for the King of Spain (1986)The Treasure of the San Jose (2007), and (with William D. Phillips Jr.)The Worlds of Christopher Columbus (1993), and A Concise History of Spain (2010, 2nd ed. 2015).


@HakluytSociety – Become a member at www.hakluyt.com – #Hakluyt400