The Literature of British Travel and Exploration

Submitting Institution

Nottingham Trent University

Unit of Assessment

English Language and Literature

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

The activities of Nottingham Trent's Centre for Travel Writing Studies influence learned societies' projects, museum exhibitions and universities' study of travel writing and culture. Our public engagements principally take the form of museum events, library talks and presentations, and media appearances.

Our pioneering research centre creates new understandings of travel writing, within and beyond academia, and produces a fresh appreciation of the centrality of travel to British history and culture. In partnership with institutions such as Coventry Transport Museum, the National Maritime Museum, the Joseph Banks Trust, the Hakluyt Society, and Nottingham's Bromley House Library, we organise exhibitions, arrange public events, and, through the publication of important historical travel accounts preserve, conserve and present cultural heritage.

Our collaborations impact on how museums and libraries view and present their collections and on societies' publications. Our research influences university syllabi. We provide specialist knowledge to media researchers, and other inquirers. Through broadcast interviews, podcasts, magazine and newspaper articles, introductions, textbooks, companions and encyclopaedias our work affects audiences' understanding of the written representation of travel.

Underpinning research

The Unit's expertise in travel writing studies is deep-rooted. Our unique concentration of scholars in this field — Tim Youngs (1987-), Sharon Ouditt (1992-), Tim Fulford (1995-2012), Carl Thompson (2003-) — enabled the formation in 2003 of the Centre for Travel Writing Studies, reinforced by the appointments of Claire Jowitt (2005-12), Betty Hagglund (2007-2010), Neil Chambers (2008-), and Leverhulme Early Career Fellow Robert Burroughs (2007-2009). Through our activities in travel and exploration literature, we have shaped academic and public understanding of travel writing. Key introductions by Youngs and Thompson help form readers' comprehension of the genre and of developments in its study. Youngs' Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing (co-edited with Hulme, 2002; 6,342 sales at 31 December 2012) helped to define the field and remains the standard guide to it. Thompson's New Critical Idiom volume on travel writing (2011), `a really exceptional introduction to the genre' (Journal of Postcolonial Studies 48, 4, 2012), joined it on HEI syllabuses and as a general primer. Both it and the Cambridge Companion are being translated into Arabic. Youngs's Cambridge Introduction to Travel Writing (May 2013; 549 copies sold at 13th September) was hailed by Condé Nast Traveller as `magisterial'. Youngs was Associate Editor to the revised Oxford Companion to English Literature (ed. Dinah Birch, 2010), to which he and Thompson contributed numerous entries on travel writing, including Youngs' entry on travel writing itself.

Foundational scholarly contributions include Youngs' published work on Victorian travellers in Africa (1994); Fulford's on travel, exploration, and empire (2004) and on Romantic-period Native Americans (2006); Thompson's on shipwreck (2007), exploration, `misadventure', and modes of Romantic travel (2007); Jowitt's on early modern piracy (2006; 2010); and Chambers on Banks, collecting and the British Museum (2007-9). Youngs founded (in 1997) and continues to edit the leading journal in the field: Studies in Travel Writing, now completing its seventeenth year, and published quarterly by Routledge since 2009.

The Centre for Travel Writing Studies has launched several landmark editorial projects. Its Hakluyt and Banks series will see into print two of the great collections of travel-related writing. The Hakluyt Project, developed by Jowitt at NTU, will lead to the first scholarly edition of Richard Hakluyt's The Principal Navigations (2nd edition, 1598-1600) and has resulted in a co-edited book on Richard Hakluyt and Travel Writing in Early Modern Europe (2012) arising from a conference. The new edition of Hakluyt is scheduled to be published by OUP in 19 volumes (2014-2016), with Jowitt as co-General Editor (alongside Professor Daniel Carey, NUI, Galway), under the guidance of an international Editorial Board and Editorial Advisory Board ( The project has attracted over £162,000 of funding since 2008. The Centre for Travel Writing Studies has also hosted the Joseph Banks Archive Project since 2008. During that period the Banks Project has attracted over £400,000 worth of funding from more than 40 charitable sources. Governed by registered charity the Sir Joseph Banks Trust and led by NTU Research Fellow and Executive Director, Neil Chambers, the project aims to reconstruct and promote the importance of Banks's massive correspondence, and through it to explore both Banks's career and science, and exploration and settlement globally during his lifetime. Chambers has been publishing The Indian and Pacific Correspondence of Sir Joseph Banks, 1768-1820 in 7 volumes (Pickering and Chatto) between 2008 and 2013. A subsequent African edition is contracted.

