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Richard Hakluyt - Chronicler of Exploration in Elizabethan Times

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Exploration in Elizabethan times

Richard Hakluyt (1551-1616)

One of the great names that comes into the story of exploration in Elizabethan times is that of the younger Richard Hakluyt, an English clergyman who himself travelled no farther afeld than Paris. The men who did the actual exploring in those days were often fine sailors, yet few of them knew how to write down accounts of their voyages. So it was fortunate that a scholarly man like Hakluyt was interested enough to collect news of all these voyages and to encourage and help those who were anxious to find new lands. He had been enthusiastic about geography from his school days and after leaving Oxford University he became the friend of Francis Drake and Humphrey Gilbert. Whereas they are chiefy remembered for their voyages of discovery, Hakluyt won his reputation as their first and perhaps greatest English chronicler.

Hakluyt's first book, about the discoveries being made in America, was written in 1582. Two years later he wrote another book on the same subject, hoping this time to persuade the Queen to support Walter Raleigh's scheme for an English colony in Virginia, on the east coast of what is now the United States. He learned four languages so that he could read accounts of explorations by foreigners, and when he was in Bristol, London and Paris he talked with all who could give him information about other lands, and particularly about those that had just been discovered. In I589, the year after the defeat of the Spanish Armada, he published his greatest book, The Principal Navigations, Voyages and Discoveries of the English Nation. By 1600 he had enlarged this book until it filled three big volumes. Still he went on collecting stories and after his death there were found to be enough for another great volume. Hakluyt was buried in Westminster Abbey. An edition of Hakluyt's writings was specially prepared for children by Ronald Syme: it is called Hakluyt's Sea Stories.

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