The Libelle of Englyshe Polycye, a poem written in 1436 against the backdrop of the Hundred Years’ War that details European trade routes and ties, pioneers the mercantilist jingoism and protectionist sea-keeping that informs so much of Elizabethan colonial thinking. This poem is also one of the more important summaries of mercantile voyaging, piracy, and maritime travel. As a milestone work in the history of medieval travel writing, the poem has a tradition of being included in anthologies of travel writing, starting with Richard Hakluyt’s monumental second edition of his Principal Navigations (1598- 1600). Professor Sobecki argues that Hakluyt used this work as the cornerstone of his expansionist thought and that the Libelle also serves as the blueprint for his Discourse on Western Planting (1584), one of the founding documents of English settler colonialism.
Sebastian Sobecki is Professor of Later Medieval English Literature, Department of English and Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto.
The CRRS Friday Workshops are a recurring speaker series held approximately once a month during the academic year, and feature both local and visiting scholars presenting their recent work in a seminar-style format. These events are an invigorating way for the medieval and early modern scholarly communities at the University of Toronto to converse, host international scholars in the field, and participate in ongoing research on the Renaissance and Reformation.