Hakluyt’s Promise An Elizabethan's Obsession for an English America Peter C. Mancall

Publication date:
06 Apr 2010
Yale University Press
400 pages: 235 x 156mm
44 b-w illus. & 1 map
Sales territories:

The most comprehensive portrait yet of Richard Hakluyt, indefatigable promoter of English colonization in America

Richard Hakluyt the younger, a contemporary of William Shakespeare, advocated the creation of English colonies in the New World at a time when the advantages of this idea were far from self-evident. This book describes in detail the life and times of Hakluyt, a trained minister who became an editor of travel accounts.  Hakluyt’s Promise demonstrates his prominent role in the establishment of English America as well as his interests in English opportunities in the East Indies. The volume presents nearly 50 illustrations—many unpublished since the sixteenth century—and offers a fresh view of Hakluyt’s milieu and the central concerns of the Elizabethan age.

Though he never traveled farther than Paris, young Hakluyt spent much of the 1580s recording information about the western hemisphere and became an international authority on overseas exploration. The book traces his rise to prominence as a source of information and inspiration for England’s policy makers, including the queen, and his advocacy for colonies in Roanoke and Jamestown. Hakluyt’s thought was shaped by debates that stretched across Europe, and his interests ranged just as widely, encompassing such topics as peaceful coexistence with Native Americans, the New World as a Protestant Holy Land, and in, his later life, trade with the Spice Islands.

Peter C. Mancall is professor of history, University of Southern California, and director of the USC–Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute. He lives in Los Angeles.

“Peter Mancall follows Richard Hakluyt through the crooked streets and paneled private rooms of late Renaissance London and Paris—and shows for the first time how this scholar and writer, who rarely left the south of England, became his country's most eloquent impresario of travel, trade and colonization.”—Anthony Grafton, Princeton University

"In this remarkable achievement, Peter Mancall has drawn on cultural, social, intellectual, and political history to produce an intellectual biography of extraordinary depth and luminosity."—Andrew Fitzmaurice, William and Mary Quarterly

"A thorough, highly readable account of one of the most elusive players in the early history of English America. Hakluyt's Promise is certain to be the Elizabethan geographer's definitive biography for years to come."—Eliga H. Gould, The Journal of American History