New Hakluyt Society Publication: The Struggle for the South Atlantic: The Armada of the Strait, 1581-84

To start 2017 in great spirits, the Hakluyt Society has just released its latest publication: Carla Rahn Phillips (ed.), The Struggle for the South Atlantic: The Armada of the Strait, 1581-84, which has been distributed to Hakluyt Society members free of charge. The Struggle for the South Atlantic documents the story of that little-known ‘other Armada’, the Armada of the Strait, whose eventful journey was hardly less desastrous than that of the Armada of 1588. Professor Carla Rahn Phillips (University of Minnesota) presents us with the first edition ever to appear in print of the chronicle kept by Pedro de Rada, the official scribe of the armada. Her expert English translation is preceded by an extensive critical introduction. In this first of three blog posts, Professor Phillips introduces the new volume.


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The Armada of the Strait under Don Diego Flores de Valdés in 1581–4 came at a crucial juncture in global politics. Philip II of Spain had assumed the crown of Portugal and its overseas empire, and Francis Drake’s daring peacetime raids had challenged the dominance of Spain and Portugal in the Americas. Drake’s attacks had demonstrated the vulnerability of both Spanish and Portuguese colonies, and intelligence reports indicated that other English adventurers hoped to replicate Drake’s successful melding of trade and plunder.

It was clear to Philip and his councillors that something had to be done quickly to safeguard the Americas. The armada was intended to ensure the loyalty of Portuguese Brazil; bolster its defences against hostile native peoples as well as English and French pirates and interlopers; and fortify and settle the Strait of Magellan to prevent further incursions into the Pacific.

The Armada of the Strait under set out from south-western Spain in the fall of 1581, with twenty-three ships and 3,500 people, including officers, royal officials, sailors, soldiers, and settlers with their families. Despite careful planning, the expedition suffered terrible losses from the very beginning and hardships throughout. Hundreds of people drowned in shipwrecks and hundreds more perished from disease and privation.

Several ships were lost or so damaged by storms that they could not continue. A contingent of the armada finally was able to establish 338 persons at the Strait, following two earlier failed attempts.  Other contingents from the armada skirmished with an English expedition under Edward Fenton, expelled French interlopers from north-eastern Brazil, and improved the defences of several coastal regions. The armada officially ended when Flores arrived back in Spain with five ships and some 600 men in July of 1584. In September of that year, another three ships and 200 men arrived with the armada’s second in command, Almirante Diego de la Rivera, who had carried the colonizers to the Strait.

Pedro de Rada, the official scribe of the armada, kept a detailed, neutral chronicle of the venture which remained in private hands until 1999 but is now held in the Henry E. Huntington Library in San Marino, California. It is now published for the first time, as the latest Hakluyt Society publication (Third Series, Vol. 31). Previous historical assessments of the expedition have largely reflected the writings of Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa, governor-designate for the planned colony at the Strait, who blamed all the misfortunes of the enterprise on Diego Flores de Valdés. Rada’s Relación is presented here in conjunction with other documentation and compared with Sarmiento de Gamboa’s accusations.

The results will force scholars to revise long-standing conclusions regarding the place of Sarmiento and Flores in Spanish history and the accomplishments of a long-forgotten armada sent into the terrifying waters of the South Atlantic.

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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).


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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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Theodore de Bry, Richard Hakluyt, and the Business of Books: De Bry’s 1591 Engravings of Florida Timucua Indians

Richard Hakluyt (1552-1616) was well connected to an international network of voyagers, printers, and publishers, and he liaised between German publisher Theodore de Bry and English artist John White for the sale of the latter’s watercolour drawings of Amerindians. This much is well-known. In this fascinating example of historical detective work – the first of two blog posts on De Bry’s 1591 engravings of Florida Timucua Indians – Emeritus Professor Jerald T. Milanich goes further to unravel the links between Hakluyt, De Bry, White, Jacques le Moyne, and Sir Walter Raleigh.

In his 1946 book The New World, the First Pictures of America Stefan Lorant reprinted Theodore de Bry’s engravings of Florida Timucua Indians first published in 1591. Lorant included an English translation of the narrative that had accompanied the engravings in 1591. Lorant maintained that the images were based on paintings done by Jacques le Moyne, a member of a French colony on the St. Johns River in Northeast Florida in 1564-1565. He also attributed the narrative to Le Moyne.


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Since 1946 scholars, museum exhibition designers, and others have treated the engravings as accurate renderings of the Timucua Indians and their material culture. More than one person has referred erroneously to the engravings as having been done by Le Moyne. It is highly likely, however, that De Bry, whose book company published 27 illustrated volumes on the Americas, Africa, and Asia, simply made up the engravings, basing them on his imagination, written accounts, and borrowings from extant images.[i]

Jerald T. Milanich, Emeritus Professor at the University of Florida, is the author of more than twenty books describing the Indian societies of the Americas and their interactions with Europeans during the colonial and post-colonial periods. Presently he divides his time between New York City and the Catskill Mountains.

