Eras Journal – Armstrong, C: Abstract

Abstract of Armstrong, C. “Some Representations of America and their diffusion in Elizabethan England: O Strange New World reassessed”.

This paper aims to refute the claim by historian Howard Mumford Jones that the relationship between Elizabethans and the New World was characterised by fear. It will examine texts written by those who made the journey to America in an attempt to prove that they described their contact with the environment and Native Americans in a very positive manner, seeking to encourage rather than discourage further English exploration and settlement there. Many of those who organised expeditions or made the voyage to America had gained experience of the colonial enterprise in Ireland and had preconceived ideas about the management of settlements and control of native populations. The role of the English conflict with the Spanish is also assessed, in terms of encouraging a patriotic fervour that manifested itself in a desire for action in the Americas. It will then examine the reception of these narratives in England, how the printing and book trades helped to disseminate information about America to literate, educated men and women, while peddlers and other tradesmen and sailors also spread news of the latest discoveries by word of mouth. By studying the wills of prominent booksellers and a publisher, it is possible to reveal how readily available were the texts about the New World. The essay concludes by reiterating the impression that far from being afraid of travelling to the New World, late sixteenth century English men and women were very curious and enthusiastic about the proposition.