Travel Guides that Shaped the Nation: Abstract

My name is Madeline Grimm and I’m very excited to start working on my honors thesis this summer!

My honors thesis will focus on British travel literature during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and its impact on British society and culture. Travel by British citizens in the early modern world was a lengthy and challenging enterprise. Travel to America required capital and government support, while traveling to Europe often involved developing contacts and connections at local universities, courts and through trade.

A comparison of the texts relating to British travel in America and Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and the choices made in documentation, provides a unique perspective on the education of the public and the development of national identity and national goals. During this time period English people traveled more frequently and greater distances than ever before. Many early modern travelers did not view their travel observations as spontaneous, but rather as highly methodical because they feared they might not learn the correct or useful things from travel. To address this concern, intellectuals generated a body of prescriptive travel literature, teaching potential journeyers how to evaluate and focus their experiences.

My thesis will examine how travel guides provided data and information that impacted imperial expansion and shaped cultural changes in Britain, and how British citizens who traveled or wrote about travel created a culture interested in experiential learning and imperial expansion. To examine this topic, I will visit special collections in the United Kingdom and United States this summer and view original travel documents in person.

Thanks for reading!