Hakluyt Society Symposium 2019: Registration now open!

Registration for the upcoming Hakluyt Society Symposium: ‘Rethinking Power in Maritime Encounters, 1400-1900’ is now open!

Date: 5-6 September 2019

LocationP.J. Veth, Nonnensteeg 1-3, 2311 VJ Leiden. Room 1.01.

Please register via this link before 1 September 2019. The full registration fee is €50. The fee for Hakluyt Society Members and Linschoten-Vereeniging members is €25. Lunch and tea/coffee will be provided on both days. Hakluyt Society Student Members attend the symposium for free, and should register by emailing hakluytleiden2019@gmail.com (please include your membership number in your email). To become a Hakluyt Society (student) member, follow the instructions here.

Practical information

If you need accommodation in Leiden during the symposium, we can offer a special conference rate of 85 euros per night, including WIFI and breakfast, at the IBIS hotel. This hotel is located close to the railway station and is a 10-15 minute walk from the symposium venue. For those who want to go local, the hotel also rents out bikes for the duration of your stay! We advise contacting the hotel early with your travel plans. Please book by email (h8087@accor.com) with “Universiteit Leiden” in the subject line, stating that you are booking for the symposium.

The conference will be held in the University’s recently restored P.J. Veth building overlooking the Botanical Gardens. The botanical gardens are the oldest in The Netherlands (1590) and we do encourage attendees to take a quick tour over one of the lunch breaks. All breaks will be on site; the drinks receptions and the conference dinner will be within easy walking distance from the venue. If you have any mobility or dietary concerns, or any other questions, please  do get in touch via hakluytleiden@gmail.com.

Programme

Find the full programme here.

We look forward to welcoming you in Leiden!

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CFP: Hakluyt Society Symposium 2019: Rethinking Power in Maritime Encounters

Call for Papers

The Hakluyt Society Symposium 2019

Rethinking Power in Maritime Encounters (1400-1900)

5-6 September 2019

Leiden University, the Netherlands

Organised in collaboration with the Linschoten-Vereeniging, Itinerario, and Leiden University’s Institute for History

Deadline: 1 March 2019

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Keynote: Joshua Reid (UW Seattle).

Speakers confirmed: Pepijn Brandon (VU), Nathalia Brichet (Aarhus), Kevin Dawson (UC Merced), Mariana de Campos Françozo (Leiden), John McAleer (Southampton), Elsje van Kessel (St. Andrews), Sujit Sivasundaram (Cambridge).


Maritime histories have always told stories about power. Whether in the form of narratives about mastery of the seas, conquest of lands, or enslavement of peoples, traditional accounts of enterprising explorers and hardy mariners have located power and agency with a limited groups of actors: almost always male, and predominantly European. In doing so, histories of maritime encounters have mostly reproduced the perspectives contained in their sources, foregrounding the actions of European men and casting other actors as largely passive, peripheral, or powerless. These histories are in need of revision.

This conference seeks to explore new narratives of maritime power, to investigate the ways in which power was constituted and contested, how it was gendered and racialised, and through what strategies it was subverted or resisted. It aims to bring together historians working on (the limits of) state and non-state power, multiple actors and traditions of seafaring and exploration, and the agency of women, enslaved people, and other historically marginalised groups. Moreover, by expanding the focus to include environmental histories, this conference seeks to reconsider interrelations between humans and their marine surroundings.

This two-day conference will host senior experts and early career researchers in a cross-disciplinary conversation aimed at critically rethinking the role of power in maritime history. Topics for discussion include, but are not limited to:

  • Asymmetrical power relations
  • Global actors and agency
  • Writing and discursive power
  • Gender and sexuality
  • Maritime power and the environment
  • Materiality and maritime encounters
  • Maritime encounters and spatiality
  • Resistance, mutinies, rebellions
  • Slavery and maritime labour

Held in the historic city of Leiden, Rethinking Power in Maritime Encounters is organised by the Hakluyt Society in collaboration with the Linschoten-Vereeniging. Prospective speakers are invited to submit proposals of no more than 300 words for 20-minute papers along with a brief bio statement to hakluytleiden2019@gmail.com by 1 March 2019. Contributions from postgraduate researchers are particularly encouraged.

