Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in English



First Advisor

Richard T. Neuse


The ideas of primitivism and progress as they appear in philosophical, poetic and dramatic works have been discussed but no study has been made of their appearance in the voyage literature of the sixteenth century, specifically those accounts in Richard Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations. The ideas and beliefs which influence the voyagers, the extent to which these outlooks are manifest in the accounts and the extent to which outlooks change over the century were studied. Description and analysis of both major and minor accounts in Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations are here presented, in chronological order. It was found that the greatest influence on the voyagers’ outlooks were those of classical philosophy, medieval travel literature, and contemporary religious and scientific ideas. Although both the primitivistic and progressivistic outlooks are present throughout the century a definite change in emphasis becomes evident. This can be seen most clearly in the way the voyagers regard distant lands and their people. We find for example, that early in the century native peoples and their existence are seen as subhuman. Later they are seen as human, and finally as ideal. Thus, there is a definite predominance of progressivism in the earlier voyage accounts, and a predominance of primitivism in the accounts written at the close of the century.