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Merchant Adventurers: The Voyage of Discovery that Transformed Tudor England Hardcover – 12 Sep 2013

4.9 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: W&N (12 Sept. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297866885
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297866886
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.5 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 340,977 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

Meticulously researched...Evans's short, exciting chapters describe the voyage and 16th-century life, technology and politics in glorious detail. (Stephen Coulson THE LADY)

Looking for a short-cut sea route, in 1553 they commissioned Sir Hugh Willoughby and Richard Chancellor to voyage in search of a northeast passage through the Arctic to Asia. Their venture was, says Evans, one of the boldest in English history as a significant turning point in English economic and cultural development. It's also a good story, well told. (Iain Finlayson THE TIMES)

James Evans offers an account of an extraordinary 1553 voyage full of daring, discovery, tragedy and pioneering achievement. The Chalk Farm author lifts the lid on how a Britain with little maritime experience came to rule the waves through the efforts of historic pioneers like Sebastian Cabot, Sir Hugh Willoughby and Richard Chancellor. (HAM & HIGH)

Entertaining and meticulously researched...Merchant Adventurers is much more than a reconstruction of one of the most fascinating voyages of the Tudor age. The author places the expedition in the wider context of global exploration, mercantile expansion and the establishment of the first joint-stock company. Indeed he argues that the 1553 expedition anticipated the dawn of a new era, one that would see the formation of the East India Company and England's fledgling empire. (Giles Milton LITERARY REVIEW)

Evans combines gripping adventure stories with an exploration of the roots of the British empire and national consciousness. (YOUR FAMILY TREE)

This is the fascinating story of a forgotten few whose deeds had an important long-term impact on Britain's history (THE GOOD BOOK GUIDE)

A fascinating insight into the minds of the merchant adventurers who laid the foundations for the British Empire, and much of our politics, for the next 400 years. (Keith Richmond TRIBUNE)

This is an extraordinary tale of a voyage of discovery every bit as epoch-making as those of Spain and Portugal...A richly detailed account that is a pleasure to read. (Lucinda Byatt THE HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY)

It is a heroic and tragic tale that for all the commercial and political agents at work remains, above all, a story of courage and endeavour. Evans is alert to the complexities of early modern diplomacy and cultural encounter, and the description of the survivors' experiences in Russia complements well the treatment of what they endured at sea. (Mark Hutchings LONDON MAGAZINE)

Essentially this should be a tale of a spectacular failure, yet Evans' enthusiasm in relating the achievements of their 1553 voyage is infectious...James Evans' excellent book reminds us that even the most ill-fated attempts broke new ground. These first, tentative missions eventually allowed for the eastern side of the map of the world to be inked in. (Chris Skidmore TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT)

The book's strength is in showing the extent to which the institutional structure of the joint stock company that emerged from the ill-fated voyage as the Muscovy Company was a model that was replicated to form successful ventures in British trade and imperial outreach for the next two centuries. (Robert J Mayhew BBC HISTORY)

This is the fascinating story of a forgotten few whose deeds had an important long-term impact on Britain's history. (THE GOOD BOOK GUIDE)

Book Description

A Tudor voyage of exploration - an extraordinary story of daring, discovery, tragedy and pioneering achievement.

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Format: Paperback
Even though I am not into Tudors at all, I enjoyed "Merchant Adventurers" tremendously. In the parlance of a well-known tv-show about cars, my judgment would be "subzero", and then a bit cooler still.

The Merchant Adventurers in question was a company of London merchants who, inspired by none other than Sebastian Cabot (son of the more famous John Cabot), attempted to set up a trade route with the Far East bypassing the Portugese-controlled route around the Cape of Good Hope. What must have seemed like a good idea at the time (sailing across the North Pole, or perhaps just Southeast after rounding the North Cape) turned out to be a good deal more complicated in practice: the theory that the temperatures would rise again as you got further and further north turned out to be as unfounded as was the notion that there probably was not all that much land left East of Scandinavia. On top of this, the first expedition suffered from contrary winds and a major storm that blew them apart. A practicable North-East passage to China proved to be an illusion.

Still, a lot was achieved: one ship made its way into the White Sea and some of it crew, lead by the great Richard Chancellor managed to make it all the way to Moscow and negotiate a nice trading agreement (a monopoly, effectively) with Ivan the Terrible. I won't give away the fate of the other ships.

Mr. Evans's writing is extremely good. He is clearly very knowledgeable but wears his scholarship lightly.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Merchant Adventurers takes the reader on a journey which weaves a period of time with great ease and insight. It was fascinating to discover the well blended combination very small details and major historical events.

Exacting research on a primary source has revealed to the author, which he tells with a beautifully clear prose, a fascinating tale of events that have ramifications to this day in the way that this country is now.
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Format: Hardcover
This story is both very well researched and an excellent read. The central narrative is completely compelling, and the reader almost doesn't notice that the book deals too with new developments in political thinking, groundbreaking advances in maritime skills, and economic models that were new too, at least to England.

At the heart of the account are the stories of the people involved; notably Sebastian Cabot, whose views, so enlightened for the times, lay at the philosophical heart of the venture; and Richard Chancellor, a young and brilliant mariner and seeker after scientific understanding, who placed his stamp on history.

I was gripped and highly recommend this to anyone interested in good popular history
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Format: Hardcover
This is a fascinating story at the heart of English history. Evans tells a great story here and one that is unique and well researched. Highly recommended.
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This is an excellent work of popular history. It tells a story which should be far better known (I can't believe I had never heard it before) which is gripping enough in itself. It features a cast of fascinating and remarkable characters in extraordinary situations: from ships lost at sea in terrible conditions to Englishmen desperately trying to stay vaguely sober during what seems to have been a fairly average dinner night at the court of Ivan the Terrible to two baffled (and angry) Tartars being given the third degree about strange lands by London merchants.

But the most impressive aspect of the book for me is the way in which James Evans uses the narrative to show and expound on many different aspects of the world around the story. There are fascinating vignettes which illustrate some of the major developments of the time: the early days of exploration, modern science, merchant capitalism,the impact of years of Protestantism on the way Englishmen saw the world - all of which would play a very major role in the next few hundred years of English history. There are fine sections which expound on the high politics and diplomacy of Tudor England. The chapters on the sea voyages give a real feel for how naval voyages were organised and what life was like on board ships of the time (I imagine anyone with an interest in British maritime history will find those fascinating; I certainly did - particularly the rules governing life on board drawn up by men who knew what they were talking about). And the (rather unexpected) adventures at the court of Ivan the Terrible have an almost Flashman-like quality of Englishmen abroad and trying to cope with an exotic - and rather dangerous and unstable - location.

All in all, a terrific read and highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Historian James Evans tells the dramatic but little known story of how England, slow to take up world exploration, finally set sail to discover new worlds, and began to build our island nation's reputation as a great maritime power.

Evans writes that he has always been convinced that the first duty of historical writing is to be a pleasure to read. In his handling of this remarkable true adventure story he has triumphantly succeeded.

Set in the middle of the sixteenth century, when classical myths were giving way to facts based on observation, this book charts an epic voyage to find a north east passage to what were assumed to be the riches of Asia, defying what contemporaries called 'the greatness of the dangers' to which the crews would be exposed, and from which not all ships would return. This is a remarkable tale, told with great vigour and authority.
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