References to the research

1. Peter Hulme and Tim Youngs, eds, The Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing (CUP, 2002), co-edited book. `[It] puts travel writing into a deep and sophisticated perspective. It's the most stimulating work of its kind that I know.' Travel writer Colin Thubron, personal correspondence.

2. Carl Thompson, The Suffering Traveller And The Romantic Imagination (OUP, 2007), authored book. `[I]t is not often that a single idea or motif — here that of misadventure — can be inserted into such a thoroughly researched field and have such a transformative effect'. Modern Language Review 104.1 (2009).

3. Carl Thompson, Romantic-Era Shipwreck Narratives (Trent Editions, 2007), edited book. `[T]his superb volume ... along with Thompson's [Suffering Traveller] should begin a period of sustained interest in the sea in Romantic scholarship.' Year's Work in English Studies (2009).

4. Neil Chambers, The Indian and Pacific Correspondence of Sir Joseph Banks, 1768-1820 7 vols (Pickering and Chatto, 2008-2013, vol 8 to be published in May 2014). `Chambers's collections of Banks's letters not only provide an invaluable scholarly resource, but give a wonderful flavour of the world that produced Banks, and which he then proceeded to shape.' Times Literary Supplement quoted at

5. Claire Jowitt, The Culture of Piracy, 1580-1630: English Literature and Seaborne Crime (Ashgate, 2010), authored book. Shortlisted for the European Society for the Study of English Book Award 2012 in the Literatures in the English Language category.


6. Daniel Carey and Claire Jowitt, eds, Richard Hakluyt and Travel Writing in Early Modern Europe (Ashgate, 2012), co-edited book. `[A] landmark in scholarly engagement with Hakluyt's work... open[s] up new avenues of scholarship and critical interpretation.' International Journal of Maritime History. Quoted at

Funding relating to this case study includes:

  • £400k since 2008 from more than 40 charitable funders, including £162,941 from Leverhulme, for the The Sir Joseph Banks Archive Project (Chambers)
  • £161.2k since 2008 from the BA, Clark Library, USA, Clothworkers Company, Scouloudi, MHRA and NMM for Jowitt's Hakluyt project
  • £5.8K from the BA and £2.8K from the Mellon Centre between 2008 and 2010, for Thompson's Maria Graham project

Details of the impact

Museums: collaborations with and influences on public bodies

Our principal collaborations have been with the National Maritime Museum and Coventry Transport Museum. Following Youngs' contribution to the National Maritime Museum/Hakluyt Society Conference `Exploring Travel and Texts' (2005), and Thompson's organisation of a colloquium on `Shipwreck in the long Eighteenth Century' (2006), Chambers and Fulford, Jowitt, and Thompson have each organised conferences and colloquia, hosted by the Maritime Museum and open to the public, on aspects of English exploration. In 2008 Jowitt organised `Richard Hakluyt 1552-1616: life, times, legacy' (120 delegates/HEI and non HEI based); in 2010 Thompson organised `Shipwreck in Art and Literature' (40 delegates, HEI and non HEI based). In 2011 Chambers and Fulford organised `Joseph Banks, India, and the Pacific' (90 delegates, HEI and non-HEI based; keynote by Chambers), an event the Museum's Director of Research describes as `particularly influential in helping to shape the Museum's thinking on exploration and its legacies' (source 1). Our partnership with the National Maritime Museum was strengthened by Jowitt's and Fulford's appointments as Caird Fellows in 2009 and 2010 respectively. The Museum's Director of Research is on the Hakluyt Project's Editorial Board and hosted an Editorial Workshop for it (2011); Jowitt served on the Board of the Museum's Journal for Maritime Research (Routledge); the Museum advertises the Hakluyt Project through its website (source 6). In 2009 Chambers and Fulford organised with the Lincoln Museum and Art Gallery ('The Collection') a conference on 'Cultivating Empire: Exploration, Science, and Literature', with Chambers' opening talk to 75 non-academic delegates. Chambers' collaborative work with `The Collection'/Lincoln Council' was essential and his expertise vital to Lincoln Museum's successful £137k Heritage Lottery Fund grant application in May 2013 (for an exhibition of the Endeavour voyage to be curated, with associated educational activities, by Chambers in 2014). Youngs' AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award with Coventry Transport Museum, commenced 2009, has benefited Museum staff by affording insight into new ways of presenting material and has `highlighted areas of the collection connected to travel writing which would not have been possible without [the student's] placement' (source 4). A small and already popular permanent exhibition is among the outcomes.