The Hakluyt Society will make available five travel bursaries (up to £200 each) to postgraduate and early career applicants with limited 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. Reduced registration fees apply for members of the Hakluyt Society and Linschoten-Vereeniging.

Organising committee: Michiel van Groesen, Carolien Stolte, Suze Zijlstra (Universiteit Leiden), and Guido van Meersbergen (University of Warwick)

Download CFP and poster.


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

 

Trading Companies and Travel Literature: Looking back on #Hakluyt17

Trading Companies and Travel Literature are hot. Joining these two foci of historical and literary analysis works even better. This is the short conclusion from the overwhelming success of the Hakluyt Society Symposium, the first of its kind, held at Chatham Historic Dockyards on 11-12 September 2017. Entitled Trading Companies and Travel Literature, this international event, sponsored by the Hakluyt Society and organised in collaboration with PEIC of the University of Kent, brought together more than fifty historians, literary scholars, and members of the public for two days of rich interdisciplinary exchange. In this blog, one of the symposium’s organisers, Guido van Meersbergen (University of Warwick) looks back on the symposium and its outcomes.


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#Hakluyt17

One month after the Hakluyt Society Symposium in Chatham, I look back on the event with great pleasure and satisfaction. Run by Edmond Smith (PEIC), Aske Brock (PEIC), and myself, and financed by a generous award from the Hakluyt Society’s Harry & Grace Smith Fund, the symposium was a resounding success. This was due not only to the stunning environment of the Historic Dockyard in Chatham – and particularly the magnificent Royal Dockyard Church – which provided #Hakluyt17 with the best possible historical and maritime framing; but above all to the consistently high academic quality of papers presented and collegial and constructive discussion held over the course of two stimulating days.

As always in these matters, the people mattered most. In addition to sizeable delegations from both the Hakluyt Society and the University of Kent, the symposium welcomed a large number of attendees from institutions all over the UK as well as places further afield, including the US, India, Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy, and Ireland. All together, Trading Companies and Travel Literature attracted over fifty delegates, some twenty of whom students and Early Career Researchers. Participation of the latter group was generously supported by financial support from the Hakluyt Society and the Society for Renaissance Studies. The Hakluyt Society also awarded a total of six Bursaries covering travel expenses for early career speakers.

These circumstances combined to ensure that even a Chatham-wide power outage on 12 September, which caused some degree of confusion on Day 2 of the symposium, did little to disrupt the event’s good humoured collegiality.

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Hakluyt Society Symposium early career delegates outside the Royal Dockyard Church.
For a pictorial impression of the event, Hakluyt Society Symposium 2017 in 100 Images, check out our Facebook page.

Trading Companies and Travel Literature

Aimed at examining travel literature and trading companies within the same framework of analysis, the symposium’s seven panels focused on critical issues ranges from the production and uses of travel literature, the way travel writing was employed to promote trading companies and colonial or imperial projects, to approaches to non-European voices and the materiality of information. Questions addressed included:

  • How did Companies and non-corporate groups (private merchants, missionaries, diplomats, Crown-sponsored colonial enterprises) gather, collect, protect, promote and utilise travel literature?
  • In what ways do the manuscript and printed material created by companies serve as lenses through which to understand the early modern ‘globalising’ world, and how do they obscure, distort, or limit this understanding?
  • How did ideas originating in manuscript form within Company administrations come to circulate in print and what were its consequences for the circulation of ideas and images about the world within Europe and beyond?
  • How did travel literature emerging outside the Companies shape and affect Company policies?
  • What were the roles of non-European voices and agency in (the production of) Company sources and travel literature?
  • What were the implications of secrecy, forgery and fraudulent material for corporate and non-corporate colonial operations?
  • How did the materiality of information affect its message and uses?
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Professor Jyotsna Singh (Michigan State University) presenting the keynote address

