Arts and Culture
Co-Authors: Andrea Deri - Navigating through Navigation History , British Library
In this methodological paper we explore references to indigenous navigators’ knowledge in the Arabian Sea in Jan Huygen van Linschoten’s Itinerario (1596). The Itinerario is recognised as one of the most significant records of industrial espionage in navigation history. It reflects the Dutch mariner’s, Van Linschoten’s, perspective of classified Portuguese navigation knowledge and commercial potentials in the Indian and Pacific Ocean in the late 16th century. VanLinschoten’s travel notes were first published in Dutch in 1596 - Itinerario : Voyage ofte schipvaert van Jan Huyghen van Linschoten naer Oost ofte Portugaels Indien, 1579-1592 (Travel account of the voyage of the sailor Jan Huyghen van Linschoten to the Portuguese East India, 1579-1592) - soon followed by others, including an English translation in 1598. While there is a large body of research on the economic and political consequences of revealing secret Portuguese knowledge presented, the Itinerario has been less studied as a source that portrays contemporary local navigation knowledge. As both island sailors and Portuguese mariners were excellent long-haul oceanic navigators, we assume they were eager to exchange information that would make their journeys shorter, safer and more profitable. By comparing various language editions of the Itinerario and other relevant sources we present how local knowledge associated with islands presently known as Lakshadweep, Maldives and Chagos is portrayed in textual, visual and cartographic representations. We hope to show the importance of using primary sources for historical research, including local knowledge of island communities, from which the European navigators learned and benefitted greatly.