Guiding the work of societies, libraries and other registered charities:

Chambers delivered the Annual Lecture to the Sir Joseph Banks Society, 'Joseph Banks and the Secret Service' (August 2010, public audience of 200+), sits on its library committee and advises it on academic matters and enquiries; Fulford has been a Trustee of the Joseph Banks Trust, promoting knowledge of Banks; Thompson spoke on `Byron the Traveller' to the East Midlands division of the University of the Third Age (2008, audience of 100), and to the Hucknall Byron Society (2009, audience of 30); Jowitt gave the Annual Lecture on 'Queen Elizabeth I and Piracy' to the Queen Elizabeth I Society of America (2012, New Orleans, audience of 200). Youngs gave the opening address to the 2012 meeting of the Prince Albert Society (Coburg, 30+) and arranged travel writing talks at Nottingham's Bromley House Library (Susan Bassnett, March 2012; Sara Wheeler, May 2013, both 30+), which `worked to generate interest in [the Library's] collection and programme' (source 2). Youngs continued to serve on the Hakluyt Society's Council in 2008 and 2009. Jowitt was co-opted onto it in 2012. Our relationship with that body `has certainly been an important feature of the Society's development' from before 2008 and has `brought together differing approaches to the study of travel literature in such a way as to promote significant intellectual advance' (source 3). Chambers has advised on decisions regarding export licences for works of art of national importance (for Tate Britain, Arts Council England). Youngs is President, and Ouditt Treasurer, of the International Society for Travel Writing (from 2009).

Fostering public awareness of the cultural history of travel through media contributions:

We provide expert contributions on the commemoration and re-evaluation of travel history and writing to radio and television programmes; magazine and newspaper articles; encyclopaedia entries; podcasts and websites; and specialist knowledge to media researchers. Chambers supplied an interview and research about Banks for Dan Cruickshank on 'Kew: The Garden that changed the World' (BBC, April 2009), and articles and interviews to local media (BBC Radio Nottingham, Nottingham Evening Post). Thompson was a 'talking head' for a documentary on 'Travel Writing' (BBC Scotland Learning, 2008) and was interviewed for BBC East Midlands TV news and BBC Radio Nottingham about Byron as traveller (both 2009); Jowitt's article 'Queen Elizabeth's Pirates' was cover and lead feature in BBC History Magazine (July, 2010: circulation 69,234; the podcast had 152,000 hits); her 'Tudor Voyaging and Richard Hakluyt' was published (with podcast) in BBC History Magazine (November 2012). Chambers' expertise on Banks is frequently used by broadcast media: e.g. Nutopia for the History Channel 7-part series 'The British', for Sky Atlantic (September 2012), which looks at Cook's first Pacific voyage; Jowitt gave information on Hakluyt for episode 1 'Heart of Oak' of BBC2 series 'Empire of the Seas' (2010); Thompson was advisor for a Chilean TV drama series about Maria Graham (2011).

Sources to corroborate the impact

  1. National Maritime Museum, Director of Research. To corroborate our collaboration with the National Maritime Museum in the organisation of conferences, workshops and colloquia, our colleagues' Caird fellowships, our influence on the Museum's thinking on exploration, and the dissemination of ideas to staff and attendees from outside academia.
  2. Bromley House Library, Chairman of the Library Trustees. To corroborate our collaborative talks with and the enhanced attention to its travel collections.
  3. The Hakluyt Society, Vice President and current Past President. To corroborate the impact of our work and ideas on members of the Society (both academic in different disciplines and non-academic) and our generation of new perspectives in the Society's publications.
  4. Coventry Transport Museum, Head of Collections. To corroborate the research and public-facing activities of our AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award student, and her influence on the museum's fresh look at their holdings.
  5. To corroborate the impact of our travel writing studies on travel writers themselves, comments on The Cambridge Companion to Travel Writing in an email to Professor Youngs.
  6. To corroborate our collaboration with the National Maritime Museum in activities leading to the publication of a new edition of the major work of British exploration history and commemoration of maritime travel, see the website at:
  7. Examples of our provision of expertise to media and of the commemoration of historically and culturally significant local figures can be seen in Thompson's work for the BBC:
  8. A further example of our contribution to the raising of public awareness through media interviews is at :
  9. As a further example of our reach outside academia, to corroborate Conde Nast Traveller's description of Youngs' Cambridge Introduction to Travel Writing, see the review quotations supplied by CUP at
  10. For evidence of the media impact of our collaboration with Lincoln Collection and of the Heritage Lottery Fund success see