Richard Hakluyt’s early compilations offer compelling case studies of the ideological effects of textual form. Hakluyt the editor understood the relationship between the publication of navigational documents and nationalism. The structure of the compilation itself provides a mechanism for asserting the increasingly national ambitions and imagined preeminence of early modern England. The compilation’s seemingly compendious and authoritative reports about a wider world offered rhetorical support to particular political interests. Its orientation to knowledge is evident not only in the compiled narratives themselves, but also in the structuring and prefacing: on the page, the New World becomes eminently knowable and domesticable, despite its supposed difference and savagery. The essay demonstrates that this characterization of the New World is not simply a matter of content; rather, through their arrangements of contributing materials and textual accoutrements, compilations such as Hakluyt’s were able to stitch together the imagined possibility of English global ascendancy.
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