‘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.


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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.

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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.

 

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Looking back on Hakluyt@400

The two-day international conference held to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of Richard Hakluyt has been an appropriate highlight in a packed Hakluyt Quatercentenary programme  with events in Oxford and Wetheringsett. Thanks are due to the excellent organisation by Claire Jowitt, Daniel Carey and Anthony Payne, as well as to our generous hosts, the Bodleian Library, the Museum for the History of Science, and Christ Church, Oxford. In this blog, Dr Lauren Working, research associate on TIDE (Travel, Transculturality, and Identity in England, 1550-1700), an ERC-funded project led by Hakluyt Society Council member Prof Nandini Das, looks back on  #Hakluyt400.

The geographer and clergyman Richard Hakluyt died in good company: 1616 also marked the death of two internationally-renowned writers, William Shakespeare and the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes. Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter and Cervantes’s re-working of chivalric romance have continued to grace school curricula and playhouses around the globe; by comparison, Hakluyt’s impact is less immediately apparent.

The Hakluyt Society, in conjunction with the Bodleian Library Museum for the History of Science and Museum for the History of Science in Oxford, held a two-day conference in November 2016 to examine Hakluyt’s legacy at the four-hundredth anniversary of his death. His two editions of The Principal Navigations, Traffiques, and Voiages of the English Nation (1589, enlarged 1598-1600), have long been considered some of the most important collections of English travel writing ever published, and the conference assembled an international cohort of speakers who presented current research on their work for the forthcoming 14-volume critical edition of The Principal Navigations.


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A number of scholars discussed the particularities of English interactions with indigenous peoples, from Africans in Guinea to the Algonquians in Virginia. Mary Fuller examined the casualties of Anglo-Inuit exchange in the English search for the Northwest Passage, and complicated the “us” vs. “them” mentality of English voyages by highlighting the heterogeneity and factions among ship crews.

Other papers engaged with the continuity between state policy and trade in the late middle ages and early modern period through Hakluyt’s inclusion of a fourteenth-century poem; the importance of naval history and the experience of seamen in effecting expansion; the mercantilist emphasis of Hakluyt’s second edition; and the English desire to exploit global markets, such as Indian cotton. Joyce Chaplin delivered a keynote lecture that argued that English attitudes towards natural resources and climate-based notions of human physiognomy set the groundwork for the enslavement of non-European peoples, to disastrous consequences.

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Prof Nandini Das presenting on the place of India in Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations. Hakluyt and the Renaissance Discovery of the World conference, Oxford.

 

The discussions that emerged from the papers centred around several key aspects of early modern global historiography, suggesting future avenues for research. One is the continuing development of environmental studies and ecocriticism as important approaches in the history of expansion, which was, after all, fundamentally about land and the exploitation of its resources. As Joyce Chaplin put it, pro-imperial authorities and their agents saw a relationship between economies and ecosystems. The Greek oikos and the Latin oeco were terms that denoted households, but also the management of the estates themselves.

Secondly, papers highlighted the need to reconstruct the experience of non-European peoples, especially their capacity to dictate the terms of Anglo-indigenous exchange. Surekha Davies pointed out that instances of the passive voice in Hakluyt might offer hints as to moments when indigenous peoples dominated colonial encounters, at times when Europeans struggled to successfully dictate the terms of the exchange.

Related to attempts to recalibrate approaches to intercultural encounters, other papers emphasised the value of using non-English-language sources to enhance and complicate global historiography. Persian accounts of English diplomatic missions, such as Anthony Jenkinson’s in the 1560s, both offer correctives to the source manipulation of Safavid chronicles while offering new perspectives on English writings about diplomatic encounters in the east.

Finally, presenters stressed the ongoing importance of tracing the intimate networks between patrons, merchants, gentlemen, and travel writers who produced knowledge about, and effected, empire, which was nothing if not a collaborative effort.

The conference concluded with a public lecture by the historian and BBC broadcaster Michael Wood, who used early modern travel narratives from Asia and South America to question the very idea of discovery: who, he asked, really “discovered” whom in any given exchange?

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Michael Wood delivering the public lecture ‘Voyages, Traffiques, Discoveries’

Scholars today are wary of celebrating Hakluyt’s use of geography, given his imperial aims, but Principal Navigations remains a rich source for accessing the lives of individual agents, and for understanding large-scale historical change. To Hakluyt, the English would not thrive from insularity, and could only find themselves by engaging with the rest of the world.


Lauren Working is a historian of sixteenth and seventeenth-century English politics and culture. Her research examines the convergence between expansion and state formation, drawing on textual and archaeological sources to reconstruct the impact of colonization on the social and discursive worlds of Jacobean London. Lauren is a research associate on TIDE (Travel, Transculturality, and Identity in England, 1550-1700),  a five-year, ERC-funded project that aims to investigate how mobility in the age of travel and discovery shaped English perceptions of human identity based on cultural identification and difference. The project is headed by Professor Nandini Das at the University of Liverpool.