The story of the images and text involves Sir Walter Raleigh, Richard Hakluyt, English investors, a dead French artist, a live English artist, the lost Roanoke colony, and two French noblemen (one murdered, the other deceased). Events played out from Florida to London to Frankfurt.

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Scheme (somewhat tongue in cheek) of the relationships among the principle actors in the story of the Florida engravings. By Jerald T. Milanich.

Those of us across the Atlantic, myself included, now realize that the De Bry Florida engravings are bogus. They are not accurate ethnographic depictions of the Timucua Indians.

De Bry, Hakluyt, and the Business of Books

In the sixteenth century, books about the Americas were hot sellers in Europe. Among them are Hans Staden’s 1557 account of living among the Tupinambá Indians in Brazil (in English: True Story and Description of a Country of Wild, Naked, Grim, Man-eating People in the New World); André Thevet’s three volumes (1557, 1575, and 1584; the 1557 title is: Les Singularitez de la France antarctique); and Richard Hakluyt’s 1582 Divers Voyages.

Hakluyt published additional narratives in his multi-volume opus Principall Navigations of the English Nation, including one by Thomas Harriot about the ill-fated Roanoke colony in coastal North Carolina. Hakluyt also was instrumental in the 1586 publication of René de Laudonnière’s Histoire Notable de la Florida (publishing an English edition the next year; Laudonnière had died in 1574).

How does Theodore de Bry fit into all of this? A successful goldsmith and metallurgist, De Bry was earning an international reputation as a skilled engraver who could create wonderful printed images. Up into the 1560s books had featured wood block prints. The newest rage, copper engravings like those being produced by De Bry, resulted in clearer, more complex images.

In September 1588 De Bry and his family moved to Frankfurt and beginning in 1590 and continuing well into the 1620s they ran a book publishing business that took advantage of copper engravings. At the time Frankfurt was the center of book production in Europe and for nearly four decades the De Bry firm was what Michiel van Groesen calls “one of the most remarkable publishing houses of early modern Europe.”

Prior to moving to Frankfurt, Theodore de Bry spent more than three years in London with his family, having moved there in 1585 from Antwerp. It was in London in 1587 that De Bry celebrated his 60th birthday and where he came into contact with Richard Hakluyt and Jacques le Moyne, whom Hakluyt had met previously and who would apparently provide De Bry (and Hakluyt?) with firsthand knowledge of the French settlement in Florida.

In London, Hakluyt and other Englishmen convinced De Bry to publish a series of illustrated books containing accounts by Europeans who had visited the Americas, many of which Hakluyt had already published or would publish. Hakluyt had access to John White’s paintings of Algonquian Indians in North Carolina and he had the account by Thomas Harriot of the unsuccessful Roanoke colony. Hakluyt also was working on Le Moyne to produce paintings of Florida, suggesting that Sir Walter Raleigh would pay him.

Hakluyt and others, all Protestants with ties to Sir Walter Raleigh, were willing to financially back De Bry in the new publishing venture. De Bry’s first volume was to feature Harriot’s Roanoke narrative illustrated with engravings of John White’s paintings. There were to be English, French, Latin, and German editions.

The four editions of that first volume issued in 1590 were a financial success. The second volume, the account of the French in Florida which Hakluyt also had suggested to De Bry, was published in 1591 in Latin and German editions, and a third volume, with Hans Staden’s account of Brazil appeared in Latin in 1592 and German in 1593. Likely all three volumes were planned with Hakluyt while de Bry was in London.

In subsequent years the De Bry firm published other volumes on the Americas, and then went on to publish books on Africa, southern Asia, and the Far East. Ultimately there would be 13 volumes on the Americas and 14 on Africa and Asia.

Part 2 of this blog will follow shortly


Jerald T. Milanich is Emeritus Professor at the University of Florida. He is the author of more than twenty books describing the Indian societies of the Americas and their interactions with Europeans during the colonial and post-colonial periods. Presently he divides his time between New York City and the Catskill Mountains.


[i] European researchers like Michiel van Groesen, Christian Feest, and others have done much to clarify the sources of de Bry engravings and the le Moyne-de Bry connection. See van Groesen, The Representations of the Overseas World in the De Bry Collection of Voyages (1590-1634) (Leiden: Brill, 2012); Feest, “Jacques Le Moyne Minus Four,” European Review of Native American Studies 1(1):33-38; 1988; John Faupel, “An Appraisal of the Illustrations,” in A Foothold in Florida, The Eye-Witness Account of Four Voyages made by the French to that Region, by Sarah Lawson (East Grinstead, West Sussex, England: Antique Atlas Publications, 1992), pp. 150-178.

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