- 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)
Merchant Adventurers: The Voyage of Discovery that Transformed Tudor England Hardcover – 12 Sep 2013
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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)
A Tudor voyage of exploration - an extraordinary story of daring, discovery, tragedy and pioneering achievement.See all Product description
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a well written, interesting, and very entertaining book about one of the lesser documented aspects of this period. Looking forward to the authors next book.Published on 12 Mar. 2015 by Russell
I certainly recommend Merchant Adventurers by James Evans. It was very interesting and I found it quite exciting to recognize some of the names I had heard in the past and sadly... Read morePublished on 10 Aug. 2014 by Christine Gourley
This is a fascinating, and in places, thrilling book to read. It is especially interesting because it is factual and researched in amazing detail, giving many insights into... Read morePublished on 18 Dec. 2013 by Paul L
Very readable and enjoyable writing on a piece of history of which I was not previously aware. A good readPublished on 13 Dec. 2013 by A M L
Interesting, informative, even inspiring, and beautifully written. Not only a gripping tale of daring maritime adventure, but also a meticulously researched and vividly painted... Read morePublished on 11 Dec. 2013 by A Baines
James Evans , a young historian who wears his considerable knowledge lightly, tells a thrilling story of exploration which opens with two wooden ships gripped in relentless Arctic... Read morePublished on 5 Dec. 2013 by Robin Oakley
This is a highly readable tale of high adventures on the high seas. Authoritatively and deftly told by the author James Evans, it's a very compelling read, which will captivate... Read morePublished on 3 Dec. 2013 by Jamie Lindsay
Merchant Adventurers is a good read. In the best tradition of Dava Sobel's "Longitude" or Giles Milton's "Nathaniel's Nutmeg" James Evans has brought maritime historical facts to... Read morePublished on 12 Nov. 2013 by Mike Ratsey