Pirates, Politicians, and Urban Intellectuals: Toward a Cultural History of the Atlantic Frontier
Recent scholarship has tended to treat early literature about the Atlantic world separately from investigations of actual sea voyages. This chapter argues for a more integrated approach that focuses on connections between maritime communities that outfitted and sailed ships; scholars, cosmographers, and mathematicians who gathered and codified information about the Atlantic world; and major patrons of Atlantic voyages, including privy councilors with a strategic interest in privateering and exploration. It argues that interactions between these cohorts, often deliberately promoted by major figures at the royal court, produced a growing body of detailed knowledge and technical expertise related to navigation and conditions on the ocean’s distant shores. In addition to direct observation and experience, this knowledge and expertise required a variety of specific skills normally possessed by different social groups, ranging from linguistic analysis by humanist scholars to metallurgical science, new forms of mathematics, experimental agriculture, and a sharp eye for profitable commodities and trading opportunities characteristic of merchant factors. The chapter examines how individuals who differed widely in their social status, educational backgrounds, and occupations collaborated in the development of a distinctive culture of Atlantic exploration.