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‘Hakluyt & the Renaissance Discovery of the World’ – Conference Programme

Hakluyt & the Renaissance Discovery of the World

An international conference to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of Richard Hakluyt (23rd November 1616)

Thursday 24th November 2016, the Bodleian Library, Oxford, & Friday 25th November 2016, Christ Church, Oxford

organised by Prof. Daniel Carey (NUI Galway), Prof. Claire Jowitt (University of East Anglia), and Mr. Anthony Payne (Hakluyt Society)

To register: https://chch.digitickets.co.uk/event/1592271?catID=6761

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Programme

24th November, the Bodleian Library

 9.30AM–10.30AM arrival & coffee WESTON LIBRARY CONCOURSE


SESSION 1: 10.30AM–12.15PM WESTON LIBRARY, LECTURE THEATRE

Hakluyt, Oxford, & centres of power

 Chair: Dr Sarah Tyacke (Hakluyt Society)

Prof. Sebastian Sobecki (University of Groningen): ‘Hakluyt and the Libelle of Englyshe Polycye

Prof. David Harris Sacks (Reed College): ‘Learning to Know: The Educations of Richard Hakluyt and Thomas Harriot’.

Anthony Payne (Hakluyt Society): ‘Hakluyt and Aristotle at Oxford’


12.15PM-1.15PM lunch WESTON LIBRARY CONCOURSE


SESSION 2: 1.15PM–3.00PM WESTON LIBRARY, LECTURE THEATRE

 Chair: Dr Will Poole (Oxford)

‘the three corners of the world’ (William Shakespeare, King John)

Prof. Nandini Das (University of Liverpool): ‘Hakluyt and India’

Dr Felicity Stout (University of Sheffield): ‘Hakluyt and Russia’

Prof. Bernhard Klein (University of Kent): ‘Hakluyt and West Africa’


3.00PM-3.30PM tea WESTON LIBRARY CONCOURSE


SESSION 3: 3.30PM–5.15PM WESTON LIBRARY, LECTURE THEATRE

Chair: Prof. Will Ryan (Hakluyt Society)

Encounters, communication, & technology

Prof. Michael Leroy Oberg (SUNY Geneseo): ‘Tattoos, Towns, and Tribes: Using Hakluyt to Reconsider Algonquian Communities in “Virginia”’

Prof. Ladan Niayesh (Paris Diderot): ‘Under Persian Eyes: Hakluyt’s Corrective to Safavid Chronicles’

Prof. Surekha Davies (Western Connecticut State University) ‘Hakluyt, The Principal   Navigations, and Encounters with Indigenous Artefacts’


KEYNOTE LECTURE, 5.30PM, WESTON LIBRARY, LECTURE THEATRE

Chair: Capt. Mike Barritt, RN (Hakluyt Society)

Prof. Joyce E. Chaplin (Harvard): ‘“No Land Unhabitable, Nor Sea Innavigable”: Hakluyt’s Argument from Design’

 Followed by drinks reception 7.00PM–8.00PM, UPPER LIBRARY, CHRIST CHURCH

 


25th November, Christ Church

 SESSION 4: 9.00AM–10.15AM BLUE BOAR LECTURE THEATRE

Chair: Prof. Joyce Lorimer (Wilfrid Laurier University)

Theatres of war, near & far

Prof. Carla Rahn Phillips (University of Minnesota): ‘Sarmiento’s Voyage to the South Atlantic and early 1580s International Politics’

Prof. Michael Brennan (University of Leeds): ‘Hakluyt, Howard of Effingham, and Naval Warfare’


 10.15AM-10.45AM coffee UPPER LIBRARY


SESSION 5: 10.45AM–12. NOON BLUE BOAR LECTURE THEATRE

 Rival ambitions

 Chair: Prof. Joyce Chaplin (Harvard)

Prof. Joan-Pau Rubiés (Catalan Institute for Advanced Research): ‘Imperial Emulation and the Making of The Principal Navigations

Prof. Daniel Carey (NUI Galway): ‘Hakluyt and the Clothworkers: Long Distance Trade and English Commercial Development’


12.NOON-1.00PM lunch REFECTORY


SESSION 6: 1.00PM–2.40PM BLUE BOAR LECTURE THEATRE

Telling tales

Chair: Dr Matthew Day (Newman University, Birmingham)

Prof. Mary Fuller (MIT): ‘Consent and Dissent at High Latitudes: The Voyages of John Davis’

Prof. Claire Jowitt (University of East Anglia): ‘Heroic Hakluyt?’

Prof. Joyce Lorimer (Wilfred Laurier University): ‘“Writing for service”: Lawrence Keymis’s Relation of the Second Voyage to Guiana (1596)’


2.40PM–3.00PM tea/coffee UPPER LIBRARY


SESSION 7: 3.00PM-4.40PM BLUE BOAR LECTURE THEATRE

 Chair: Prof. Andrew Lambert (King’s College London)

Influences & legacy

Dr Heather Dalton (Melbourne): ‘Hakluyt and the Cabots’

Prof. Michiel van Groesen (Leiden): ‘Hakluyt and De Bry’

Dr John Hemming (Hakluyt Society): ‘Clements Markham’s half-century for the Hakluyt Society’


FREE PUBLIC LECTURE, 5.00PM–6.45PM, EXAMINATION SCHOOLS (SOUTH)

 Chair: Prof. Jim Bennett (Hakluyt Society)

 Prof. Michael Wood (Manchester): ‘Voyages, Traffiques, Discoveries’

Michael Wood tells three stories from the Age of Exploration, looking at meetings between civilisations in Mexico, India and China, with a coda on the coast of Sierra Leone. Exploring these cross-cultural encounters, the talk looks at what they tell us about Western ways of seeing the world beyond Europe.


For information contact:

daniel.carey@nuigalway.ie

c.jowitt@uea.ac.uk

payne.anthony@btinternet.com


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