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)


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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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Richard Hakluyt, Jacques le Moyne, and Theodore de Bry’s 1591 Engravings of Florida Timucua Indians Part 2: The Florida Book

In this stimulating follow-up to his recent guest blog on Theodore de Bry, Richard Hakluyt and the Business of Books, Emeritus Professor Jerald T. Milanich continues to explore Richard Hakluyt‘s international network. In the present blog, his focus is on establishing the origin of Theodore de Bry’s 1591 engravings of Florida Timucua Indians, taking his readers on a grand tour of the sixteenth-century world of art, print, and publishing.

In his The Representation of the Overseas World in the De Bry Collection of Voyages (1590-1634),Michiel van Groesen points out that the 1591 Florida volume, among all the volumes, is peculiar for several reasons. First, the text is the only one of the 50 narratives that does not have a version published elsewhere. The narrative instead combines portions of René de Laudonnière’s account, previously published by Richard Hakluyt, with other sources, perhaps including information provided by Jacques le Moyne.

The title pages of both the Latin and German editions mention Le Moyne and Laudonnière while the German edition that was translated from the Latin edition also lists Jean Ribault and Dominque de Gourges as contributors. In 1568 De Gourges had avenged the 1565 Spanish attack on Fort Caroline (the French colony on the St. Johns River) with his own attack on the Spaniards. An account of the raid later was published in English by Hakluyt.


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The 1591 Florida text may also contain information from another of the Fort Caroline colonists, Nicholas Le Challeux. Le Challeux’s Florida account was first published in France in 1566 (later published by De Bry in 1596 in a book with narratives about Peru and the Canary Islands). In reality the 1591 Florida volume, often mistakenly attributed solely to Le Moyne, is a composite of multiple accounts all of which are known from other sources except for Le Moyne’s own contribution, whatever that might have been.

Another peculiar thing about the Florida volume is that De Bry states that in order to publish the text it needed to be translated from English into Latin, not from French into Latin. Did someone other than Le Moyne or de Bry put the text together, somewhat like Hakluyt who had the English versions of Laudonnière, Ribault, and the others?

The Florida volume also is the only one of De Bry’s 27 books for which the engravings cannot be directly correlated with published or extant first-hand images, such as John White’s paintings or Hans Staden’s published drawings of Brazil. Making up images, however, was a common practice of De Bry. Van Groesen has shown that about 45% of the nearly 600 engravings in the 27 volumes were invented in De Bry’s shop. Many others are composite images that draw on multiple sources.

Van Groesen goes on to say that when De Bry invented an image, basing it on written accounts, he often included in the caption a phrase that went something like: “The history recounts that” or “derived from the account.” According to Van Groesen, at least 22 of the 42 Florida engravings were invented by De Bry, who drew their artistic muse from the accounts of Ribault, Laudonnière, possibly Le Moyne, and others.

How about the other engravings in the Florida volume? Did De Bry indeed acquire information, drawings, or paintings from Jacques le Moyne or his widow in London and, if so, were any of the latter as models for the engravings? De Bry states in the introductory remarks to the Florida volume that he did receive drawings from Le Moyne’s widow in 1588 (after Le Moyne had died in May of that year). An earlier attempt to acquire information from Le Moyne in 1587 had not been successful, though De Bry and Le Moyne (and Hakluyt?) may have had conversations about Florida.

What exactly did the art that De Bry received from Le Moyne’s widow in 1588 consist of? We don’t know. Some or all may have been the paintings and drawings Le Moyne did of European plants and animals, nearly a hundred of which are extant in archival collections in London and in New York.

I believe, after studying the 42 Florida engravings, that if Le Moyne supplied De Bry with sketches or drawing or paintings, it was not much. And I am not alone in that hypothesis. Of the 20 Florida engravings not overtly designated by De Bry to have been invented, Van Groesen has shown that 10 contain elements from other images, such as adding backgrounds. I would note that a large number of those 20 also contain elements taken from Staden’s Brazil images, which the De Bry’s later engraved.

De Bry also borrowed from André Thevet who in turn borrowed from Staden and others. In the late 16th and 17th centuries, attributing Brazilian Indian traits to images of North American Indians was a common practice.

