A world for the subject and a world of witnesses for the evidence : developments in geographical literature and the travel narrative in seventeenth-century England
In the latter half of the seventeenth century, the first-person overseas voyage narrative enjoyed an unprecedented degree of popularity in England. This thesis is concerned with texts written by travellers and the increasing perception that such information might be useful to those engaged in newly-developing scientific specialisms. It draws upon a wide range of texts including geographiae, physico-theological texts, first-person voyage narratives and imaginary voyage prose fictions. The main focus of the thesis is on the movement away from traditional encyclopaedic geographical textbooks whose treatment of non-European countries comprised an amalgam of unattributed information and a mass of traditional and erudite beliefs, towards a priontising of eyewitness accounts by named observers. Following an introductory survey of the production of an indigenous body of geographical literature in England, the first chapter traces the decline in popularity of traditional geographiae and the separation of regional description from general theories of the earth. The second chapter shows how in the Restoration period the concerted efforts of Fellows of the newly-established Royal Society resulted in a significant increase in the number of overseas travel narratives being published. The third chapter looks at the way in which the Royal Society's campaign developed from its initiation in 1666 to the close of the century, focusing on the response of travellers to the Society's requests for information. The fourth chapter considers the way in which earlier accounts were advertised as fulfilling contemporary expectations of this type of discourse. The fifth and sixth chapters concern fictitious voyage narratives. Imitative of a genre the value of which was increasingly seen as residing in its veracity, these fictions adapted in accordance with the changes being introduced to real voyage accounts whilst continuing to perpetuate the archaic myths and traditional beliefs which had been ehminated from factual geographical description. Appended to the thesis is a list of accounts of voyages and travels outside Europe, printed in the Philosophical Transactions (1665-1700). Also listed are reviews and abstracts of geographical texts, inquiries concerning specific locations and directions and instructions aimed at seamen, with brief biographical information about the authors to indicate the range of contributors to that journal.