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Tudor travel writing re-assessed

Published: 9 July 2013
Professor Claire Jowitt

Professor Claire Jowitt has been awarded £33,000 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and £18,000 from the Modern Humanities Research Association (MHRA) for the next stage of her work, with Professor Daniel Carey of the National University of Ireland, Galway, to prepare a 14 volume scholarly edition of some of the world’s earliest travel writing.

Richard Hakluyt (1552-1616) collected travel stories from European explorers who crossed the globe in the 16th century, from the New World to Muscovy, the Levant, Persia, the East Indies, China, India and Africa. His three massive folio volumes, which contain around 1.76 million words, inspired and encouraged explorers and traders to set sail and build empires.

His books included accounts of journeys from adventurer and circumnavigator Sir Francis Drake, letters from the mapmaker Gerald Mercator and harrowing descriptions of the harsh conditions encountered by explorer Sir Hugh Willoughby who died when his ship became trapped in arctic ice north of Russia.

“Hakluyt had a network of correspondents and would also have been a familiar sight at the quays and the inns of London and Bristol docks talking to travellers,” says Claire. “Yet, ironically, this man who gave us so much insight into the outside world did not leave the country himself.”

Claire, who has been interested in early travel writing since studying at Southampton for her BA, MA and PhD degrees, will personally edit Hakluyt’s final volume on The South Seas, the Far East and Hakluyt’s notes on Spanish Trade and Navigation.

The grants will support research workshops and provide research support for the editorial team working on the first four volumes of The Principal Navigations (1598-1600) which are expected to be published by the Oxford University Press on the 400th anniversary of Hakluyt’s death in 2016.

Claire's research recently appeared in the BBC History magazine, to view the feature click on the link to the right of this page.

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