On the evening of day 1, the keynote address was delivered by Professor Jyotsna Singh (Michigan State University), whose work on the Global Renaissance has dealt extensively with early modern travel writing and East India Company accounts. Her stimulating lecture, chaired by Hakluyt Society President, Professor Jim Bennett, was entitled The East India Company and English Encounters with Islam in Mughal India.

The symposium also featured a Hakluyt Society Editorial Workshop, led by Professor Will Ryan and Dr Katie Parker, which offered attendees first-hand experience of the attractions and challenges of editing primary accounts to the standards required by the Society.

Outcomes

Rather than simply relishing the memory of a successful event, steps have already been taken to ensure a positive follow-up. Encouraged by the outcome of the Kent symposium – which met the Society’s principal aims of 1) increasing the public awareness of historical travel, exploration and worldwide cultural encounter; 2) generating exposure for the Society’s activities; and 3) stimulating interdisciplinary conversation, engaging younger scholars, and creating a bridge between academic and lay audiences – the Hakluyt Society is committed to establishing its symposia on a biannual footing.

First preparations for a 2019 Hakluyt Society Symposium to be held in Leiden are already underway, following an agreement of principle between the Society’s President, Jim Bennett, its Symposium Coordinator, Guido van Meersbergen, and Professor of Maritime History of Leiden University, Michiel van Groesen. One reason to particularly look forward to a 2019 symposium in Leiden would be the intended participation of the Linschoten-Vereeniging, our Dutch sister society.

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Hakluyt Society Symposium 2017 organisers (from left to right), Guido van Meersbergen, Edmond Smith, and Aske Brock.

Output

However, the most tangible future output of the Hakluyt Society Symposium will be a collection of essays edited by the symposium organisers and including chapters from a selection of speakers. This book will present the first focused investigation of the multifaceted relationships between European trading companies and the ways in which they collected, curated, protected, and utilised material relating to travel and exploration across the early modern world. Edmond, Aske, and I intend for this edited collection, on which we will work over the next year or two together with our excellent speakers, to appear as a volume in the Hakluyt Society Extra Series.

Finally, we will produce a conference report for the Society for Renaissance Studies (SRS), which generously supported the symposium with a conference grant. This report is due to appear in the Bulletin of the Society for Renaissance Studies.

Dr Guido van Meersbergen is a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow at the University of Warwick, where he is a member of the Global History and Culture Centre. Since 2013 he has been a Council Member of the Hakluyt Society, and he is currently acting as the Society’s social media manager and Symposium Coordinator. Guido’s research and teaching focuses on early modern global history, particularly cross-cultural diplomacy, ethnographic discourse, and the Dutch and English East India Companies in South Asia. Guido received his PhD from University College London (UCL) and has previously held the Max Weber Fellowship at the European University Institute (EUI).


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Programme: Hakluyt Society Symposium 2017 – Trading Companies and Travel Literature

The Hakluyt Society Symposium 2017 brings together travel literature and trading companies by exploring how the various early modern 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 will take place on 11-12 September 2017.

Registration is open until 1 September. 

Location: Royal Dockyard Church Lecture Theatre, Chatham, ME4 4TE. Please visit our conference website for directions.


