The Age of Discovery

The Age of Discovery

Engraving of indigenous people

Illustration from Dampier's Voyages

The Age of Discovery was inaugurated by pioneering Iberian navigators, sailors, cartographers and geographers, ushering in not only an era of unprecedented maritime and terrestrial exploration, but also commercial exploitation and imperial conquest in Africa, the Americas and Asia.

While Spanish and Portuguese efforts, most notably those of Henry the Navigator, Vasco da Gama, Columbus and Cortez, dominated the first phase of European overseas expansion, northern European nations, anxious to secure their share of the spoils, launched extensive projects of their own.

By the late sixteenth century, driven in large measure by exploding demand for goods such as sugar, tobacco, and indigo, England had acquired numerous American and Caribbean colonies and a rapidly growing share of the Atlantic slave trade.

Hakluyt title page

Richard Hakluyt (c. 1552–1616): The Principal Navigations...
King's has the first printing of The Principal Navigations, whose title page contains a reference to ‘the famous victorie atchieued at the citie of Cadiz, 1596’, which was censored in later editions.
[1 image]

Novum Organum

Francis Bacon (1561-1626): Novum Organum Scientiarium
The title page of the first edition of Bacon's work shows a ship between two pillars. This symbolises the departure from the Old World to the New, with all the knowledge the journeys will bring.
[2 images]

Indigenous person from 'Voyages'

William Dampier (1656-1715): A Collection of Voyages
Illustrations from a four-volume set published in 1729, A Collection of Voyages, written by the privateer Dampier and some of the men who served with him.
[Slideshow]

A woman from the Pacific

James Cook (1728-1779): A voyage to the Pacific Ocean
Illustrations from a journey through the Pacific to the west of North America, taken between 1776 and 1780.
[Slideshow]

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