Did De Bry have any idea of what the Timucua Indians looked like? I think he did, but I don’t think it came from Jacques le Moyne’s art. I think the images he used to engrave Timucua Indians came from John White.

Perhaps having not gotten what he needed from Le Moyne—who was dead—De Bry or more likely Hakluyt got John White to paint a Timucua man and a woman. I believe that White used his first-hand knowledge of American Indians and the narratives of Jean Ribault (published by Hakluyt) and René de Laudonnière to inform his two portraits of Timucua Indians. For instance, Jean Ribault wrote:

“The most part of them cover their waists and privities with hart [deer] skins painted most commonly with sundry colors; and the forepart of their bodies and armes, be painted with pretty devised works of [blue], red, and black…. The women have their bodies painted with a certain herb like unto moss whereof the cedar trees and all other trees be always covered. [The men are] naked and painted…; their hair … long and trussed up, with a lace made of herbs, to the top of their heads.”

And that is what White painted and what, I believe, found its way into de Bry’s engravings.

It is likely that Le Moyne never painted or drew a single Florida scene, but he may have provided information orally to De Bry and/or Hakluyt or in written notes that De Bry received in 1588 after Le Moyne’s death. Hakluyt may have played a role in combining such information with the accounts of Ribault, Laudonnière, and others to make up the text published in the Florida volume.

There is still work to be done, but what seems certain is that the Florida engravings cannot be accepted at face value as ethnographically accurate. They did, however, sell books and they continue to do so today.

Did you miss part 1 of this blog? Read it here


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.


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Hakluyt@400 Quatercentenary programme Autumn 2016

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

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


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Exhibitions

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

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


Commemorative Service

At 10.30 a.m. on Sunday 27 November, there will be a commemorative service in All Saints Church, Wetheringsett, Suffolk, IP14 5PP, Hakluyt’s parish, which will be led by the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, with the dedication of a stone plaque in memory of Richard Hakluyt. This will be followed by a buffet lunch in the Village Hall with a programme of music and readings. There will be an opportunity for small groups of Hakluyt Society members to visit the surviving part of Hakluyt’s former rectory.

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


Conference

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


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Full line-up

Keynote speakers

Professor Joyce Chaplin – Harvard University

Professor Michael Wood – The University of Manchester

Speakers

Professor Michael Brennan – University of Leeds

Professor Daniel Carey (organiser) – NUI Galway

Dr Heather Dalton – University of Melbourne

Professor Nandini Das – University of Liverpool

Professor Mary Fuller – MIT

Dr John Hemming – Hakluyt Society

Professor Claire Jowitt (organiser) – University of East Anglia

Professor Bernhard Klein – University of Kent

Professor Karen Ordahl Kupperman – New York University

Professor Emerita Joyce Lorimer – Tri University

Professor Ladan Niayesh – Université Paris Diderot

Professor Michael Leroy Oberg – SUNY-Geneseo

Anthony Payne (organiser) – Hakluyt Society

Professor emerita Carla Rahn Phillips – University of Minnesota

Professor Joan-Pau Rubiés – Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Professor Emeritus David Harris Sacks – Reed College

Professor Sebastian Sobecki – University of Groningen

Dr Felicity Stout – The University of Sheffield

Professor Michiel van Groesen – Leiden University


Registration and Bursaries

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

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

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

To book your place, click here.


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Hakluyt Society Essay Prize 2017

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

Hakluyt Society Essay Prize

For the third year in succession, the Hakluyt Society awards its annual Essay Prize of £750. The prize will be presented, if possible, at the Society’s Annual General Meeting in London in June 2017, and winners will be invited to present their research at the next Hakluyt Society Symposium. Winners will also receive a one-year membership of the Hakluyt Society. The Society hopes that the winning essay will be published, either in the Society’s online journal or in a recognised academic journal.

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


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Eligibility criteria

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

 Scope and subject matter

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

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

Submission procedures and deadline

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

Selection procedure

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mary Fuller.

