Skip to main content

The Voyage of Sir Francis Drake Around the Whole Globe by Richard Hakluyt

Cover image © Penguin.
To celebrate the 80th Anniversary of Penguin books, the publisher has released a selection of 80 ‘Little Black Classics’ for a tiny 80p each. After being greeted by a wall of them in the Islington Green branch of Waterstones, I was sold on the concept and bought a load.

The first book to catch my attention was The Voyage of Sir Francis Drake Around the Whole Globe by Richard Hakluyt. The book contains two narratives of maritime journeys.

The eponymous account tells the story of Sir Francis Drake’s circumnavigation of the world between 1577 and 1580. The story that is told, in many respects, is void of any great detail, but it is apparent that what you’re in fact reading is a form of propaganda extolling the virtues of English maritime exploration and belittling the Spanish at every opportunity. 

Ultimately, the whole circumnavigation of the globe takes meagre twenty or so pages, and, other than providing a few interesting details about coconuts and the colonisation of Nova Albion (a settlement in modern-day California), it is over too soon.

Perhaps more interesting, mainly for the extra detail it affords the modern reader, is the snappily titled Prosperous voyage of the worshipful Thomas Candish of Trimley in the County of Suffolk Esquire, into the South Sea, and thence round about the circumference of the whole earth, begun in the year of our Lord 1586, and finished 1588.

Thomas Cavendish was a privateer, a sort of state-approved pirate, who was granted permission by the Crown to attack enemy ships and colonies. His voyage was the first to purposefully try and follow the  earlier journey of Drake.

Hakluyt’s accounts of his captain's interactions with various indigenous peoples in South America, skirmishes with Spanish colonists and then trading during a stay in Java are perhaps the most engaging moments in what is another whirlwind story of round the world travel.

The detailed moments of description do evoke a sense of excitement for the maritime and global discovery of the past; descriptions such as: 
“There are also in this garden fig-trees which bear continually, also pompions, melons, cucumbers, radishes, rosemary, and thyme, with many other herbs and fruits. At the other end of the house there is also another orchard, where grow oranges sweet and sour, lemons, pomegranates, and limes, with divers other fruits.”
It is hard to imagine a time where there were genuinely parts of the earth that were only partially discovered and barely understood, and what Hakluyt does, albeit with great brevity, is bring that moment to life.

For more information about Richard Hakluyt visit: http://www.hakluyt.com/

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Atay Maghrebi: To Essaouira and the Atlantic

Leaving Marrakech, the landscape stays flat, except for a few distant outcrops of rock. The sensation of the inhospitality of the environment creeps up on you as the olive groves become fewer and further between and rough scrub runs away to the base of distant hills.
Eventually, the landscape starts to undulate as you pass through small towns like Sid L’Mokhtar, and, after two hours, Morocco simply runs out of land as the coach starts to plummet down to the Atlantic coastline and the peeling whitewash of Essaouira’s medina.

The morning started with the obligatory slices of sweet cake dipped into apricot jam, with a side of yoghurt and coffee. I had a chat with Merissa who was already awake and wearing sunglasses like she was nursing a hangover.
I packed up my bags and meandered my way out of the medina towards Bab Laksour to get a taxi.
Having learned the lesson last year that taxi metres are always mysteriously broken in Marrakech, I readied myself for a battle with the driver who…

Atay Maghrebi: Out of the Dark and into Jemaa El-Fnaa

The night time offers a wealth of opportunity and intrigue in almost any country, but when I'm somewhere where my understanding of the language extends to just a handful of phrases and disconnected words, I find it all the more enthralling. Marrakech genuinely quickens the pulse and widens the eyes by night, with the famous Jemaa El-Fnaa as its wildly arrhythmic beating heart.

After a day of perfectly idle wandering and preparing for my journey to Essaouira, I sat up on the roof terrace, ordered atay, read the ending of Alex Garland’s The Beach and waited for sunset.

During this time, a Dutch woman and a Belgian man sat near to me and started to talk about a range of subjects. Most of their discussion was centred around the regular banalities of two travellers who don’t know each other well and clearly don’t have a great deal in common.
Shortly before sunset, the Belgian man caught my attention as he started to regale his newfound friend with quotes from the Quran taken both ou…

From a Crooked Rib by Nuruddin Farah

I stumbled across Nuruddin Farah’s novels when searching for something written by a Somali author. Perhaps due to the conflict that has raged for years in Somalia, it is very difficult to find much from Somali writers published in English.
From a Crooked Rib was published in 1970 and tells the story of Ebla, a young, orphaned, illiterate nomadic girl, who runs away from her encampment. She takes the decision to leave upon learning of her Grandfather’s intention to marry her off to an older man within their Jes (a group of families living in an encampment together).
She firstly escapes to a town, Belet Amin, where she finds her cousin and his pregnant wife. She also finds a guide and confidante in a character known only as the widow. Things seem settled until, yet again, Ebla finds her freedom compromised by a male character – this time her cousin, whose wife and child Ebla has been nursing.
In her haste she leaves Belet Amin with the widow’s nephew, bound for Mogadishu – still called