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Voyages and Discoveries (Penguin Classics) Paperback – Abridged, 28 Oct 1982
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About the Author
Edited, abridged and introduced by Jack Beeching
Top customer reviews
But enough of him, back to the book, this is an edited version of the real thing by Jack Beeching and at over 400 tightly printed pages it packs many a punch. What makes it so interesting is that all of the many stories in the book are firsthand accounts of the travails of the participants. Hakluyt went out of his way to track them down or get written testimony and also tried to elicit as much information as possible on customs, geography and ease of travel so that the next time any one went there it would be a tad easier. England was playing catch up on the International trade front and so needed all the help it could get.
The tales often feature people from history who you will be aware of like Sir Francis Drake and Thomas Cavendish, but the breadth is amazing from Cathay to South America. There are tales of shipwreck, slavery, religious persecution, and a `request to be advised in the killing of the whale', so not one for animal lovers this. The language is of the Tudor period, but Beeching has done his best to make this easily accessible in terms of updating where necessary, but still leaves enough in to make anyone interested in language and etymology fully hooked.
A note on Beeching who is to be applauded for this remarkable book, he is an author in his own right and his book `The Chinese Opium Wars'The Chinese Opium Wars (Harvest Book; Hb 350) is an absolute classic - one of the best history books I have ever read and he is the main reason why I bought this in the first place. An essential read for anyone interested in history.
Hakluyt begins with some early medieval accounts, possibly in an attempt to prove the pedigree of English exploration. There are a few of these before we get to accounts of 16th century travellers voyaging from England to Russia, the Moluccas (Maluku), Brazil, California (possibly), Pegu (in Burma), and many other places in between. Francis Drake is here, of course, as is Cavendish. Frobisher's voyages to discover a northwest passage are here. But there are other, less famous, adventures. The account of Miles Philips should be made into a movie for all the travails encountered - storm at sea in the West Indies, massacre by Spaniards, slavery in Mexico, trial by Inquisition, escape assisted by native Mexicans, another journey at sea after more than a dozen years, and much more. Others' trips to Persia and Central Asia are fraught with robbers and assaults by cavalry archers, and rest on the acquiescence of local tyrannical potentates.
Besides the adventures we get bits of ethnographic detail from around the world. Part of Hakluyt's purpose was a documentation of the world, not only for reasons of trade, religion, and conquest, but also as an academic exercise, to discover what exists on the earth, to pursue knowledge for its own ends. This, combined with the thrilling aspect of many of the accounts, makes the book entertaining and interesting no matter how you view the legacy of these men who, after all, participated in the slave trade.
This abridged collection ought to be more than sufficient for most people. It's an incredibly good read.
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