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

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


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Essay Prize Series part 3: This Year’s Result and Last Year’s Winner

The Hakluyt Society is pleased to announce the award of its 2016 Essay Prize. From a range of impressive submissions, the committee selected European Conceptualisations of Southeast Asian Sexual Diversity, c. 1590–1640 by Nailya Shamgunova (University of Cambridge) as the prize-winning essay. The Prize will be awarded to Ms. Shamgunova at the Society’s Annual General Meeting on 22 June 2016. Last year, Owain Lawson (Columbia University) received the first ever Hakluyt Society Essay Prize for his essay Constructing a Green Museum: French Environmental Imaginaries of Syria and LebanonMr. Lawson reflects on the research leading to his prize-winning essay below.


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Owain Lawson (right) receiving the inaugural edition of the Hakluyt Society Essay Prize from the Society’s President, Michael Barritt. June 2015, London

In September 1922, Abbé Émile Wetterlé arrived at the port of Beirut as part of the French Mandate for Syria and Lebanon’s agricultural commission. In his subsequent publications, he remarked on the astonishment he felt upon seeing for the first time the gentle rangeland of the Lebanese littoral. Steeped in biblical and orientalist representations of Lebanon, Wetterlé expected to see the dense Lebanese cedar forests described in the Bible. The absence of these forests implied to Wetterlé that Ottoman mismanagement and Arab indolence had devastated Lebanon’s natural splendour, and that France must rehabilitate the Lebanese environment.

My essay, which to my great surprise and deep gratitude won the Hakluyt Society’s essay prize, inquires into what forces shaped Wetterlé’s expectations. It investigates the diverse intellectual, scientific, and cultural sources of his belief in a degraded Arab environment and traces its trajectory through nineteenth-century scientific and travel writing to its influence in legitimating French Mandatory rule in Syria and Lebanon following World War I. I originally prepared this essay as part of my MA thesis at the American University in Cairo. It owes a great debt to the work of Richard Grove and Ussama Makdisi, but most importantly to Diana K. Davis and her concept of the “environmental imaginary.” This term is useful to capture the confluence of scientific, economic, religious, intellectual, emotional, and ideological forces at work in descriptions of nature.

Nineteenth-century visitors such as Ernest Renan, the Comte de Volney, and Alphonse de Lamartine, and later Mandatory officials such as Wetterlé and General Gouraud, had access to a great variety of textual and artistic representations of Greater Syria. These included classical and Arabic geographies, biblical accounts, and contemporary archaeological, climatological, and ethnographic science. They mobilized these sources to not only describe the Lebanese environment but to imagine its ancient natural state and prescribe methods to return Lebanon to that idealized condition. Biblical Lebanon’s dense cedar groves epitomized that ideal. Through a century of travel, writing, painting, and research, rehabilitating Mount Lebanon’s forests became part of France’s mission civilisatrice in the Levant and contributed to justifying their occupation and Mandatory rule. Syrian-Lebanese intellectuals did not passively receive this narrative, but rather contributed to its production and actively contested, negotiated, and reaffirmed it for their own purposes.

My interest in this subject emerged from my own work in reforestation, which provided a unique window into the relationship between efforts to extract natural resources and to preserve natural landscapes. Profound technological, economic, and scientific transformations over the last centuries have rearranged how most humans engage with the natural world. Indeed, many of us, myself included, can now only imagine nature as diminishing and fragile. In this light, environmental conservation efforts appear to be unambiguously positive practices. How then can we understand the discrepancy between these apparently noble intentions towards nature and the ease with which colonial officials translated them into a justification for colonial domination and violence? My intention with this essay was not to simply expose colonial conservation efforts as hypocritical, or debunk the nineteenth-century science that informed them, but to think about the longer trajectories of this relationship between nature and power.


Owain Lawson is a PhD student at Columbia University’s Department of History. His research focuses on the history of science, technology, and the environment in Lebanon and Greater Syria during the early twentieth century. He is in the early stages of developing a dissertation that explores the history of Lebanese hydroelectricity. Born in Ottawa, Canada, Owain received a B.A. from Concordia University in Montréal and an M.A. in Middle East Studies from the American University in Cairo.

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Tancrede R. Dumas, “Beirut Port”, Beirut, 1860-1870, Nawaf Salam Collection, Arab Image Foundation, Beirut.

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