11 September 2017

 09.30 – 09.40: Welcome and Introduction

 09.40 – 11.10: Session 1 – Production of Travel Literature

  • Dr Eva Johanna Holmberg (Queen Mary, London), ‘Passages Recollected by Memory’: Remembering the Levant Company in Seventeenth-Century Merchant Life Writing
  • Byapti Sur (Leiden University), Pandemonium in Pomp: A Dutch account of Festivals and Festivities in Seventeenth-Century Mughal India
  • Dr Liam Haydon (University of Kent), Merchants Making History

11.10 – 11.30: Coffee break

11.30 – 13.00: Session 2 – Uses of Travel Literature

  • Prof Michiel van Groesen (Leiden University), From Secrecy to Openness: Dierick Ruiters’ Manuscript Maps and the Birth of the Dutch Atlantic World 
  • Dr Adrien Delmas (l’Institut français d’Afrique du Sud, Paris), The Forgotten Function of Writing: Travel Literature, International law and the European Share of the World at the Turn of the Seventeenth Century
  • Dr Haig Smith (University of Liverpool), “Assemblies of their own Nations”: Perceptions of South Asian Religious Diversity in Seventeenth-Century English East India Company Correspondence

13.00 – 14.00: Lunch

14.00 – 15.15: Hakluyt Society Editorial Workshop

15.15 – 15.30: Coffee break

15.30 – 17.00: Session 3 – Promoting Trading Companies

  • Prof Anne Goldgar (King’s College London), Marketing Arctic Knowledge
  • Dr Stefan Halikowski Smith (Swansea University), Venice and the Danish East India Company: Reading Nicola Cima’s ‘Relatione Distinta delli Regni di Siam, China, Tunchino e Cocincina’ (c. 1707)
  • Giorgio Tosco (European University Institute), Travel Writing and the Promotion of Trans-Oceanic Trade in Tuscany and Genoa in the Seventeenth Century

18.00: Keynote Address

  • Prof Jyotsna Singh (Michigan State University), The East India Company and English Encounters with Islam in Mughal India

19.00: Reception

Conference Dinner


12 September 2017

9.00 – 10.30: Session 4 – Planning Empire through Travel Literature

  • John Carrigy (National University of Ireland, Galway), John Dee and Elizabethan Empire: Defining Empire within Contemporary Historiographical Culture
  • Marina Bezzi (University College London), Richard Hakluyt and Lancelot Voisin de la Popeliniere: Other-than-European Environments in European Travel Literature Collections
  • Alasdair Macfarlane (Durham University), Creating ‘New Caledonia’: Rumour, News and the Company of Scotland

10.30 – 10.50: Coffee break

10.50 – 12.20: Session 5 – Approaches to Non-European Voices

  • Prof Margaret Hunt (Uppsala University), Dervish Mehmed Edib’s Pilgrimage to Mecca: Gender and Spirituality in an Eighteenth-Century Islamic Travel Narrative 
  • Samuel Ellis (University of Leeds), Reading Early English East India Company Travel Narratives in the Himalayas: Difficulties, Limitations and Opportunities
  • Renu Elizabeth Abraham (University of Kent), Collectors of History: The Case of John William Wye and the English East India Company

12.20 – 13.20: Lunch

 13.20 – Session 6 – 14.50: Materiality of Information

  • Dr Djoeke van Netten (University of Amsterdam), Ships on Maps and Maps on Ships
  • Dr Souvik Mukherjee (Presidency University, Kolkata), “Unburying” Company History: Reconstructing European Company Narratives through Digital Archives
  • Frank Birkenholz (University of Groningen), Paper that Travels: The Materiality of the Dutch East India Company’s Travel Writing, Information Gathering and Knowledge Production

14.50 – 15.10: Coffee break

 15.10 – 16.40: Session 7 – Companies and Colonialism

  • Prof Nandini Das (University of Liverpool), Thomas Roe’s Companies
  • Dr Amrita Sen (Presidency University, Kolkata), Decoding Company Rule: Travel, Taxation and the Bengal Famine of 1770
  • Alison Bennett (University College London/British Museum), Exploration, Treaty-Making and Trade: Sources of the Imperial British East Africa Company

16.40 – 17.00: Closing Remarks and End of Conference


 

 

‘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.

 

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

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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

 

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.


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