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The English, in fact , were late-comers to the profitable business of distant trade and voyages of discovery, and Hakluyt wrote his documents partly with a view to stimulating national pride in this area. By the sixteenth century this was no idle attempt: the English were seeking out further lands and riskier routes in order to pre-empt their European neighbors. Hakluyt meant his book to be useful for navigation and trade. His research was meticulous and he relied on eyewitness accounts wherever possible. The result is perhaps even more than he intended: not just a series of fascinating accounts, which incidentally show the progress of English prose in the sixteenth century, but also the first "modern" treatment of the world, breaking with the ingrained traditions of medieval cosmography.
Renaissance diplomat and part-time spy, William Hakluyt was also England's first serious geographer, gathering together a wealth of accounts about the wide-ranging travels and discoveries of the sixteenth-century English. One of the epics of this great period of expansion, The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation describes, in the words of the explorers themselves, an astonishing era in which the English grew rapidly aware of the sheer size and strangeness of their world. Mingling accounts of the journeys of renowned adventurers such as Drake and Frobisher with descriptions by other explorers and traders to reveal a nation beginning to dominate the seas, Hakluyt's great work was originally intended principally to assist navigation and trade. It also presents one of the first and greatest modern portraits of the globe.
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Edited, abridged and introduced by Jack Beeching