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Richard Hakluyt

[hack'loot] author of a book that spurred European interest in navigation and colonization

Richard Hakluyt, from a painting by Kenneth Shoesmith

Richard Hakluyt was probably born in early 1552, in either Hereford or London; the exact date and place, however, are unknown. Both his father and mother died while he was quite young, and he was subsequently raised by a cousin. He was educated at the Westminster School, where he was a queen's scholar. He then attended Christ Church College, Oxford, from which he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1574, and his Master of Arts in 1575. He was ordained a priest in the Anglican Church in 1578, and the church was his principal "employer" throughout his life.

Soon after completing his master's work Hakluyt began giving public lectures on geography. An avid collector of information about English voyages of discovery, his researches led to the publication of Divers Voyages Touching the Discoverie of America and the Llands Adjacent unto the Same, Made First of all by our Englishmen and Afterward by the Frenchmen and Britons, in 1582. This work led to his appointment as chaplain to the English Ambassador to France, in 1583.

While living in Paris Hakluyt spent a lot of his time collecting information concerning French and Spanish movements in America. This work led to A particular discourse concerning Wesierne discoveries written in the yere 1584, by Richarde Hackluyt of Oxforde, at the requeste and direction of the righte worshipfull Mr Walter Ragfly before the comynge home of his twoo barkes, which was not actually published until 1877. The manuscript's object was to recommend the enterprise of planting English colonies in North America.

In 1587, Hakluyt published A notable historie containing foure voyages made by certayne French captaynes into Florida, an English translation of Histoire notable de la Florida, which had originally been published in Paris in 1586.

In 1588, Hakluyt returned to England, where he remained the rest of his life.

Hakluyt's best-known work, The Principall Navigations, Voiages, and Discoveries of the English Nation, consisting of eyewitness accounts and other records of more than 200 voyages, was published in 1589. These stories stirred up interest in navigation and colonization, especially in the New World. The work was subsequently expanded to three volumes, which were published between 1598 and 1600.

title page of The Principall Navigations...

In 1601 Hakluyt edited a translation from the Portuguese of Antonio Galvano's The Discoveries of the World. That same year he became an adviser to the East India Company, supplying them with maps and informing them as to potential markets.

Hakluyt's last publication was a translation of Hernando de Soto's discoveries in Florida entitled Virginia, richly valued by the description of Florida her next neighbour (1609), which was intended to encourage the young colony of Virginia.

Richard Hakluyt died on November 23, 1616, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Galileo Project

East India Company
Hernando de Soto

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This page was last updated on 04/29/2017.