Richard Hakluyt Biography


Although Richard Hakluyt (HAK-lewt), born about 1552, enjoyed a successful career in the Church of England, he was, from his youth, driven by a boundless enthusiasm for the literature of the sea. In 1582, he published Divers Voyages Touching the Discoverie of America, and in 1589 appeared the first edition of the great collection for which he is chiefly known, The Principall Navigations, Voiages, and Discoveries of the English Nation.

The book ranges from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s story of the fabled conquest of Iceland by King Arthur to a Dutch chronicler’s account of the defeat of the Spanish Armada, and from the mythical discovery of America by the Welsh prince Madoc to the voyages of John Cabot, Sir Francis Drake, Thomas Cavendish, Martin Frobisher, and Sir Humphrey Gilbert. In it, one senses not only the immense courage of men facing the unknown dangers of uncharted seas but also the surprisingly businesslike attitude they took toward their tasks. By bringing to light a number of important accounts of events that had been obscure, Hakluyt helped to focus the public imagination on discovery and colonization.

Later, Hakluyt published several other translations and books of explorations but none as important as The Principall Navigations. He died in London, November 23, 1616, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.


Andrews, K. R. “New Light on Hakluyt.” Mariner’s Mirror 37 (1951).

Lynam, Edward, ed. Richard Hakluyt and His Successors. London: Hakluyt Society, 1946.

Parks, George Bruner. Richard Hakluyt and the English Voyages. Edited by James A. Williamson. 2d ed. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1961.

Payne, Anthony. Richard Hakluyt and His Books. London: Hakluyt Society, 1997.

Quinn, D. B., ed. The Hakluyt Handbook. 2 vols. London: Hakluyt Society, 1974.

Whittek, Paul. “The Turkish Documents in Hakluyt’s Voyages.” Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research 19 (1942).