Travel: A Literary History

Travel: A Literary History

By (author) Peter Whitfield


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No previous generation has ever travelled so energetically or so obsessively as ours, nor has travel writing ever been so much in fashion as it is now. But behind the self-conscious literary artistry of today's narratives there lies a rich and fascinating history of travel writing, stretching back over several thousand years. Travel writing has emerged from migration, war, exploration, trade, conquest, pilgrimage, science, and poetic longing. But when they recorded their travels, the military commanders of Greece and Rome, the navigators of the Age of Discovery, the diplomats and missionaries of the seventeenth century, the dilettantes who set out on the Grand Tour, the romantic travellers and the scientists of the nineteenth century all had one thing in common: they were re-imagining the world, re-interpreting it in their own minds and for their readers. This is the first general survey of the entire history of travel literature, with illustrations reproduced from manuscripts and books in the Bodleian Library's collections. Writers covered include Marco Polo, Sir John Mandeville, Thomas Coryate, Captain Cook, T.E. Lawrence, and Christopher Columbus as well as Boswell and Johnson, Byron, Ruskin, Defoe, Conrad, and James. This book highlights over a hundred texts, showing how one motive for travelling has been succeeded by another, and how travel writing has often inhabited a strange borderland between truth and imagination, fact and fiction. It demonstrates how travel writers have slowly outgrown their traditional stance of superiority to all things 'foreign', and have moved towards a deeper sensitivity to other lands and other cultures.

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  • Hardback | 336 pages
  • 164 x 234 x 38mm | 721.21g
  • 01 Apr 2012
  • The Bodleian Library
  • Oxford
  • English
  • 16 colour plates, 18 black & white illustrations
  • 1851243380
  • 9781851243389
  • 215,042

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Author Information

Peter Whitfield is the author of numerous books on a wide range of subjects, including maps, English poetry, and the history of science.

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Review quote

'Subtly written, wide ranging and beautifully produced' -- Philip Hoare Sunday Telegraph 'This is a book which every serious reader of travel books will find absorbing; it is probably the most thoughtful study of the subject since Paul Fussell's Abroad in 1980.' -- John Ure Times Literary Supplement 'In this landmark book, Peter Whitfield casts his gaze across three millenia of writing ... [it is] a marvel of compactness ... a seamless job of making coherent some sense of development and direction in the genre.' -- Tom Adair The Scotsman 'An important book which uncovers the history of travel writing before we learned to call it travel writing.' Conde Nast Traveller

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