Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name





English literature--Early modern; 1500-1700; Geographical discoveries in literature


It is the purpose of this thesis to show what influence the sixteenth century voyagers had on the Elizabethan writers. For expediency, we have divided these voyages into two classes: namely, the early, from Columbus, 1492, to Vasca de Gama, 1498; and the later voyagers from de Gama to Captain Smith, 1603. We find that commerce instigated nearly all early navigation. The Turks having cut off the Mediterranean trade route with India in 1453, it was necessary to find another water route to this country. As a direct consequence, Columbus discovered the West Indies in 1492 and claimed the new found land for Spain. John Cabot in 1497 claimed the north mainland of America for England. Vasca de Gama in 1498 finally fulfilled the prime purpose by reaching India via the water route and claimed this honor for Portugal. Commerce ceased to be the sole motive for the later voyagers. Adventure, “quick wealth,” and new world supremacy among European nations were at the bottom of all sixteenth century navigation. The three great powers – England, France, and Spain – were pitted against one another in this tremendous struggle. England’s part in the affair, having direct bearing on our subject, makes us confine ourselves to those Elizabethan “Sea-Dogs” who won their country’s way into Spain, France and Portugal’s new world possessions. With reference to this thesis, the question arises, what effect did their voyages have on the literature of the period? To answer this we shall take up for brief discussion the published journals of Sir John Hawkins, Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Francis Drake, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, and Richard Eden. The stories of many of these voyages were carried by “word of mouth”; and their nature, or how far-reaching their influence, it is impossible to determine.