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Writing travels: power, knowledge and ritual on the English East India Company’s early voyages

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Most discussions of the relationships between ‘the East’, ‘the West’ and writing have, following Edward Said, involved interpreting the representations of people and places within travel writing, novels and other literary forms. This paper argues that this restricted engagement with practices of reading and writing limits the ways in which the relationships between people involved in the global geographies constructed since the fifteenth century can be understood. Through presenting a detailed discussion of the role of royal letters within the voyages of the English East India Company in the early seventeenth century, it argues that an analysis of ‘how writing travels’ which concentrates on the production, carriage and use of texts as material objects can foreground the active and collective making of global geographies as a contested enterprise involving multiple agents in a variety of sites. This paper presents writing as a global cultural practice and traces its place in the making of an early modern trading network.

Keywords: English East India Company; global historical geography; seventeenth century; writing

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography, Queen Mary, University of London

Publication date: June 1, 2002


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